Anyone, Everyone, Someone and No-One is “On Call”

Posted: January 6, 2014 in Career

I am sure you have heard the old bit about…. This is the story I think about every time I hear about a shop that doesn’t have an on-call rotation or some sort of coverage for afterhours work.

There was an important job to be done and Everyone was sure that Someone would do it. Anyone could have done it, but No-one did it. Someone got angry about that because he thought that it was Everyone’s job. Everyone thought that Anyone could do it, but No-one realized that Everyone wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everyone was angry with Someone because No-one did what Anyone could have done!

I have seen shops do everything they can to avoid official on-call routines. I am not sure why, I can only assume it means the organization officially recognizes after hours work is required. Is it because when a company posts a position and being on-call is listed in the requirements, the job posting does not look as attractive? Or is the requirement itself lead to increased salary requirements. I am sure to be honest there are a number of potential other reasons why organizations don’t have an official on-call. Rather than identify all the potential reasons why an organization avoids an on-call call rotation, we might achomplish more if we identifying the benefits of having an on-call rotation.

  • On-Call rotations allow for problem ownership. Even if the on-call doesn’t fix the problem, then can notify the people needed to correct the problem.
  • Ensures that someone is available during times when no-one is around. For example, many people have plans around Holidays. Without an on-call schedule where there is a defined responsibility for that time frame everyone may be away and assuming someone else will take care of it.
  • Share the workload. Even if you are on a team now where everyone contributes equally I am sure you have been in a situation where you see a small number of people doing the majority of the work. If you haven’t seen that, consider yourself lucky.
  • On-call schedules will get things back to normal faster.

One of my past employers didn’t have an on call schedule, so when there were times I was traveling or spending critical time with the family I could be called at any time, and I was. Rather than look at an on-call schedule as time you may be required to do even more hours, look at an on-call schedule as an opportunity to ensure your off time is being spent focused on something you want. Or in other words, don’t consider a one week a month on-call a week of extra work. Consider it as 3 weeks a month of extra you time.

  1. thomasrushton says:

    On call rotas work better, in my experience, when there’s more than one of me. Which there isn’t, and hasn’t been for two years at my current gig.

    Yeah, there’s a reason why my DBA blog is called “The Lone DBA”.

  2. […] Anyone, Everyone, Someone and No-One is “On Call” – We’ve all had the short-straw at one time or another but there are actually advantages to having a rota. Chris Shaw(Blog) discusses. […]

  3. Brendan says:

    It is also important to for employers to start an on call rotation with input from the dbas. I started a new job as the third dba. A few months in we were all suddenly on call nights/weekends for a new product we were pushing out. A month after that and we were on call for anything that went wrong, even development work. There was also little coordination so even work planned by developers and project teams over the weekend was a surprise to us. We would just get a call in the middle of Saturday lunch and it was an “emergency” since taking a backup was stopping the development team from testing. With any on call rotation there needs to be clear standards for what warrants a call and what should be scheduled before hand. Additionally it would be nice for overtime bonus, extra time off, ability to come in late after a midnight call or something to compensate for after hours work.

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