Shift pattern change may improve officer wellbeing

1 Aug, 2020

A proposed change to the shift pattern could help boost officer health and wellbeing, says Cheshire Police Federation equality and wellbeing lead Dan Lever.

The Force looks set to consult on a four on, four off based pattern.  There would be three bands of shifts in the four-day duty rota of two days and then two nights.

“The shift pattern review has been part of the Force’s Futures Programme and I am pleased to see that emphasis is being put on officers’ wellbeing,” says Dan, “Of course, policing is a 24/7 service and we have to ensure that we have the right number of officers in place to meet demand but there has to be a balance with officer welfare too.

“The proposed shift pattern should help improve officers’ work-life balance with more weekends off and more rest days since the shifts are longer, a sacrifice many people will be prepared to make.”

Informal discussions have taken place with the Federation, other staff associations and union representatives.

The possible change to shift patterns comes as the results of the first national police wellbeing survey revealed that almost half of respondents were getting less than six hours’ sleep a night.

Around 35,000 people responded to the survey which was carried out by Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service, and the College of Policing.

The two bodies will now carry out research with experts from around the world to consider ways to reduce the growing issue of officer and staff fatigue and will involve practitioners and staff associations in the UK.

“The results of this survey don’t come as any great surprise,” says Dan, “Shift working takes its toll with night shifts proving a particular drain for many people. I always struggled with nights. Colleagues told me I would get used to them but I can honestly say I never did.

“They are just alien to the whole way we are programmed. We are the only emergency service that does not allow those on a night shift to take a nap and I think this is something that needs to be re-considered. There is evidence to suggest that a short power nap can be hugely beneficial. There may be those who say that you shouldn’t be sleeping on the job but what if taking a short nap of say 20 minutes during your scheduled meal break actually made you more effective for the rest of your shift?

“Police officers are expected to make split-second decisions in challenging and demanding circumstances. Those decisions can, in some cases, make the difference between life and death so we need them to get good quality sleep when they are off duty but also perhaps they need to be able to have a short nap during a refreshment break on duty too.

“The long-term effects of the chronic fatigue that can come from working long, stressful shifts, dealing with traumatic incidents and then not sleeping or resting properly can be devastating so we need to consider all options when considering officer health and wellbeing.”

The wellbeing survey also found that police officers working in safeguarding and investigations reported lower levels of wellbeing, while police staff reported lower levels of wellbeing in areas such as custody, contact management and incident management.

There were, however, some positive findings from the survey:

  • 65 per cent of respondents reported feeling satisfaction in their work.
  • The majority of officers and staff reported they felt trusted in their roles and were able to act and make choices which reflected their own personal beliefs and values.
  • Both police officers and staff reported feeling high levels of competence in their work, meaning they felt they could be effective, make important contributions and felt valued by their co-workers and supervisors.

Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, CEO of the College of Policing, said the survey would provide a baseline which Oscar Kilo would use to measure progress and help prioritise work nationally and within individual forces.

Read the full survey results on the Oscar Kilo website

  • Oscar Kilo is carrying out a survey to try to assess the impact of technology on wellbeing during the pandemic. Oscar Kilo acknowledges that police officers and staff have had to adapt the way they work due to the pandemic with technology sometimes being a blessing, such as video conferencing, for example, but in other cases adding an extra burden. The results of the survey will be discussed with police wellbeing professionals and tech experts at an Oscar Kilo ‘international webinar’ to be held on 25 August 2020.