Negatives of 12-Hour Shift Schedules and How to Best Manage Them

Many people argue that 12-hour shift schedules in a 24-hour agency are the most effective and provide the best outcome for managers and employees alike.

February 7, 2022

Many people argue that 12-hour shift schedules in a 24-hour agency are the most effective and provide the best outcome for managers and employees alike.

The fact that 12-hour shifts give employees more days off and are easier for managers to schedule are just 2 of the many positives.

But why do some people not like 12-hour shifts? Why would a department not want to schedule their officers 12 hours at a time? What are the effects of 12 hour shifts on law enforcement?

Well, let's take a look at a few of the negative impacts of 12-hours shifts below:

  1. Inconsistent Sleep Schedule
  2. Hard to Switch or Call Off
  3. Fatigue - On the Job & Commuting Home
  4. Limited Social Life on Days Working

1. Inconsistent Sleep Schedule

Rotating between 12-hour shifts may not allow for you to sleep at the same time each day. If you're on night shift, you're up through the night 3-5 days a week.

On the days you are off, are you still staying up at night and sleeping during the day? Not likely. But according to WebMD its important to, "stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule as much as you can." 

So, whenever possible, go to sleep around the same time and wake up around the same time every day.

2. Hard to Switch, Cover, or Call Off

When one shift is 12 hours, that's a lot of time to lose or reschedule. Think about it. You already have a 48 hour week and someone asks you to cover their12-hour shift...

That adds a lot of time for you and takes away a big chunk from the person asking you to cover. Whenever possible, switch shifts, don't just cover or call off. That way, your hours worked should still even out.

Just be careful you aren't working too many days in a row because the next issue can come into play...

3. Fatigue - On the Job & Commuting Home

Driving home after working 12 hours can be harder some days more than others. If you had a very busy shift and were constantly on the move, you're ready to crash.

No more thinking, no more moving, just sleep. But you have to get home. Driving drowsy can be very dangerous. It is important to have a plan on days you cannot make it home. For example, have a friend or family member pick you up. Or stay over in a hotel nearby. 

Fatigue can arise on the job as well because of the long hours worked. The best thing to do is to get sleep when you can and fuel with healthy foods that will keep you energized.

4. Limited Social Life on Days Working

It is difficult to make plans consistently when you're always working different days of the week... for 12 hours.

8-hour days are typically more tolerable and allow for time & energy after a shift to do other things. When you work a 12 hour shift, it takes up the whole day.

You need sleep after that shift for your body to recharge. Try to plan ahead with your friends and family. Prepare yourself by getting a little extra sleep the day before.

So, What if You're Stuck With 12-Hour Shifts? How do you manage the negative effects?

Number one, monitor your sleep. Sleep is SO important. Make sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours a day no matter what time of the day. Plan your time and keep communication open.

Talk to your administrators. To your family. To your friends. When everyone is on the same page, it makes life a lot easier.

Need software to handle your 24/7 schedules? 

PowerTime is an online workforce scheduling system made specifically for law enforcement, EMS, fire, and dispatch departments.

You can access it from any device with internet. When you accept time off it moves that person off the schedule automatically. Approve a submission for an open shift? That person is put right into the schedule for those dates and times approved.

Check it out today by clicking the button below!

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