What Shift Length Will Increase Your Officers Quality of Work Life?

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each shift length to help determine the best fit for work life quality in your department.

November 3, 2022


Research has proven that shift length has an effect on an officer's performance. But what is the perfect length? Having short shifts makes it difficult to make sure you have 24x7 coverage. While on the other hand, having shifts that are too long puts your officers at a higher risk of fatigue, which can affect their performance.

So what is the best shift length for officers on patrol?

According to the Police Foundation's research, shift length impacts an officer's performance, overtime use, safety, health and quality of life. The Police Foundation studied 8-hour shifts, 10-hour shifts, and 12-hour shifts.

Their research found that 10-hour shifts have advantages over 8-hour shifts, and officers working 12-hour shifts showed lower levels of alertness.

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each shift length to help determine the best fit for work life quality in your department:



  • Manageable for officers to stay alert throughout the shift
  • Officers will be more available to pick up overtime shifts
  • Officers have more personal time
  • May be easier to get open shifts filled because of the shorter shift


  • Shorter shifts become more complex to manage
  • Officers work more days per week
  • Officers filling an open shift will only earn 8 hours of overtime
  • Studies have shown that officers on 8-hour shifts work significantly more overtime



  • Manageable for officers to stay alert throughout the shift
  • Will only have to work 4 days a week for regularly scheduled shifts
  • Depending on your department size, 10-hour shifts can maximize savings


  • Longer days (compared to 8-hour shifts)
  • Complex to manage



  • Less commute time/less days officers have to work
  • More full days off for officers
  • Easier for administration to manage because there will only be 2 shifts each day
  • Officers will earn a significant amount of overtime when covering shifts


  • Higher risk of fatigue which may lead to errors
  • If officers take a day off, they're using up more of their time off hours (compared to 8 or 10 hour shifts)
  • Hard for officers to manage work and life balance
  • May be difficult to fill open shifts since they are a longer time commitment

Ultimately, shifts are not limited to these three options. There are some departments who use shift lengths outside of the ones listed here (e.g., 8.5 or 11 hour shifts). The best shift length for your department should be determined by considering the research here but also understanding your officers. What is best for one department may not necessarily be best for another. Take time to evaluate each option carefully and find the best fit throughout your department.

If you're looking for a software to manage officer schedules, PlanIt Police was built just for that. It will allow everyone to see their schedules from any device, wherever they are. You can easily manage time off, overtime, and court appearances.

Police One.com and PlanIt Schedule worked together on a survey and whitepaper to learn more about the challenges of managing officer scheduling. Download the whitepaper today to learn more about how most departments manage schedules, how shift length can impact officers, and how technology can empower officers.


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