On October 1, 1996 KITTCOM’s ESDs changed to a 12 hour shift schedule. At present there are two shifts, days from 0600 to 1800 and nights from 1800 to 0600 (the shift hours were chosen by the dispatchers.) On each shift there are 2 ESDs, so between day and night shift there are 4 ESDs to a crew. Crews rotate between days and nights every 3 months, but shift trades for an entire cycle (or even part of a cycle) are permitted provided each person is equally qualified and the trade doesn’t leave two probationary employees working a shift together. Days off are Monday, Tuesday and Friday, Saturday, Sunday in one week and Wednesday, Thursday in the following week. The schedule is a complete cycle in 14 days. (The staff really likes having every other Friday, Saturday and Sunday off.) Of course, when one crew is on their days off, the other crew is working.
In order to comply with FLSA rules, (KITTCOM is a civilian dispatch center), the workweek starts and stops at 1200 hours on every Saturday for day shift, and 0000 hours on every Sunday for night shift. Each workweek consists of 42 hours. (Yes, we pay the overtime!)
Some experts dispute the validity of 12 hour schedules, mainly because they aren’t as cost effective as 8s are for medium to large centers that need to staff for varying call volumes, (although “power” shifts are possible.) This may be true if one looks strictly at the costs associated with a schedule and does not examine the other benefits – a predictable and fair work schedule with every other Friday, Saturday and Sunday off for the dispatchers, hours that easily “fit” a 24 hour day, greatly improved morale, lower sick leave use because there are more days off and additional extra projects accomplished by dispatchers on longer shifts looking for things to pass the time.
Another widely publicized drawback to 12 hour shifts is the possibility that an 18 hour shift could be required if overtime was necessary due to someone calling in for sick leave. KITTCOM’s labor group solved this issue by agreeing to use a voluntary sign up process (therefore no stand-by pay) where the crew off duty posts their names if they will be in the area and available for callback. If there is someone on the list, we call them before attempting to call other off duty ESDs.
Bottom line? Both the administration and the dispatchers prefer 12 hour shifts!
An Excel spreadsheet with an example of KITTCOM’s schedule plan can be downloaded here.