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Small team on-call rotation

By dv370 ·
Until now, I have been used to managing a mid size team (12-18 associates). Presently, I manage a team of 3. I am not a hands on technical manager but more of an administrative manager, which upper management wants me to be. I am putting processes into place to insure coverage and support during off hours and feel that I may be bringing my larger team aspect into play more than I should. I have structured an oncall rotation where there is a primary person each week. Each associate is oncall every 3 weeks obviously. I am requiring them to work together if any schedule juggling needs to occur due to scheduled days off and only involve me in updates to the master calendar. I am offering them mileage reimbursement, if applicable, but am not offering additional compensation, at this time. I want to see how this works out and then decide if it's necessary given the volume of time required for this task. Any other suggestions? Thanks in advance.

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On Call compensation

by JamesRL In reply to Small team on-call rotati ...

You have to pay people who are on call something for their troubles.

In my team(I am a manager), we pay 4 hours a week for being available 24/7, and overtime, mileage etc for every call. I do allow them to manage and juggling.

When you ask someone to be available 24/7 there has to be some form of compensation. While they are available their life is on hold.


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by dv370 In reply to On Call compensation

I do intend to do something for them once I have statistical information to provide to upper management regarding the volume of time required. In the past 7 months, the time required, in total, has been 4 hours for on-call support needs. I know I won't be able to offer them "cash" compensation, however, I would like to offer them comp time for actual hours worked in the office for on-call issues.

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Not the point

by JamesRL In reply to Compensation

Compensating them for the hours they worked is only fair and in my jurisdiction, legal.

Compensating them for carrying a pager, even when it doesn't ring, is also necessary. Frankly when my team arrived, they didn't get this kind of compensation, and it wasn't fair. So unless you want to arbitarily give them a raise or somehow write it into a working contract, it isn't frankly fair.

I've been that person on pager. When you are expected to answer the pager, you can't do certain things. You shouldn't go out drinking, travelling too far from home, go to movies or restaurants - your life is on hold.

Nine years ago I was getting paid $150 a week for wearing the pager, plus a minimum 2 hours overtime everytime I answered it. That might have been generous, but its what I received.



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JamesRL is right

by antuck In reply to Not the point

You should provide compensation just for carrying a pager. Even if no call is answered, you should compensate just for being oncall.

This will actually benifit you in the long run. Your workers will be more likely to respond to a call vs saying the batteries went dead or I accidently washed the pager. Which happens very offten when people are not compensated for carring a pager.

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Agree in principle, but...

by lauracs In reply to JamesRL is right

I agree wholeheartedly with the opinions expressed in favor of compensating people for on-call duty, regardless of the amount of time spent actually responding. That said, I don't agree that lack of compensation automatically causes a response problem. At my place, we had the opposite happen. We used to get compensated. All groups received the same compensation - $100 per on-call week.

A small subset of techs from one manager's group began abusing the privilege by offering to take other people's on-call weeks, as a way of making more money. These people got to a point where they were on-call more often than not, and virtually every call was deemed unimportant enough to wait until regular business hours. Instead of adapting the rules, or dealing with the problem employees, management used this as an excuse to stop compensation. For everyone - not just the problem group. We have not received compensation for years, now.

My group has a system where we have a primary and a secondary on-call each week. If the primary doesn't answer for some reason, the secondary is expected to take the call. Peer pressure works well - if you **** off a call, and your secondary has to take it, and you make a habit of this, sooner or later it will bite you in the butt when you are secondary. I wish we were compensated for on-call time. However, we are salaried employees, which means that we do what needs to be done, regardless of the hours involved. On-call is considered a regular part of our duties.

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our style

by bp_t In reply to Agree in principle, but.. ...

My organisation sucks when it comes to paying out but I would have to get my support guys to be on-call. Though we can argue it's part of the job, people feel inconvenienced when they are on-call. Number of drop calls were pretty high even though the company paid for the cell phone and pager. It's really people who felt their private time is being invaded. We compensate the staff not in $$ but in hours. They were allow to report 5 hours late per week(1 hour per day of 5 working days week) during their on-call time. They are allow to decide how to make use of the 5 hours compensated time. They could take 1 hour off each day like reporting late for work or 5 hours in any single day. However this compensated time must be consumed before their next scehdule is up. I do not tolerate accumulated time which can be hard to manage. After we have implement the scheme, number if drop calls take a nose dive though I must admit not everyone is happy but it works for me.

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Re: Agree in principle, but...

by mrgigo In reply to Agree in principle, but.. ...

"Peer pressure works well - if you **** off a call, and your secondary has to take it, and you make a habit of this, sooner or later it will bite you in the butt when you are secondary."

I disagree totally. Never Never let people
manage each other. That's your job, not a peer's.
You are intentionally making a unpleasant
situation, even more unpleasant.

"I wish we were compensated for on-call time. However, we are salaried employees, which means that we do what needs to be done, regardless of the hours involved. On-call is considered a regular part of our duties."

Ma-larky. No company owns you 7x24. If you
work for a company like that, move on.
I recommend making "On-Call" be part of your
working agreement BEFORE you sign on. Any
company worth a hoot, will put their people
first. They will assign a value to the sacrifice
that is made by the employee for the company.
Such loyalty needs to be compensated, else
the company does not deserve that employee.

When your people are 0n-call, they are putting
their personal lives on notice of a pending
interruption. That must be compensated.

As a manager, you should gather metrics on what
the calls are, how often, and typical time to resolve. Complete a root cause analysis on your
top issues and work to eliminate those causes, thus reducing the chance of the call.

Some ideas for thought:
- 1 day of comp time taken the week following
their week on rotation
- Dinner gift certificate to decent
- Theater tickets (standard or IMAX)
- Company Store certifiactes

Use these in combination with each other.
A business critical server went down one Sunday
morning. The employee on-call was a Sunday
School Teacher. It pulled him out of his class.
Made for immediate rearrangement of who was
taking who home. His wife was the Choir director.
His kids were in the Choir. He made fast
arrangements and made the 1 hour drive in.
He did not bother any other IT staff. He had
the server repaired in 2 hours. That act has
business continuance value to the company.
The employee was given 1 day of comp time and
six tickets to IMAX Nascar for his entire
family. Good managers who "manage by walking
around" know what their people are interested
in. The tickets cost nothing compared to $5,000/hour in production floor down time,
possibly missing shipments, and a damaged
supplier rating. What you are doing is not
staffing for all three shifts. Realize that
savings and reward those making the sacrifice.

Statements like, "On-call is considered a
regular part of our duties." Is not acceptable.
Recognize the empoyee loyalty and dedication for
what it is. Never forget the humanity and
always say thank you. When that pager/cell
phone goes off at 3AM, it wakes the wife and
the new born baby as well.

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Talk to Your Team

by Wayne M. In reply to Small team on-call rotati ...

I think your initial thoughts in just laying out the overall parameters of the schedule and letting the team work out conflicts on its own is appropriate. I would suggest that you just provide a whiteboard or erasable calendar and let your team start making its own schedule. Let them determine whether to hand off duties daily, weekly, monthly, or however works best for them.

Concerning compensation for on-call time, you are closer to your situation than any of us. Check and see what policies may be in place concerning compensation and agreed upon behavior while on-call. Talk to your team about their feelings. If they rarely need to respond, a nice bonus or time-off for responding may be sufficient. If just being on-call is restricting their free time too much, work to create an adequate compensation. Everytime someone gets called in, take the time talk to them afterwards and express thanks. If the call caused unusual hardship (leaving a dinner or movie or some other planned activity), try to make some sort of one-time award (extra time off, a dinner on the company, etc.)

I think your instincts are right. Just follow through with your team and see that their needs are being met within the restrictions of the job and the company policies.

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Thank you

by dv370 In reply to Talk to Your Team

Thank you for all of the ideas and suggestions. I appreciate the feedback. As one who has been required to carry a pager 24/7 for the last 10+ years, with no additional compensation outside of mileage and comp time for actual hours worked, I wanted to see what others did in this situation. Again, many thanks.

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you get what you pay for

by the gaffer In reply to Thank you

a lot depends on the level of support you are expecting to get. in the past i have worked with small teams and limited budgets so the approach was to give staff a company cell phone and expect a best endeavour approach in return. in other words if there is a problem ring one of the cell phones and if the guy happens to answer it you get support but if he is down the pub/ cinema etc then hard luck. This can work OK where there are very few calls out of hours and the nature of the calls is not likely to business critical. The perk of having a company phone is normally fair exchange for the occasional callout but the business leaders need to be aware that there can be no guarantee of a response

If need to guarantee a response and you are expecting the guy to go out of his way outside work to make sure he is within a certain distance and always available (ie no drinking or leaving phone unattended) then you are going to have to offer something in return. A nominal on call payment followed by a per call out payment on top is typical. Some companies build this on call payment into the basic salary, if so it needs to be made clear right from the start in the employment contract etc.
You should also make it clear to staff what is expected of them when on call (response times etc) and what will happen if they fail to meeds these requirements

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