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This article follows our previous discussion about the impact of workplace design on employees. Today we'll discuss the best way for PSAPs to prioritize workplace design elements. This includes surveying the team and creating a workstation spec that supports PSAP engagement and retention strategies.


Designing to boost dispatcher satisfaction

In the first part of this conversation we recognized why the work environment is a meaningful part of employee engagement and retention strategies, especially for PSAPs. Despite high performance marks, comm center managers struggle to maintain morale and full staffing. This is due, in part, to the fluctuating physical and psychological stress cycles inherent to 911 dispatching and the perceived inability to control the comfort level while at the desk. According to Adam Timm, 911 dispatch workplace expert, "… 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."

Satisfaction + Engagement = Retention

The Employee Engagement: Impact of Workplace Design study supports Timm's assertion. The Workplace Design study concluded 88% of highly engaged employees perceived they had control over their work experience, and only 14% of highly disengaged employees felt similarly. When employees are empowered, organizations can leverage that feeling to help increase engagement and satisfaction levels.


You might ask "How do we give dispatchers "control over their work experience" when the tasks-at-hand are rigorous and desk-bound?" The answer to this questions is critical for dispatchers and PSAP teams that measure high on performance AND experience high-level dissatisfaction, low morale, a high number of call-outs, and churn.

Apply workplace design strategies at the dispatcher desk

The work place and work space heavily influences the way 911 dispatchers feel about their experience for two distinct reasons:

  1. 911 operators are tethered to their workstation, spending more time at their desk than conventional office workers,
  2. Operators experience periods of high-stress requiring rapid-emotional-reset between calls; under duress, conventional office workers can easily seek solace away from their desk.

PSAPs can implement multiple design strategies at the dispatcher's desk that relieve the pressure of the job, and promote worker satisfaction. PSAP leaders and their teams are sharing the benefits of well-appointed console workstations:

"This is their [the dispatchers'] second home... Being able to make the environment work for them is important. They need to be able to make it comfortable and useful on a personal level."

"Being able to walk around, even in limited space, does seem to relieve a portion of the mental stress associated with dealing with the public. ...Several of us have also noticed a decline in migraines and body cramps."

Console Workstations: The cornerstone of effective PSAP workplace design

It is beneficial for PSAPs to provide their dispatchers with workstations that provide the advantages conventional office workers find in the "office" room and building. According to HOK, experts in workplace design, these are the ten primary design elements that support both people and 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

A well-appointed dispatcher workstation provides 7 out of the top 10 amenities identified above, supporting high-focus, comfort and engagement.

design station

Putting your knowledge into action

Gathering information

If you are purchasing new consoles, now's the time to implement workplace design elements that promote comfort and focus and make your dispatcher's day just a little easier. This effort, in turn, eases the call-out and turnover burden. Learning from other PSAPs and seeking feedback from your dispatcher team are important parts of this process.

Look to studies

Within the Public Safety sector, and beyond, there has been research about worker stress, stress reduction, increasing engagement, turning around turnover trends, and more. The information gained from these types of studies can help you tune in to trends you are experiencing, and solutions for improving the work environment.

Conduct a survey

Surveying your team is a great way to learn more about their like and dislikes, what's working and what's not. This method is especially helpful for centers with large teams. Oftentimes, a group discussion highlights the needs of the most vocal members, leaving softer-spoken teammates feeling unrepresented.

Use a free survey tool to collect responses. The data analysis can help you identify preference and pain point trends. Here are a few we've used:

Use a mood board to get the team involved

Mood boards, also known as inspiration boards, are a collage of images, swatches, textures, and words used by teams in the early design stages of a project. The purpose of the board is to help a team identify the mood or theme they want to communicate.


For PSAPs purchasing furniture, a mood board can help create buy-in among the team. You can learn about color, texture, and work style preferences. In addition a guided mood board can help focus a dispatcher team on pain points the leadership team is trying to solve.

spec sample

Create a purchasing spec that supports your PSAP's goals

Once you have collected your data and prioritized your PSAP's goals, create a spec to be sure workstation manufacturers are delivering solutions that meet your needs.

Generic specs will deliver basic functional requirements. Add additional requirements that support comfort, focus, stress reduction, and well-being. These might include: materials (indoor air quality, durability), finishes (durability, aesthetic, "look and feel" of the center), panel composition (noise control, sight lines).

Additional references:

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