Author Topic: How many of you are "on call" all the time?  (Read 7420 times)

Schaefer Light

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How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« on: May 27, 2016, 12:57:44 PM »
In my current position, I'm expected to be in the office from 8-5 every day and there's also an unwritten rule that people in my job role will answer phone calls and texts at all hours of the night and on weekends.  I'm in a salaried management position, so I'm not getting any extra pay for this work.  If I have to put in extended hours over the weekend, I'm still expected to be in the office first thing Monday morning.  Is anyone else in a similar situation?  I'm struggling with this because it feels like I can never get away from my job and truly relax. 

The damn cell phone can ring anytime and there's never any way to predict when a serious work-related issue is going to pop up (though it always seems to happen at the worst possible time).  I've recently had a couple of weekend trips that should have been a lot of fun practically ruined by work-related issues.  I do realize that I'm at least partially responsible for letting work ruin these trips.  I don't cope with this type of thing very well, and it's something I'm trying to work on.  I'd be curious to hear about what coping mechanisms others have developed for preventing work from screwing up your personal lives in these situations.

I'm guessing that some of the folks on this forum are in fields (like IT) that require at least a bit of on-call work.  I'm wondering if you're expected to be available by mobile phone all the time, and also if you have some flexibility with your schedules and office hours.  I think the on-call responsibilities would be more acceptable if I didn't also have to be in the office 40+ hours per week.

I also manage a team of technical staff members who I sometimes have to call after hours.  That may be my least favorite part of the job.  I really hate having to call someone in my group late at night or over the weekend because I know exactly how much it sucks.

Thanks in advance for your replies.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2016, 01:01:04 PM by Schaefer Light »

Apocalyptica602

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2016, 01:02:48 PM »
I work in manufacturing as an Engineer, 3 shifts, 24 hours a day, 5-7 days a week depending on overtime needs. My core hours are 8-5ish but the nature of the job is such that you need to support manufacturing.

If a line goes down and the technicians on the shift can't fix it, they'll call you, 10pm, 2am, doesn't matter. You better hope you can talk them through the issue on the phone otherwise you're getting in the car and driving to work.

Thankfully I'm relatively new and primarily work on new equipment projects so my calls are very rare and usually only happen when everyone else who's been there longer can't support. Our technicians are also all mechanically minded and able to fix most mechanical breakdowns. But electrical, PLC, sensor and robotics issues though... God bless our poor Electrical Engineers. Those guys are always dealing with something.

Aussiegirl

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2016, 01:16:49 PM »
Similar situation - I think a lot of people now are expected to be "on" at all hours either by phone or email.   I personally think that's one of the problems with our work lives now, there's no separation between work and home and you don't ever truly relax and de-stress.  I have started to implement the following:  Don't look at emails after a certain time of night to allow my mind to stop working before I try to sleep.  And if the phone rings, let it go to voicemail and then listen to the message - if it can't wait, I'll return the call but if it can wait until the morning, then I leave it.  And my phone goes to silent after a certain time, which may not be feasible for people who are truly on call like Apocalyptica602.

Rural

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2016, 01:29:38 PM »
 People with true on call jobs get paid to be on call. I don't, so I only deal with work things after hours if I feel like it. I don't answer the phone; in fact, the only number I give to students is my Google voice number, and it is set to ring only between eight and five Monday through Friday.  And I do all this with a very flexible schedule. You can't let work take over your life.

SimplyMarvie

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2016, 01:35:57 PM »
I did, and I will, but I'm having a reprieve right now. I work in the parts of U.S. Embassies that help American Citizens overseas who are in crisis, and so while I'm not always the front-line person who answers the phone calls (that rotates among everyone, because it's shitty to be woken up at 3:30am for non-emergency emergencies, which most of them are...) if the front-line person can't handle it because it's complex or they work in another area and just don't know how, it's on me.

Technically speaking, I am entitled to overtime/comp time for any phone call I take in excess of 15 minutes. Practically speaking, it's been made very clear to me that if I were to file for that overtime/comp time, I would be laughed out of the office, so I don't.

When I am the front-line person, I do have to be accessible all the time. I am prohibited from being more than X miles away from my work site, and must answer the phone any time it rings, no exceptions. Other that than, I need to be available and if I am not available -- out of town, on vacation, have insomnia and want to take a sleeping pill -- I need to make sure that someone else is. Sometimes, there IS someone else qualified to manage this (if I have great staff) and sometimes the 'back-ups' are not qualified and I take less vacations. On the other hand, I am now REALLY GOOD at training people on what is an EMERGENCY (Death, immanent threat to life or limb, etc.) and what can wait until business hours.

The few times that we've had legitimate crises that ate up weekends, my boss has been great about making sure we got comp time, or came in late the next day or whatever. That, sadly, was under a prior regime... this one has less crises, but is less adept at the HR parts of managing them.

Altons Bobs

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2016, 01:36:46 PM »
I was on call with a computer job in my 20s, got tired of it, and switch jobs when I was 27, no more on call. That was how I coped with it - ran away from it. :-D

GhostSaver

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2016, 01:42:03 PM »
I am on salary with a large, public, multi-national company.

I work on a project central to the company's day-to-day financial solvency. If my phone rings in the middle of the night or I have to work 24 hours straight, "I'm not on the clock now" will not be in my vocabulary.

I'm new to the role and it hasn't happened to me yet, but I'm sure it will eventually.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2016, 01:45:03 PM »
I work for a small web company doing server administration and web development.  Because it's a small shop, I'm always on call.  Here are a few things I've learned:
1) how to tell if something has to be fixed RIGHT NOW, or if it can wait until the morning.  Example: a webserver going down is not urgent, since we have plenty of others to carry the load.  Backup database goes down?  Still ok (for us), since it'll need rebuilding anyway.  Production database runs out of disk space?  That's urgent. Datacenter network outage? Nothing I can do--i'm going back to sleep.
2) make things work so you *don't* have to fix problems after-hours.  That was one of the reasons I was hired--there were some persistent stability issues.  It took a few years and some major changes, but the systems are now quite stable.
3) emails after hours are left unread unless it's something really important.
4) if I get a phone call, that means something is seriously broken and I'll drop anything to fix it.  That's a cultural thing, though--my boss won't call about work after hours unless something really needs work immediately.

I know someone who has one of those 20-hours-per-day bosses who expects immediate responses after hours or on weekends.  Eventually, the employee basically told the boss "I'll be in a much better position to respond and meet your needs if we can talk about it on Monday when I'm in the office."

I guess it comes down to 1) minimizing the need for after-hours stuff, 2) doing triage to separate emergencies from stuff that can wait, and 3) setting boundaries and expectations with management as to what work will be done when.

prognastat

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2016, 01:49:58 PM »
I work in IT and I work a lot of additional hours. I probably average over 55 hours per week, however I am not on call. I barely pay attention to my calls or texts when not at work and have feel no obligation to.

I would be asking for a much higher Salary before I would even consider being on call.

ncornilsen

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2016, 02:33:34 PM »
I am, now and again. Generally I have control of this.
My biggest mistake, however, was to let my boss and a few other people find out I live 5 minutes from work. Until I put my foot down, I was called by colleagues and such to go look at something for them. no thanks.

abhe8

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2016, 03:50:38 PM »
Yikes. I'm on 24/7 for seven consecutive days at a time, 6 weeks of the year. That is more then enough. I can't imagine doing that all the time. I hope your salaries account for that in call time!

BlueMR2

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2016, 04:37:08 PM »
Normal shift is 7:30-4:30 M-F which is not bad at all for IT.  However, salaried and technically "on call" 24/7/365.  That said, it's accepted that sometimes I just won't be reachable, so it's not like commercial pilots that are "on-call" and have to stay within a 30 minute drive of the airport the entire time...

SwordGuy

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2016, 05:54:21 PM »
I'm on call 24/7 every day of the year.  If a serious problem comes up I'm expected to drop what I'm doing and come in and fix it.

However, my boss doesn't do that unless it's really needed.   I've been called in twice in the last 2 years.

I'll get comp time if that happens and I'm expected to take it.

I don't mind.  I work for the military and we're at war.   I'm not getting shot at so I'm not complaining.

Dicey

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2016, 06:17:36 PM »
YES! this was my life pre-FIRE. Oh, it hurts to remember it. I couldn't even read the whole post or all the comments.

I was a manufacturer's rep for a flooring company. Customers called all the time (okay, generally not in the middle of the night) and the company expected me to be available around the clock. For God's sake, we're not curing cancer here, people!

Did I mention it hurts just to think of it? FIRE is so worth what it takes to get there!

misshathaway

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2016, 01:49:31 AM »
Had a beeper 24/7 except for vacation days for about 18 months. Worked in IT. I averaged about a call a week in the middle of the night or on weekends. The calls took anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours to resolve. I was salaried. I accepted it when I was hired but I didn't ask enough questions. Most groups rotated the on-call. I assumed that was what I was getting in to. However, my group gave each person a sub-system and you had to be on-call for that 24/7, no alternating weeks on and off.

Carrying the beeper everywhere was just soul-crushing. It didn't beep most of the time, but the thought that it COULD beep was always hanging over. It's been 7 months and I still feel incredibly free without it.

worms

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2016, 02:55:36 AM »
Yes, 24/7/365 for civil emergencies. Only get out of hours calls occasionally (most often it is just a heads-up from other agencies) and no additional pay for the availability. I'm happy to do it, but always on the understanding that I might not be sober enough to jump in the car at a moment's notice, or may be answering the call while on vacation in another country! 

jac941

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2016, 03:46:28 AM »
I had a job like that and it was soul crushing. I saved enough money to get by for a couple of years and then:

1. Told my boss I wasn't doing that crazy work anymore but would stay until he hired a replacement.
2. Pitched another position where I wasn't so "critical" -- and got it.

It's been win-win. My boss gets to tap my institutional knowledge, he got to hire another person who is his 24/7 contact, and I have a much more reasonable schedule and almost never get weekend calls and am never really expected to pick up if I do.

But I needed to have that FU money to have the confidence to do that. I could have easily been canned. In fact, they did originally tell me they wouldn't accommodate, so I resigned. Which made them realize I was serious, so they decided it was worth meeting my requests instead.

i guess my advice is run away?

MrsDinero

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2016, 06:47:49 AM »
I carried a beeper/cell phone for on call for over 16 years in IT.  I became a consultant about 5 years ago, no more on call. 

Well Respected Man

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2016, 07:25:28 AM »
2) make things work so you *don't* have to fix problems after-hours.  That was one of the reasons I was hired--there were some persistent stability issues.  It took a few years and some major changes, but the systems are now quite stable.

This is critical. If you are on call for something that you can't preemptively make better, then you are screwed, and should consider looking for another job. If you can make it better, then do it. I've been doing this for the last couple of years. The idea is that if you build it, and you are the one who gets called when it breaks, then you will build it so that it doesn't break. I don't like being woken up in the middle of the night, and I've explicitly used that as the reason for making changes.

This should work for software or manufacturing. The IT support and sales positions are trickier, and bosses may need a lesson in at will employment.

BlueHouse

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #19 on: May 28, 2016, 07:34:10 AM »
Of course.  Managers are expected to be available in the event of an emergency.  The problem is that routine events seem to be conflated with actual time-sensitive emergencies.  Be reachable in the event of emergencies, but when you have something special (like a white-water trip or going out of town), make sure everyone knows that you won't be reachable.  Change your voicemail message and set email auto-responses to let people know who they can call in the even of an actual emergency.  And make sure you have a back-up - someone who can fill in for you so you can get away. 


Schaefer Light

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #20 on: May 31, 2016, 07:15:10 AM »
Thanks for the responses.  I definitely agree with the suggestion about needing to be able to make improvements to help minimize the number of after hours calls.  I also agree that people need to do a better job of differentiating between true emergencies and normal problems (though this is a tough thing to do as it requires a culture change).

I'd like to think I could just tell people when I'm not going to be available, but I'm afraid this would lead to questions about my commitment level.  We have individuals here who seem to be perfectly happy to work when they're on vacation.  My concern is that there will be negative consequences for me if I tell people ahead of time that I'm not going to answer my phone over the weekend.  I feel like I'd be better off just turning off my phone and then telling people I had phone trouble or was in a place with no coverage if I missed an important call.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2016, 07:23:25 AM by Schaefer Light »

elaine amj

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #21 on: May 31, 2016, 08:28:18 AM »
Some easy things you can do.

- if you get a call, don't answer. Then text back saying, I missed your call. Anything urgent? If not, we'll chat on Monday.
- if you get a non-urgent email: send a short reply back saying Thanks - I'll look at it in more detail on Monday and get back to you.

My husband's new job has an after-hours culture. They call each other to chat about non-urgent things in the evenings all the time. I hear his side and then ask him why they can't just talk about it the next day at work - but he says they just call to ask stuff whenever they feel like it or think about it. And that's just how it is. On the plus side, his work schedule is flexible so he can easily take hours off here or there whenever he feels like it.

I used to be more available and check my emails more often. Then I just mostly stopped doing it. Now I rarely check my emails in the evening or weekend. If they REALLY need me, they can call. But it's pretty rare to get that type of emergency. Once in a while it happens - but rare. For me, I've found it depends on my boss. Our previous CEO worked till midnight most nights. So I stayed in the office until 7/8 most nights. New CEO nags us to go home on time. I like this better :)

Spork

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #22 on: May 31, 2016, 08:29:31 AM »
I've worked two IT/computer support type roles.  Both had on-call, but they handled it differently.

1) Rotated call, so not on call all the time.  If you were on call, you got $20/day for on call.  If called, you got the equivalent of 2 hours pay (even though we were salaried).  If the problem required more than a certain number of hours (5?  I forget)... you got another few hours credit.  Call outs were not that often, but when they called, it probably was really a problem.

2) Rotated call and backup on-call.  No additional stipend for on call.  You are very likely to get called, most often in the dead of night.  You're also likely to get called when NOT on rotation.  Quite frequently, the call wasn't even for us, but you'd sit on a conference bridge at 2am for a couple of hours doing nothing.

FLBiker

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #23 on: May 31, 2016, 01:12:52 PM »
Interesting question.

I'm a manager of an academic unit, and part of my responsibility is IT.  Once in a while I've gotten a call about something (usually a database being down) that I've been able to fix remotely.

That said, the culture of my workplace is VERY much one where people check work emails / texts 24/7.  I simply don't do that.  Outside of regular work hours, I never check my work email.  I don't have a smartphone, and didn't even get texts messages until about 6 months ago, so nobody texts me.  You might think that this would be a problem (in terms of evaluations / promotion) but it hasn't been.  I've been promoted a number of times in the past 5 years.  For me, maintaining these boundaries is very important.

basd

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #24 on: May 31, 2016, 02:04:54 PM »
I sort of was in my first job (actually a big part of it was me feeling too responsible). It made me physically ill a couple if times. Then I said f*** you, I'm out.

Nowadays I'm a freelancer (in IT). My free time is worth much more than an extra billable hour or two, so I make sure never to take on any job that doesn't allow me to start and finish when I want. I have the luxury to be picky, but I made it my attitude as well. Judging from what I'm reading here, some people might do a little more of that too.. I love my profession and I do a lot of studying / reading / writing related to it outside of billable hours but I make sure it never gets in the way of family / me time. It's just not worth it.

mistershankly

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #25 on: May 31, 2016, 03:18:37 PM »
I'm on call 24/7/365 as upper management but luckily the team I manage gets the calls before it escalates to me.  I stay in the position for the pay and the accelerated progress towards FIRE.  When I was on the front line and was accessible (and accessed) at all hours, I would experience things that I've come to realize aren't unique to my experience... e.g. feeling phantom rings/vibration of my phone in my pocket even though it is not ringing, holding my phone in my hand during concerts or in loud environments so I can feel it vibrate and I won't miss a call, making an effort to walk closer to the perimeter inside a building with poor phone signal in order to maximize phone reception, or having a phone face up near me during a meal so I can see the display light up if noise levels drowned out a ringtone.  These sound crazy but the per-hour financial cost to the company during an outage were significant at the time but the budget to hire more IT people was not robust enough. Thankfully, those times have changed but I can't wait to leave it all behind as I approach FIRE.

ditheca

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #26 on: May 31, 2016, 03:42:17 PM »
Half of a two-man team supporting a small business with 150 employees.  Yes, we're on call 24/7, and no, we don't get well paid for it.

But most of our consultants are sane and don't call on nights and weekend for trivial things.  If they did, we'd be having a discussion about hiring someone to answer the phone or reassessing our pay.

Not really a big deal.

MNBen

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #27 on: June 01, 2016, 11:53:20 AM »
I'm in IT...

My first experience I chose not to yet own a cell phone and my boss informed me there were going to buy a cell phone to carry around for after hours emergencies.  I said that's fine, but I'm only carrying it when he put a policy together for what types of calls I need to respond to and which I can handle in the morning.  He gave me the cell phone and I put it in my desk.  A few months went by and he said he got a message the cell phone has never been turned on and setup yet.  I told him again, I said I would carry it when he put a policy in place.

That gave me a lot of protection up front, and especially when my team grew and we rotated the phone, I made sure there was an escalation policy in place where the support phone was always called first and for what types of calls.  That way if I'm unavailable, it wasn't a big deal and there was an escalation policy to other informed people.  For example, if they didn't hear back from me in 15 minutes, then they should try the next person, wait 15 minutes, and so on.

This way of thinking with new bosses in new jobs, has always helped me make the point that I will try to available for critical items, but sometimes I can't be reached and also I'm not on call just to answer random questions or minor things.   

Whenever they needed a good reminder, it seemed a winter Caribbean cruise always helped clarify their expectations again knowing I couldn't be reached for a week.

StarBright

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #28 on: June 01, 2016, 01:04:59 PM »
Not technically on call but I work for a small company with a workaholic boss who likes immediate responses to his emails. I am in a weird position where I have the institutional knowledge to cover a lot of the higher ups when they take vacations or have medical leave but there is no one at the company who has been trained to back me up or cover me when I'm gone. This creates a lot of backlogged work for me because there are times I'm covering someone else's job for a week or two at a time and I'm always scrambling not to fall too far behind on my own work.

It also leads to lots of silly stuff like "urgent" requests to verify a customer's payment history when I'm on vacation or filling out a million compliance forms the week of Christmas so we can book end of year sales. I'm never bothered in the middle of the night but my phone and inbox light up pretty frequently from 7am ( requests for military customers) until 8pm (west coast customers). I've never worked less than two hours on a vacation day.

My coping mechanism for this has been to not get a smart phone. My old flip phone barely works for texting and it seems to be a legitimate excuse for not getting work done when I'm out with my family on weekends or evenings. My boss offers to buy me a smart phone and pay for my service about once a month but I smile sweetly and say "Oh, I'm a Luddite. I really don't want one."

All that being said - I really like about 90% of my job and it has some solid perks, like the ability to work from anywhere in the country. The on-callness has everything to do with the owner being a workaholic and control freak (in a nice way) and not really the role itself.

frugaliknowit

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #29 on: June 01, 2016, 01:47:58 PM »
I manage an outsourced 24 X 7 tech support team (currenty 4) for a large corporate client.  Whenever anyone calls in sick, I have to receive the call, then get someone to cover (maybe me...?) no matter what time it is.  Occaisonally I get a technical call, but those are usually best answered by system admin's who are on call.  Fortunately, I don't get a lot of off hour calls, largely because I have a pretty good long term staff.

MrsDinero

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #30 on: June 01, 2016, 02:34:55 PM »
Thanks for the responses.  I definitely agree with the suggestion about needing to be able to make improvements to help minimize the number of after hours calls.  I also agree that people need to do a better job of differentiating between true emergencies and normal problems (though this is a tough thing to do as it requires a culture change).

I'd like to think I could just tell people when I'm not going to be available, but I'm afraid this would lead to questions about my commitment level.  We have individuals here who seem to be perfectly happy to work when they're on vacation.  My concern is that there will be negative consequences for me if I tell people ahead of time that I'm not going to answer my phone over the weekend.  I feel like I'd be better off just turning off my phone and then telling people I had phone trouble or was in a place with no coverage if I missed an important call.

Honestly the best way for you to get what you want is to educate the people calling you.  People are not going to automatically learn what is a true work emergency versus what is not.  They are going to cover their butt.  If you want to get called less then you might want to spend some time going through the last several weeks of calls and training them on how to tell what is an emergency and what is not.  This might mean new procedures will have to be written.  Maybe create an on-going weekly class/meeting to talk about the latest calls.  You are also going to have to empower the people calling you to actually make the decisions themselves and back them up if someone in another management structure tells them they are wrong.

Beaker

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #31 on: June 01, 2016, 03:53:22 PM »
I'm in IT. I've been on-call in various forms for about 7 straight years, ranging from being the only person on the list to a one-week-in-eight rotation. It's not my favorite thing, and my wife likes it even less since she gets woken up just as much as I do. Unfortunately it seems to just go with the job.

Thankfully 99.5% of the pages I get are from automated systems, so it's usually within my power to prevent the issue from happening again via more robust handling, pre-emptive warnings to avoid critical issues, etc. Or else I can usually get rid of the alarm - any time I get paged and don't deal with it immediately, it clearly isn't necessary to wake me up for it next time.

I also take the stance that if I'm on-call all the time, then that means they get "best effort" rather than "guaranteed response" no matter what they ask for. I'm not going to stay perpetually near a computer for years a time because my company won't invest in enough staff to set up a decent rotation. If I happen to be available when something happens, then great. If it happens on hour one of my camping trip, tough luck for them.

On a somewhat related note, I also don't have work email on my phone because they require making the IT department a device administrator. I bought the device and pay the service fees, so I'm the only admin. If they want complete control over my phone, then they can pay for the device and the service. 

meghan88

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #32 on: June 01, 2016, 06:47:35 PM »
I'm an in-house lawyer and I'm pretty much on call 24x7, through evenings, holidays and weekends.

The thing that really scares me is that my response reflexes are so ingrained/Pavlovian to the point that I worry about coping once I'm retired and no longer feel I'm needed.

Plus, I get a lot of stuff in addition to decent income as a result of my job that I'll be giving up, or having to pay for, when I retire:  late-model computer, smartphone+plan, dental and health benefits, etc. etc.

I've had constant employment for the last 40 years without a break, so my plan over the next few years is to devise a strategy to help me adjust once I call it quits.

FLBiker

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #33 on: June 02, 2016, 08:26:15 AM »
One funny / interesting thing: Over the past 4 years, I've done a number of silent, multi-day retreats.  Prior to that, whenever I went on vacation, I'd let folks know they could call me if it was absolutely necessary, but that I might not have reception (mountain cabins, hiking, etc.).  Once I started doing retreats, though, I had to simply tell folks I'd be unreachable (phone turned off, in the car).  It's led to some fun conversations, though.

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #34 on: June 03, 2016, 08:11:45 AM »
Thanks for the responses.  I definitely agree with the suggestion about needing to be able to make improvements to help minimize the number of after hours calls.  I also agree that people need to do a better job of differentiating between true emergencies and normal problems (though this is a tough thing to do as it requires a culture change).

I'd like to think I could just tell people when I'm not going to be available, but I'm afraid this would lead to questions about my commitment level.  We have individuals here who seem to be perfectly happy to work when they're on vacation.  My concern is that there will be negative consequences for me if I tell people ahead of time that I'm not going to answer my phone over the weekend.  I feel like I'd be better off just turning off my phone and then telling people I had phone trouble or was in a place with no coverage if I missed an important call.

Honestly the best way for you to get what you want is to educate the people calling you.  People are not going to automatically learn what is a true work emergency versus what is not.  They are going to cover their butt.  If you want to get called less then you might want to spend some time going through the last several weeks of calls and training them on how to tell what is an emergency and what is not.  This might mean new procedures will have to be written.  Maybe create an on-going weekly class/meeting to talk about the latest calls.  You are also going to have to empower the people calling you to actually make the decisions themselves and back them up if someone in another management structure tells them they are wrong.
I agree with you.  But it seems that the culture here is such that we make a mountain out of a mole hill.  A lot of the calls I get come from "management", and they are the toughest ones to educate.  If they say it's an emergency...then it's an emergency. 

Also, I really don't want to be called unless I can actually fix the problem myself.  We have engineers and technicians who can fix the problems that do come up, but for some reason we need to get half the company on a conference call to talk about it (which only serves to waste the time of the people who really need to be fixing the problem).

Spork

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #35 on: June 03, 2016, 08:17:18 AM »
Thanks for the responses.  I definitely agree with the suggestion about needing to be able to make improvements to help minimize the number of after hours calls.  I also agree that people need to do a better job of differentiating between true emergencies and normal problems (though this is a tough thing to do as it requires a culture change).

I'd like to think I could just tell people when I'm not going to be available, but I'm afraid this would lead to questions about my commitment level.  We have individuals here who seem to be perfectly happy to work when they're on vacation.  My concern is that there will be negative consequences for me if I tell people ahead of time that I'm not going to answer my phone over the weekend.  I feel like I'd be better off just turning off my phone and then telling people I had phone trouble or was in a place with no coverage if I missed an important call.

Honestly the best way for you to get what you want is to educate the people calling you.  People are not going to automatically learn what is a true work emergency versus what is not.  They are going to cover their butt.  If you want to get called less then you might want to spend some time going through the last several weeks of calls and training them on how to tell what is an emergency and what is not.  This might mean new procedures will have to be written.  Maybe create an on-going weekly class/meeting to talk about the latest calls.  You are also going to have to empower the people calling you to actually make the decisions themselves and back them up if someone in another management structure tells them they are wrong.
I agree with you.  But it seems that the culture here is such that we make a mountain out of a mole hill.  A lot of the calls I get come from "management", and they are the toughest ones to educate.  If they say it's an emergency...then it's an emergency. 

Also, I really don't want to be called unless I can actually fix the problem myself.  We have engineers and technicians who can fix the problems that do come up, but for some reason we need to get half the company on a conference call to talk about it (which only serves to waste the time of the people who really need to be fixing the problem).

Yes, this was a huge problem at the last place I worked.  When a major outage happened, everyone up to VP level would be on a call screaming every 3 minutes for a resolution.  As a techie working on a problem, side chatter that it needs to be fixed is really no help whatsoever.  In fact, I do much better with silence and concentration while I actually work on the problem.  Usually what happened in this case was we would have to secretly set up a technical conference bridge and then put TWO engineers on: One to talk to VPs and one to work on the problem.  Stupid.

TravelJunkyQC

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #36 on: June 03, 2016, 10:58:13 AM »
I work in communications and marketing for a tech company, and while my boss told me that he doesn't want to ask me to be on call and he is willing to respond to clients during evenings and weekends, I told him I'd rather do it to keep a consistency in our external communications (nights and weekends is mostly on social media) - so it was my call. I try to respond to anything within 24 hours, although he and I have an open line of communication on that front and if I won't be available, he takes the reigns. I'm not paid for this time either, but again, my choice, and I take the blame for it if it starts to interfere with my personal life.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #37 on: June 03, 2016, 11:46:02 AM »
Yes, this was a huge problem at the last place I worked.  When a major outage happened, everyone up to VP level would be on a call screaming every 3 minutes for a resolution.  As a techie working on a problem, side chatter that it needs to be fixed is really no help whatsoever.  In fact, I do much better with silence and concentration while I actually work on the problem.  Usually what happened in this case was we would have to secretly set up a technical conference bridge and then put TWO engineers on: One to talk to VPs and one to work on the problem.  Stupid.
There *have* been a few times when, during a crisis, I've been furiously debugging and diagnosing, while my boss is texting me for updates.  At one point I literally told him to quit asking, so that I could get on with fixing the problem.  I think that in times of crisis, people in management sometimes forget that their best course of action is to quit trying to manage and instead let the technical people do their work.  After all, that's why you hired those technical guys, right?  Provide the resources, ask them to send a report when they have a chance, and then get out of the way. 

Fortunately, we've come to the point where he'll text me once ("are you working on problem x?" or "what's going on with y?"), I'll respond ("working on it" or "don't know yet"), and he'll leave me alone to fix it.  I guess it's a matter of trust between people--he trusts my knowledge and experience and motivation enough to let me take care of things without micromanaging.

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #38 on: June 03, 2016, 12:17:01 PM »

Fortunately, we've come to the point where he'll text me once ("are you working on problem x?" or "what's going on with y?"), I'll respond ("working on it" or "don't know yet"), and he'll leave me alone to fix it.  I guess it's a matter of trust between people--he trusts my knowledge and experience and motivation enough to let me take care of things without micromanaging.

More likely, he has people higher up in the food chain asking him for updates in equal or more frequent intervals as his texts to you.

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #39 on: June 03, 2016, 01:16:10 PM »

Fortunately, we've come to the point where he'll text me once ("are you working on problem x?" or "what's going on with y?"), I'll respond ("working on it" or "don't know yet"), and he'll leave me alone to fix it.  I guess it's a matter of trust between people--he trusts my knowledge and experience and motivation enough to let me take care of things without micromanaging.

More likely, he has people higher up in the food chain asking him for updates in equal or more frequent intervals as his texts to you.
Bingo.  I let my people work, but the folks above me want constant updates.

lifejoy

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #40 on: June 03, 2016, 01:47:59 PM »
This reminds me of LivingAFI's experience. He got a new job at a university and life was much better!

Check out his blog livingafi.com :)

caracarn

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #41 on: June 03, 2016, 01:55:02 PM »
Thanks for the responses.  I definitely agree with the suggestion about needing to be able to make improvements to help minimize the number of after hours calls.  I also agree that people need to do a better job of differentiating between true emergencies and normal problems (though this is a tough thing to do as it requires a culture change).

I'd like to think I could just tell people when I'm not going to be available, but I'm afraid this would lead to questions about my commitment level.  We have individuals here who seem to be perfectly happy to work when they're on vacation.  My concern is that there will be negative consequences for me if I tell people ahead of time that I'm not going to answer my phone over the weekend.  I feel like I'd be better off just turning off my phone and then telling people I had phone trouble or was in a place with no coverage if I missed an important call.

Honestly the best way for you to get what you want is to educate the people calling you.  People are not going to automatically learn what is a true work emergency versus what is not.  They are going to cover their butt.  If you want to get called less then you might want to spend some time going through the last several weeks of calls and training them on how to tell what is an emergency and what is not.  This might mean new procedures will have to be written.  Maybe create an on-going weekly class/meeting to talk about the latest calls.  You are also going to have to empower the people calling you to actually make the decisions themselves and back them up if someone in another management structure tells them they are wrong.
I agree with you.  But it seems that the culture here is such that we make a mountain out of a mole hill.  A lot of the calls I get come from "management", and they are the toughest ones to educate.  If they say it's an emergency...then it's an emergency. 

Also, I really don't want to be called unless I can actually fix the problem myself.  We have engineers and technicians who can fix the problems that do come up, but for some reason we need to get half the company on a conference call to talk about it (which only serves to waste the time of the people who really need to be fixing the problem).

You just need to work for a manager like me.  I run an IT team of 13.  Technically we're all "on call" but I only bother the staff if it is needed.  That and I educate the other senior execs and they understand that only a production issue is worthy of an after hours call and they adhere to that quite well.  We make sure our systems are stable and do not have problems and then when one occurs we fix it because we do not want to get called again.  There have been times when we have not received a call after hours for two to three years, and times when we got four in a week.  Again we jump on it when it happens and do everything we can to keep it from happening again.  When we do get called the company is losing money and since we like to get paid, we fix it.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2016, 02:07:03 PM by caracarn »

zolotiyeruki

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #42 on: June 03, 2016, 03:02:16 PM »

Fortunately, we've come to the point where he'll text me once ("are you working on problem x?" or "what's going on with y?"), I'll respond ("working on it" or "don't know yet"), and he'll leave me alone to fix it.  I guess it's a matter of trust between people--he trusts my knowledge and experience and motivation enough to let me take care of things without micromanaging.

More likely, he has people higher up in the food chain asking him for updates in equal or more frequent intervals as his texts to you.
Small company, though--he IS the top of the food chain. :)

mistershankly

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #43 on: June 03, 2016, 03:07:09 PM »

Fortunately, we've come to the point where he'll text me once ("are you working on problem x?" or "what's going on with y?"), I'll respond ("working on it" or "don't know yet"), and he'll leave me alone to fix it.  I guess it's a matter of trust between people--he trusts my knowledge and experience and motivation enough to let me take care of things without micromanaging.

More likely, he has people higher up in the food chain asking him for updates in equal or more frequent intervals as his texts to you.
Small company, though--he IS the top of the food chain. :)

Ugh, that sounds like a difficult scenario.  I've been there and can feel your pain. 

zolotiyeruki

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #44 on: June 03, 2016, 07:39:08 PM »

Fortunately, we've come to the point where he'll text me once ("are you working on problem x?" or "what's going on with y?"), I'll respond ("working on it" or "don't know yet"), and he'll leave me alone to fix it.  I guess it's a matter of trust between people--he trusts my knowledge and experience and motivation enough to let me take care of things without micromanaging.

More likely, he has people higher up in the food chain asking him for updates in equal or more frequent intervals as his texts to you.
Small company, though--he IS the top of the food chain. :)

Ugh, that sounds like a difficult scenario.  I've been there and can feel your pain.
It's not a problem, actually, and it only took a couple of episodes before he learned to back off and trust me.

startingsmall

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #45 on: June 03, 2016, 08:35:05 PM »
My husband is a pastor, so he really is "on call" ALL the time... even on vacations. It stinks.

JLR

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #46 on: June 04, 2016, 04:52:40 PM »
My husband did this for 9 years. He would work 8am-5pm then be on call for ALL other times of the week. He wasn't allowed to drink and had to always be within 20 minutes of his workplace, as when they called he would have to drive in. He was the only person available to do his role within 50 miles, so all the responsibility fell on him.

Luckily the money was good, but it wasn't good for my husband's sleeping patterns. He continues to have sleeping problems and trouble relaxing at night after years of knowing work could call at any time and he would have to be on his game within seconds.

Looking back, the thing we would do differently would be to set some limits and have occasional days where he would tell them he was completely unavailable. Perhaps one day every two months where he could have a few beers, or drive to the next town without guilt. And to not allow himself to feel guilt when other staff members tried to make him feel bad (staff members who only worked a 35 hour week themselves, with no on call). I can remember one time when he was supposed to have the day off and a colleague guilted him into driving nearly 200mi back home to take care of an 'emergency'.

His current role is probably worse, except now there are no middle-of-the-night phone calls, but we don't have enough distance and perspective to find solutions to the current problems. :)

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #47 on: June 09, 2016, 10:30:56 AM »
My husband did this for 9 years. He would work 8am-5pm then be on call for ALL other times of the week. He wasn't allowed to drink...
I wouldn't last 9 days at a job like that ;).

JZinCO

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #48 on: June 09, 2016, 10:49:13 AM »
My husband did this for 9 years. He would work 8am-5pm then be on call for ALL other times of the week. He wasn't allowed to drink and had to always be within 20 minutes of his workplace, as when they called he would have to drive in. He was the only person available to do his role within 50 miles, so all the responsibility fell on him.

Oof. Been there. No vacations, no drinking, no leaving town. For 6 mo out of the year.

Spork

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Re: How many of you are "on call" all the time?
« Reply #49 on: June 09, 2016, 11:19:35 AM »
My husband did this for 9 years. He would work 8am-5pm then be on call for ALL other times of the week. He wasn't allowed to drink...
I wouldn't last 9 days at a job like that ;).

I managed it for 6 years... but only 2 weeks at a time.  (2 weeks oncall, 2 weeks backup oncall, 2 weeks off of call, but likely to be called anyway because NO ONE ELSE ANSWERS THEIR DAMN PHONE.)  I assure you, I didn't abstain when I wasn't "on call".  I didn't drink myself to puddle of goo... but I did have a glass or two of wine in the evenings.