First Responders Also Deserve Work/Life Balance
A few years ago a North American regional police authority asked us to find and implement a schedule that would improve service and reduce costs. The entire effort was backed by the chief of police, the officer’s association, and the police services board. At the time, police officers were essentially “flat-staffed” in large blocks throughout each day. The schedule did not account for workload variations by the time of day, the day of the week, or seasonal fluctuations. Needless to say, there were times when police officers were stretched thin and had to work a lot of overtime and times when community service was outstanding because the number of calls was low relative to the staffing.
The primary goal of changing officer schedules was to staff more accurately to the changing workloads. In just three to four months, we designed and implemented a solution with the support of all the parties. The new schedule did a much better job of matching the needed workload hour by hour and on a seasonal basis.
The new schedules had many added benefits. Along with increasing community/preventive presence and improving response time, officers were able to take time to train more effectively. This schedule was a measure that further enhanced officer effectiveness in the field. Since scheduling is about much more than just day on and day off patterns, poor policies surrounding sick days and time off were revised to improve officer morale. The overall result increased everyone’s sense of fairness around sick days and time off and also eliminated some waste around the existing practice.
This was a project that had wins on a lot of levels. Police officers experienced an improvement in work/life balance; the department more effectively used their officer resources, and the community saw improved service levels. It always feels good to be part of such a great win.