Skip to main content

PSAPs recognize, now more than ever, that the work-environment influences dispatcher focus, comfort, stress-management, engagement, and retention. Learn which workplace improvement is likely to give your dispatchers and your team the biggest boost.

install 1

In this blog, we’ll shed light on why the work environment is a meaningful part of employee engagement and retention strategies. In addition, you’ll learn which part of the 911 dispatcher’s physical work environment is likely to give your PSAP the biggest bang for the buck.


Workplace design impacts engagement

Formal workplace studies on employee engagement have become more prevalent thanks to increased correlations between the level of employee engagement and productivity and retention. This is especially important for PSAPs suffering from inflated rate of call-outs and turnover on dispatching teams.

The team writes about the impact of workplace design on employee engagement, sharing:

Results from the data [
Employee Engagement: Impact Of Workplace Design study] showed a direct correlation between employees’ thoughts around their workplace environment and how satisfied they are with it and how engaged they are while at work.

To put it simply, people who expressed a more general level of happiness with their overall office environment tended to be more engaged, while the people who were dissatisfied with their work environment tended to be more disengaged….

According to the research, 88% of highly engaged employees feel they have control over their work experience, while only 14% of highly disengaged employees feel the same. Which proves that when employees are empowered, organizations can leverage that feeling to help increase engagement levels.

Work space design is important for PSAPS

This results shared by the Employee Engagement: Impact Of Workplace Design study are relevant across multiple business and public service sectors, reflecting pain points expressed by PSAP teams.

According to APCO’s Project RETAINS and, Staffing and Retention in Public Safety Communications Centers: A Follow-up Study, the national telecommunicator turn-over rate hovers at 19%. This, alone, is enough to perk the attention of public safety leaders who rely on strong, engaged teams.

Public Safety leaders agree that in addition to hiring the right people for the job, it’s essential to provide those dispatchers with the right tools for the job. That includes creating a work environment that facilitates task-relevant communication and privacy, reduces physical discomfort, and helps ease psychological and emotional stress.


In a thoughtful article about PSAP performance measures, Adam Timm sheds light on the need to consider feedback beyond the data points.

[T]he traditional [PSAP] performance metrics don’t reflect this harsh reality. On paper, everything looks a-ok. Better than ok! You’re answering 90% of all 9-1-1 calls within 10 seconds; the call abandon rate is low; the dispatch queue is being handled efficiently; officers are getting the calls quickly; your team is on top of field emergencies; non-emergency calls are getting timely attention; and complaints are comparatively infrequent, given increasing call volume.

From the perspective of those who make the money decisions (who are sometimes quite removed from the comm center floor), the operation is getting more and more efficient. You can’t blame them for thinking this, can you? Your center is meeting or exceeding expectations in nearly every category, despite staffing levels that are 20-30% below where they are supposed to be.

Despite high performance marks, comm center managers struggle to maintain morale and full staffing. According to Timm, “… if the “human factor” isn’t taken into consideration, [you’re] left with a workforce that’s maxed-out, stressed-out, and calling out sick."

10 ways to improve the physical work space

The workplace design experts at HOK share,

Not surprisingly, thoughtful workplace design can be a powerful tool for supporting employee performance. And a collateral benefit is that what typically supports productivity also enhances employee health and wellness – it’s all interrelated.

In the article Workplace Strategies that Enhance Performance, Health and Wellness, HOK shares the ten primary design elements that can best support your people, and the work.

  1. Thermal Comfort and Temperature
  2. Access to Nature, Views and Daylight
  3. Sensory Change and Variability
  4. Color
  5. Noise Control
  6. Crowding
  7. Human Factors and Ergonomics
  8. Indoor Air Quality
  9. Choice
  10. Employee Engagement

PSAPS have a design advantage

Interestingly, the job for PSAPs may be just a bit easier since 7 out of the 10 influential factors identified by employee engagement experts are located at each dispatcher’s workstation.

Mercury at Weber County-1

Stay Tuned

In next week’s blog we’ll discuss how PSAPs can prioritize many of these workplace design elements, and we'll help you create a workstation spec that supports your workplace design, engagement and retention strategies.

Additional references:

Stay Connected with Watson

Receive more articles like this right to your inbox.