If you type “work-life balance” in a search engine, it is often defined as the harmony between personal and professional activities, related to an individual’s job and presence at home.
This concept may resonate more with jobs outside of public safety, because police officers don’t always have the ability to leave the stress of the job once the uniform is put away. Officers contend with long-term cases, repeated exposure to traumatic incidents, and fluid work schedules. It’s challenging enough to identify an imbalance, let alone take healthy steps to correct it.
If agencies entirely ignore work-life balance initiatives, it could lead to higher officer absenteeism, increased turnover, and low morale or disinterest in the job. Agencies can support work-life balance by establishing programs and expectations that will encourage better attitudes at work, as well as improve an officer’s ability to manage everyday stressors.
Promote engagement in activities outside of work
Off the clock, some officers trade in their police equipment for recreational gear like golf clubs, books, or tickets to the latest movies. Participating in activities like these help officers interact with their community in a role outside of law enforcement. Many officers say participating in activities outside of work is an opportunity to recharge, leading to improved job performance. Other benefits include the conversations had with community members with varying job experiences, which can provide an officer with insight into how people approach challenges in other professions.
Provide mentorship opportunities
The knowledge officers retain is incredibly valuable, and agencies are attempting to capitalize on it by pairing seasoned officers with new ones through mentorship programs. A mentorship program may include building relationships between officers across all experience levels. This is a particularly helpful program for agencies looking to recruit millennials to law enforcement. According to one of the sworn contributors on PoliceOne.com, “Millennials want leaders who care about them, appreciate them, respect them, mentor them, teach them, and lead them.”
A mentorship pair can help a young officer plan their ideal career trajectory. It can also provide an opportunity for both officers to share how they cope with work stress and what they do to achieve work-life balance. Bridging this generational gap could lead to creative solutions that wouldn’t have otherwise been discovered in an environment with generational silos.
For example, millennial officers grew up in an era where mental health discussions are less stigmatized. Their open-mindedness may help colleagues feel more comfortable discussing stressful work incidents and emotional support topics – aiding increased knowledge transfer between experienced and novice officers.
Encourage long-term goal development
Conversations on work-life balance usually only focus on current working conditions. Try encouraging discussions that include long-term goal development. Topics like retirement planning, second careers, personal wellbeing can help a police officer improve their current lifestyle as well as ensure contentment later in life. According to, Police Officer Retirement: The Beginning of a Long Life, the average officer retires at 55 years old. The average life expectancy continues to increase, meaning many officers retire into a new phase where they can still work, or use their time to explore passion projects and hobbies.
Many individuals in law enforcement report experiencing an identity crisis when they retire. After years of being an officer, faced with high-stakes situations on a regular basis, it’s a challenge adjusting to a leisurely life. Cultivating practices that support long-term planning will allow your officers to reflect on interests and topics beyond policing and encourage a work-life balance that extends past their current roles in law enforcement.
Remember it is a continuous process
Promoting work-life balance at your agency is a continuous process and can be supported by the use of a police force management tool.
Historical police force management consisted of documenting officer information on paper and storing it in file cabinets, or inputting information on spreadsheets in multiple systems. These methods do not provide the reports and insights that can help improve areas of your agency, including wellness contributors.
To support work-life balance initiatives, it is helpful for agencies to have the ability to store information in one place, as well as access reports on various levels in the agency.
By routinely examining how your officers are, you will be able to make any necessary changes at your agency, as well as encourage officers to achieve a better work-life balance.