Posted on 10 April 2018

Like it or not, 100% availability is the expectation of most customers when accessing web services in 2018. There have never been as many people online as there are now, and people are less patient than ever if there is a delay or disruption in service.

This demand for fast and uninterrupted access means that IT consultants and DevOps engineers are often on call outside of business hours to ensure that any major incident is responded to immediately—even when it happens in the middle of the night.

Being on call is part of life for techies all around the world, but there are potential health and wellbeing issues that go along with this practice that managers and employees should be aware of. Here are a few statistics from the recently released State of IT Work-Life Balance report. We’ll break some of these down more in the tips section below:

  • More than half of IT professionals surveyed experience sleep and/or personal life interruptions...more than 10 times per week.
  • More than 94 percent of IT professionals believe personal life and sleep interruptions impact their work time productivity.
  • Ninety-four percent of IT professionals said the responsibility for the management of always-on digital services impacts their family life—one in four said it was enough to make their job unmanageable at times.
  • Seventy-two percent of IT professionals indicated their managers have little to no visibility in knowing when they are experiencing a difficult on-call period.

One of our technology partners, PagerDuty, specialises in getting the right on-call employees on a major incident at the right time. They have also compiled an open-source collection of resources for IT managers who want to gauge the health and wellbeing of their IT staff, particularly those who do shifts on call.

From their website:

PagerDuty’s Operations Health Management Service is the first industry offering that provides telemetry about the health and well-being of people in ITOps. Business and technical leaders gain a profound understanding of their operations infrastructure and specific recommendations for improvement as seen through the lens of their people’s health. Using this service, enterprises that implement these recommendations can achieve true HybridOps—resulting in happier employees, higher retention rates, and measurably improved digital service delivery.

This is a fantastic resource for IT managers, business managers, and HR managers who want to track and act on data about their employees’ wellbeing and work-life balance. But if you’re an on-call employee yourself, what are some practical steps you can take to improve and maintain good wellbeing?

Here are some of our top tips:

1. Eat a healthy diet

It can be easy to grab fast food instead of cooking when you’re wondering if the phone will ring at any moment, but eating healthy food makes a massive difference in your health and wellbeing. Everybody has a different interpretation of what a healthy diet looks like, but if you try to skip the local drive-through and eat your greens, you are bound to notice a difference.

2. Minimise alcohol and caffeine intake

In addition to eating healthy, don’t forget to stay hydrated. Late-night soft drink, coffee, tea, beer, wine—while enjoyable to drink, too much when you’re on-call can make your shift more painful. Over-indulging can also prevent you from doing your best work in a major incident, so it’s best to keep the water flowing and your head clear, and save the other drinks for your night off.

3. If you’re on call overnight, go to bed early

Everyone dreads that 3 a.m. wake-up call, letting you know there’s a service outage that demands your immediate attention. More than half the people surveyed for the State of IT Work-Life Balance report said their sleep was interrupted more than ten times per week to address an outage or disruption. If you know your sleep is likely to be interrupted, make sure you wind down for the day and turn the lights off early to give yourself the best chance of getting solid rest.

4. Make sure you’re happy with the policies at your company

Before you start an on-call position, find out what the policies are for on-call employees in your company. Being on call is not the same thing as being at your desk. You’ll want to make sure you’re being remunerated appropriately for on-call work, whether that means time in lieu, additional pay, or late starts. You should also be able to make time for your personal life, even when you’re on call, and know where you can draw the line if you’re being asked to do too much. If there are no policies in place, ask your boss or HR manager if you can set boundaries of your own.

5. Provide visibility of your work to your management

Often, when you’re going through a particularly tough period of on-call work, it can be quite isolating. Nearly three-quarters of the IT professionals surveyed indicated their management had little or no visibility of whether they were experiencing a difficult on-call period—and the response from IT managers was much the same.

PagerDuty provides a simple Operations Health Management Service to give IT managers better visibility of the wellbeing of their on-call employees. If you’re interested in implementing this service at your organisation, contact JDS today to find out how we can assist as one of the leading PagerDuty partners in ANZ.

Try it for free

Haven’t yet tried PagerDuty? Register for a two-week free trial today and we’ll help ensure you embrace all the functionality this excellent major incident response tool has to offer.

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