12 hours, 2 or 3 days




Dispatchers working this shift work two days, then take two days off, then work three days, and then take two days off. They work two days again, and then take three days off. The cycle then begins again.

According to David S. Donovan, communications bureau chief of the Alachua County (FL) Sheriff's Office in Gainesville, dispatchers there work such a 12-hour shift. He pointed out that no employee works more than three consecutive days and they have a 3-day weekend every other weekend.

Another dispatcher said she's worked 12-hour shifts for 10 years. She works:

on Monday-Tuesday
off Wednesday-Thursday
on Fri-Sat-Sun
off Monday, Tuesday
on Wednesday-Thursday
off Friday, Saturday and Sunday

She works 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and never has to stay over because someone called off sick. Her center has 18 dispatchers organized into two teams which they call "White" and "Yellow" (because they highlight the calender in yellow). Three dispatchers work 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and a fourth dispatcher works 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There's a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. night shift, and if any special events occur, they bring in overtime. Every month the senior crew leader puts out a list of days that overtime is needed and we sign up for them. She's worked over 20 years of different schedules and said, "This has worked the best for our department." She notes, "The drawback we had with 8 hour days is that it took 6 weeks to get a weekend off."

Bob works for an east coast fire department with one dispatcher on-duty at all times. They work the following shift configuration:

four day shifts, 0700 to 1900
four days off

four night shifts, 1900 to 0700
four days off

He says this allows all dispatchers to gain experience working different hours, but that some dispatchers have body-clock issues when changing shifts. The four days-off is great he says, but also contributes to a lack of continuity for some operations, procedure updates, policy changes. Bob says that overtime and vacation are easy to cover by the off shift, but that long-term coverage can be difficult to handle with this configuration.

He says that it's easy to get through a normal shift, as most incidents occur in spurts. On the other hand, few can successfully handle a busy shift and still perform at 100%.

Bob says this configuration has built-in two hours of overtime a week, which their management has accepted as better than hiring another full-time dispatcher.

By the way, his agency has tried 4x8 (different work/days-off configurations), 10/14 (rotating 2 days and 2 nights or 4 10-hour shifts and then 4 14-hour shifts and then 4 days off), and many other combinations.

Another dispatcher says he works a 12-hour shifts, three shifts one week, and four shifts the next. He says that one team of dispatchers works Mon-Tue-Wed the first week, and Mon-Tue-Wed-Thu the second. They work this schedule for two months, and then change from the day shift to the night shift. This works out to working a six-day stretch one month, but having six days off in a row the next month.

Mark from a Texas sheriff says they worked a 13.x-hour schedule for about two years before going back to 8-hour shifts. He says they worked 3 days, then took 4 days off. But to make up a 40-hour work week, they actually worked one-plus extra hour each day as a "wellness" program, physcial training, etc. He says that mismanagement, sick leave abuse and outside employment helped eventually derail the schedule.

San Mateo County (Calif.) deputies work a 12-hour schedule, but have a unique days-off scheme. They work:

2 on, 2 off
3 on , 3 off
4 on , 4 off
5 on , 5 off

If you examine this schedule, you'll notice that there are seven-day groups that have a four-week rotation. I'm told that employees somehow trade or change their days-off somehow when they work five days, but I don't know the details.

Another agency works a much different schedule for 12-hour shifts. They have two teams, one nights and the other days. One works, say Sun-Mon-Tue, the other works Thur-Fri-Sat. The remaining day, Wednesday, is covered by one of the shifts every other week.

A unmarried dispatchers says she "loves" 12-hour shifts: within each 28-day cycle, she works only 14 days, and of those, seven are are consecutive. However, she mentioned the drawback on the days you work, you have only four hours to "take care of business," assuming you sleep eight hours. Taking into account unwinding, eating and "winding up," four hours isn't much.

Here's another 12-hour shift description: beginning on a Friday, the schedule rotates days-off on a two-week cycle---work 3, off 2, work 2, off 3, work 2, off 2 and then it repeats. This works out to 84 hours every two weeks, with the additional four hours paid at straight time (by union agreement).

Under this schedule, they don't rotate hours of work, although previously they rotated hours after the three-day weekend. By the way, this center has two teams of three dispatchers each: one works 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., the other 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and the third floats between the other two to fill vacations, etc.

Working 12-hour shifts does have its drawbacks: In theory the 3 days on, 3 days off sounds great, but if you factor in overtime during the week, it could be downright dangerous. If you allow (or require) dispatchers to work a six-hour overtime shift in addition to their own 12-hour shift, that leaves them only about five hours for sleep (taking into account driving time, etc.). Not only is this dangerous for the dispatcher who has to drive, but for the field forces he/she might be handling on the radio the next day. One dispatcher advised, "Working 18 hours is not only dangerous during that shift, but it only allows 5 hours sleep max (if you factor in driving time, and you don't have to drive too far or in heavy traffic) so the person would be VERY tired on the next shift also. WAYYYY to dangerous to do that!

I would say that if 12 hour shifts can be avoided, they should."

A 12-hour shift can be combined with an 8-hour shift, which gives you one weekend off per month, but also a 7-day stretch of continuous working. You work two 12-hour shifts and then two 8-hour shifts.

Here's a 12-hour work schedule that alternates shifts: Week #1--you work Mon-Tues, then off Wed, Thur, work Fri-Sun. Week #2 is reverses; off Mon and Tues, work Wed and Thur, off Fri-Sun. Under this schedule, you have every other weekend off.

Upside: During the week you work Wed-Thurs, if you can take those two days off as vacation, etc., then you have seven days-off in a row off. You can count on having a 3-day weekend every other weekend. Downside: You can't do anything that happens on the same day each week, since the days-off change.

Another agency has four shifts or platoons, and each shift works two10-hour day shifts (8 a.m.-6 p.m.), followed by two14-hour night shifts (6 p.m.-8 a.m.). Then they have two days off. They work another two days and two nights followed by six days off. They work most of their overtime on the six days-off. This schedule works out to 42 hours a week. Upside: six days off. Downside: The 14-hour night shift is a v-e-r-y long night.

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