We recently invited the dispatch community to participate in a survey about the future of Console design. From dispatchers to IT to center managers, we were eager to learn from the experts what matters to you as we launch into our design phase this fall, so that we could keep your feedback as our guiding principle. We aim to design consoles that meet your needs and make you feel valued and recognized. Read on for our most significant insights from this project, from user wellness to mental health. Some of it may surprise you!
User Wellness: Ergonomic Features
Customization was by far the most critical need in console design. Not only do Dispatchers spend extended periods at their workstations, but the stations are often shared over 24 hours, making ergonomic customization a critical priority. As one respondent mentions: “I am short and end up taking over a console for a 6’2” man and end up with a sore neck from having to stare up for 12 hours.” The survey emphasized the importance of ergonomic features that promote comfort, productivity, and overall well-being. This includes adjustable desk heights, customizable monitor positioning, and supportive seating options. By prioritizing ergonomic design, PSAPs can help reduce fatigue and potential work-related injuries, ultimately enhancing the efficiency and satisfaction of dispatchers.
Another vital aspect of workstation happiness? Integrated cable management systems, and not just for the technology. Throughout the survey, neatness emerged as a quality that can inform a dispatcher’s mental health. Staring at clutter can be frustrating, and clutter outside of one’s control to amend can be exhausting over time. Having tidy, integrated cables that contribute to a clean workspace emerged as both a technological need and a wellness and performance need. One respondent said, “In a chaotic setting, less mess and clutter is best. The least amount of items cluttering the desk and in the way makes for more proficient work and less distractions.”
The survey revealed an increasing emphasis on sustainability in console design and purchasing. Most respondents listed sustainable design as either ‘important’ or ‘extremely important.’ Organizations seek environmentally friendly solutions that reduce their ecological footprint without compromising durability and functionality. These solutions come in many forms, such as checking if the steel and wood are recycled or recyclable when looking for an environmentally friendly console. Recycled components are a vital way to offset environmental impact. Engineered wood has the added benefit of absorbing shock and vibration and can be zero-formaldehyde (like ours!) to prevent off-gassing and help meet SCS-indoor air quality certifications. Sound mitigation is also essential to any PSAP design, making it important to note what textiles are used in the fabric panels. Options such as fabric from recycled water bottles are a great choice to add warmth and help the environment. Incorporating energy-efficient features, such as low-power LED personal and technology lighting, can also contribute to the environmental sustainability goals of PSAPs.
Mental Health Resources for Dispatchers
Along with the responses of reconfiguration and redesign to plan for the future, the survey highlighted the need for comprehensive planning that includes resources and support systems for dispatchers' mental health. This included an emphasis on hiring to give often overworked dispatchers more time off and additional training to help dispatchers process and cope with the ongoing stress of 911. Other programs that PSAPs can consider incorporating include dedicated relaxation, mindfulness, and debriefing spaces. Many PSAPs are bringing in therapy dogs to help keep dispatchers’ spirits up. Additionally, providing access to mental health professionals or counseling services can help dispatchers cope with the challenges inherent in their demanding roles.
Continuous Improvement of Features
One powerful common thread that emerged was the desire to see existing ergonomic and technical integration features enhanced for greater functionality. As one respondent said – “the console to [dispatchers] is like the patrol car is to law enforcement.” Continuous improvement took precedence over merely introducing new features. The survey respondents desire iterative enhancements that optimize existing workflows, streamline processes, and boost efficiency. It is not enough for a console to check the box of including an ergonomic feature; it needs to be thoughtfully incorporated to be used regularly. While desks and monitors can be customized, we saw the desire to increase control and customization of lighting and temperature repeatedly mentioned by dispatchers and as an overarching solution to creating a positive work environment. With personalized lighting and temperature, center managers and facilities are freed from the constant juggling of the thermometer and can keep everyone happy and do their best work. Iterating on console design to make the dispatch experience incrementally easier ensures that the vital work of dispatchers is supported with the best possible tools.
Personalized Storage Solutions: Mobile Units
The locker room as we knew it might be a thing of the past. Instead, people prefer personal or mobile storage that they can remove from a central depot. Traditionally, PSAPs have used shared storage spaces like locker rooms to store personal belongings. However, the survey revealed a growing preference for personalized storage solutions. Dispatchers want to have their belongings within reach at their workstations, eliminating the need for shared spaces. Mobile storage units that can be easily moved and attached to individual console desks emerged as a practical solution. These units provide convenience, privacy, and security for personal items, contributing to a more organized and personalized work environment and enhancing the dispatcher experience with shared workstations particularly. Consolidated personal storage was also a preference over lockers, not only to have personal items close to hand for security but to contribute to the tidiness of the workstation and eliminate the clutter of belongings on a desk surface. Planning to include stackable storage at a console or a bank of mobile storage units is an excellent space-saver for PSAPs looking to add positions or configure into a pre-existing space.
We always love learning more about our community and want to thank the many people who participated. As we continue to innovate, we remain committed to incorporating the evolving needs and aspirations of 911 dispatchers into our designs. Our goal is always to provide the highest level of functionality, comfort, and support for the individuals who play such a crucial role in public safety.