Police officers lacking work-life balance: study

They may be in the business of serving and protecting the public, but a new study suggests Canada’s police officers are having a much harder time looking out for themselves.

TORONTO — They may be in the business of serving and protecting the public, but a new study suggests Canada’s police officers are having a much harder time looking out for themselves.

The strain of ever-changing hours, the demands of on and off-hour job duties and the rigours of an intolerant corporate culture are reeking havoc with officers’ work-life balance, according to researchers at Carleton University and Western University.

The survey of 4,500 officers across 25 police boards found physical health, family relationships and emotional well-being all suffered over the course of a typical law enforcement career.

Their comparatively high paycheques, the study suggested, do little to compensate for the stress that results from a life spent working long hours on rotating shifts while trying to juggle family responsibilities.

Study co-author Linda Duxbury, a business professor at Carleton University, said the survey reached some alarming conclusions about the state of the country’s police community.

“These people are putting their life on the line, not just by putting themselves in an endangered state, but also working themselves so hard that they’re hurting their physical and mental health,” she said.

An average police officer works a considerably longer week than most Canadians, Duxbury said, adding survey results showed an average work week of 53.5 hours.

Much of that time is clocked on rotating shifts that eat into an officer’s personal time and undermine healthy routines, she added.

Days off are often sacrificed to the court system, which demands an officer be present on off-duty time, she said. Further pressure comes from the fact that officers are expected to become active volunteers.

Such expectations take a toll. One fifth of the survey respondents described their physical health as poorer than other people of the same age and gender, a finding Duxbury described as significant.

when applied to a population dominated by men under 45.

Mental health was also a rising concern, the study noted. Two thirds of officers reported missing at least 14 days of work during a year, often citing stress.

Such stress often spills over into family life, prompting some officers to sacrifice the amount of time they spend with loved ones or even decide to shy away from additional responsibilities such as children, the survey found.

Duxbury said these pressures were starkly illustrated by responses from female survey participants. Only one per cent of women had a partner at home full time compared to 12 per cent of men, and females at all ranks were more likely to be single or divorced.

The study also identified career mobility and coaching as pressing issues weighing on the country’s police force.

Overworked officers who are forced to take on more responsibilities as governments tighten the purse strings on law enforcement funding have less time to diversify their skills or mentor new staff members, Duxbury said.

All these factors raise red flags for future recruitment efforts and initiatives to retain existing officers. Duxbury said the fact that 91 per cent of respondents earn paycheques of at least $80,000 is not enough to offset the accumulated challenges of the job.

Police forces must revamp their management strategies if they hope to hang onto the staff they have and attract the right candidates in the years ahead, Duxbury said, adding the current system simply isn’t sustainable.

“It’s not the operational stuff. A lot of them go into the job expecting the stresses associated with that sort of thing,” she said.

“What they’re not expecting is to serve 50 masters, doing 50 high-priority tasks, many of which have life and death consequences for people, all at exactly the same time.”

Carol Allison-Burra, president of the Canadian Association of Police Boards, said the call to action has not fallen on deaf ears.

The data sheds light on some pervasive prejudices imbedded in police culture, she said, adding forces would be well-advised to make work-life balance more of a priority.

Physical and emotional stability is particularly key for a workforce that consistently grapples with the darker side of life, she said.

“A lot of these things can have reverberations because of how we live in the system,” Allison-Burra said. “I really want them taking care of their own mental health.”

Just Posted

Raising awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse

Second annual Raise A Ruckus Against Child Abuse was held at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel Saturday

Central Alberta Yogathon cancelled Saturday

Due to air quality concerns the fourth annual event will take place Sept. 15

City Hall Park construction begins next week

Construction to update Red Deer’s City Hall Park is set to begin… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Jazz at the Lake begins

The 16 annual event began Friday and runs until Sunday in Sylvan Lake

Photos: Lunchtime tunes on Alexander Way

Final concert of the summer

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Thousands to attend funeral service for officers killed in Fredericton shooting

FREDERICTON — Hundreds of people have lined the route of a funeral… Continue reading

Calgary police officer seriously injured

CALGARY — The Calgary Police Service says one of its officers was… Continue reading

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

MONTREAL — Canadian politicians are adding their voices to the international reaction… Continue reading

‘Four of a dozen kids will not make it:’ Tina Fontaine’s family healing together

WINNIPEG — Melissa Stevenson was just starting her career 18 years ago… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $16 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $16 million jackpot… Continue reading

Hundreds of neo-Nazis march in Berlin, protected by police

BERLIN — Hundreds of neo-Nazis waving flags with the colours of the… Continue reading

Romanian trucker is Genoa bridge’s 43rd victim

GENOA, Italy — The Latest on the Italy bridge collapse (all times… Continue reading

1 dead, 6 injured after building collapse in Nigeria capital

ABUJA, Nigeria — An emergency response chief says one person is dead… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month