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Public Safety Scheduling: 10-Hour Shifts

On March 17, 2022

The 10-hour shift is typically viewed as the middle ground between 8-hour shifts and 12-hour shifts. Although there’s no one right way to execute, often it looks like one group of people working the first half of the week and another group working the second half, overlapping on Wednesday. Because of minimum staffing, 10-hour shifts are not as common in communication centers but can be very popular in patrol due to extra staffing. 


Often overlooked in favor of 12-hour shifts, there are many advantages to implementing a 10-hour shift schedule. For the most comprehensive look at the three most common shift options, our articles on 8-hour and 12-hour shifts will build upon their advantages and disadvantages in greater detail.


Advantages to 10-hour shifts

The most significant benefit of 10-hour shifts for the employees is their ability to work four shifts rather than five to achieve the same hours, enabling them three off-days every week rather than the standard two. This is often perceived as a big win for work-life balance, while giving the agency the same number of working hours.


In turn, this can be a significant boost to productivity. When burnout is all too common in the public safety industry, productivity and safety are the first thing to suffer – compromising both the employees and the efficacy of the organization. Enabling employees to rest and recharge increases job satisfaction, and in turn, retention. Employee turnover is one of the greatest budgetary wastes of all, so this is often a big win for the department.  


Additionally, 10-hour shifts are readily able to support built in training time, which can reduce scheduling disruptions. Because of the overlap between two shift groups, everyone can do their normal job for three days and a joint training on the fourth overlap day, improving their effectiveness and meeting agency goals and requirements. While this can sometimes be a challenge in communications and jails, which is explained in greater detail below, patrol is typically very able to find places to deploy any extra personnel. 


Further, 10-hour shifts allow two shift groups to work together, since their timings overlap on Wednesdays. This model allows your employees to collaborate more often, enabling clearer and improved communication, and also ensures that a supervisor is always present.


Finally, 10-hour shifts can make it easier for employees to take time off when there is overlapping. It also enables the agency to encourage them to do so, once again supporting work-life balance and improved productivity and retention.


Disadvantages to 10-hour shifts

While the 10-hour work shift often leads to a rejuvenated and more productive workforce, it’s not without its own set of challenges. The most significant is that because the 10-hour shift does not cleanly fit the 24-hour schedule, it often becomes less efficient and cost-effective as compared to the 8- or 12-hour schedule. Unlike the 8- and 12-hour shift, you have an overlap that is potentially extra people who are not needed, as you can do more with the same number of people with those configurations. This is more common in communications, and often requires more hands-on management to implement effectively. 


While it can create greater opportunity for consistent training, it can also increase the challenges of finding topics to cover during those periods. Doing so effectively requires developing training material for your entire staff every other week, and it may take too long to generate that amount of content.


Additionally, 10-hour shifts typically require an increase in staff, and therefore also potentially an increase in costs. The overlap may sometimes result in adding too much staff on either side. Further, spending money on extra staff during the overlap takes away the ability to use it later in the week, and is a fixed cost that cannot be reduced because it is the normal schedule and salary. 


Finally, it’s difficult to determine how to fill overtime. If you're short staffed and no one volunteers, you have to extend someone's shift and hold them over, start a shift early, or call in someone on their day off, possibly  for only four hours. This is not ideal for people with a long commute as that's typically unpaid time. 


While some of these can be actively managed, it’s essential they are, indeed, actively managed. If you build a fixed schedule to avoid the pitfalls of the 10-hour shift, it often results in increasing the cost of managing your schedule while creating potential confusion for employees. 


Additional considerations 

  • Costs and training
    Most importantly, keep in mind the 10-hour shift is more expensive than other shift schedules because it requires more people to cover the same minimum staffing levels. Additionally, it is only worthwhile to implement this shift if you are capable or have enough content to regularly train two overlapping groups, or you are willing to have very complex schedules.
  • Extra staff
    When building the 10-hour schedule, you always need to keep in mind group overlap times and what you might do with additional personnel while examining your ability to adjust the schedule for leave time. 
  • Active management
    The 10-hour schedule often includes additional time and challenges to effectively manage on an ongoing basis. Consider introducing rotations for more effective management while weighing the commute time of your employees for a greater work-life balance.




Ultimately choosing the right shifts for your agency is about finding the balance between  what works best for your employees and for the organization. The scheduling style that will maximize the effectiveness of your workforce will almost certainly be different for every agency. Our articles on the 8-hour and 12-hour shifts provide greater insight to help you find the best solution for your unique operations.

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