Productive ways to setup On-Call Schedule ‍

Falit Jain
May 8, 2024
5 min read

 Productive ways to setup On-Call Schedule 

It can be difficult and time-consuming to plan your team's on-call schedule effectively. Ensuring that workers receive a fair workload and adequate downtime in between regular and on-call periods can be challenging. It might be challenging to strike a balance between a team member's seniority, talents, and availability.

Your team will be ready to tackle unforeseen problems and emergencies after regular work hours if you have a well-planned programme in place. Additionally, a well-planned timetable can enhance client connections, avoid fatigue, and raise morale.

This book examines the operation of on-call scheduling and offers 11 best practices for developing one that suits the requirements of your company.

On-Call Scheduling: What Is It?

Which staff members are available to handle emergencies after hours is determined by an on-call schedule.

When an employee is on call, they usually have to react quickly to requests for last-minute tasks. It's possible that this will happen day or night.

If your company depends on certain essential equipment operating constantly or if you must provide 24/7 help to your clients, you could want an on-call schedule.

The following industries frequently use this kind of schedule: 

  • Plumbers 
  • Electricians
  • House safety
  • Emergency medical attention or services
  • Industries providing services: extra workers can be required during peak hours. 

Typically, on-call personnel must be reachable by phone or via messaging applications. They can also have a deadline for responding.

It may be necessary for you as the employer to compensate your employees at a higher rate when they are on call. 

The Appropriate Scheduling Model Selection

You could create your on-call schedule using a variety of work schedule formats. The following are the most typical kinds of on call schedules:

Rotating the Scheduled Workforce

Your employees can rotate taking turns handling crises by implementing an on-call rotation timetable. By doing this, it is avoided that the same staff members would be responsible for on-call duties.

For instance, you might have a team of workers available for a week. The next week, these employees will resume their usual shifts, with a different group of workers being on call. A rotating schedule can be modified every day, every week, every two weeks, or every month.  

Primary and Secondary Relationships

The scheduling method designates a main point of contact for calls pertaining to emergencies. In the event that the primary contact is unavailable or unable to resolve the issue, a backup contact will take over. This concept is especially helpful if multiple emergencies frequently occur in your company at the same time.

You may choose to assign the primary and secondary points of contact responsibilities to two employees in pairs. For example, one worker might be the main contact one week, and the other the next.

A Week or Two

You split your staff into two on-call groups using this technique. During the week, one will be available for calls, and on weekends, the other. 

Observe the sun

The timetables of your employees are determined by their locations under the follow-the-sun paradigm. In their area, employees are usually on call during the day. This technique can be suitable for multinational companies with workers located all over the world.

Professional assistance

With this kind of scheduling, you may offer specialised assistance in especially challenging circumstances. When your ordinary on-call duty personnel are unable to resolve an issue on their own, it enables them to elevate it to a qualified specialist.

Experts who are available for call are frequently your most seasoned employees or those with specialised training. Usually, they'll take care of issues that other, less experienced staff could find too difficult to resolve. For instance, they might operate equipment or tools that call for specialised training. This might apply to a person such as a plumber or an on-call engineer.

11 Pointers to Help You Make an On-Call Schedule

The size of your team and the sector you operate in will determine the optimal scheduling strategy for your company. All organisations can, however, use these pointers to develop on-call schedules that satisfy both staff and clients. 

1. Establish your on-call budget and cover requirements

The first thing to do when creating an on-call schedule is to determine when and how much cover you would require.

You can create a timetable and set aside money for on-call assistance after you have a firm understanding of your requirements.

2. Determine the definition of an emergency

As a business owner, you should strive to give your clients and consumers the finest that your enterprise has to offer. But it's equally critical to think about your on-call workers' welfare.

By coming to an agreement on what constitutes an emergency, you may avoid frequently disturbing your employees at odd hours, such as throughout the night.

3. Clearly define what is meant by "on-call."

By collaborating with your staff to define what precisely constitutes being "on-call," you may help prevent future misconceptions.

These are a few instances of the basic rules that your definition should make clear

  • How often workers must be available for call.
  • The times that their shifts begin and end.
  • The kinds of circumstances to which they could have to react.
  • The means of communication that employees who are always available, such as being reachable by phone or email, must adopt.
  • Anticipated times for responses.
  • Pay rate for on-call work.

Reminding your staff of the occasions when they must be on call could also be beneficial. 

4. Take into account the preferences of the workers

Successful on-call work is more likely to occur when the requirements and preferences of the employees are taken into consideration.

For instance, it could be challenging for employees who have kids to be available for call during school breaks. Certain personnel may be unable to be on call on specific days due to their religious convictions. However, since it might help them make extra money, some team members might be happy to take on-call shifts whenever possible.

When planning your on-call schedule, it's equally critical to respect the wishes of your staff for time off.

The employer-employee relationship can be much improved by this kind of flexibility. It conveys your appreciation for them as individuals with lives outside of the workplace. Employees are more inclined to comply with your demands to work varied shift patterns in exchange.

5. Take into account each employee's unique strengths.

You are aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each employee as a people manager. For instance, while some employees may possess exceptional technical abilities, others may excel in developing strong client relationships.

You can schedule on-call shifts more effectively if you apply this understanding. Taking into account the distinctive qualities of your staff will enable you to assign the best workers to your on-call assignments.

6. Assure adequate vacation time for your staff to maintain a healthy work-life balance

When developing your on-call plan, be sure that it allows your team members to take enough time off and have paid vacations in addition to respecting their requests for time off.

Software for shift planning can provide you with a summary of the work habits of your staff. Having quick access to this data will help you identify workers who have demanding or lengthy workdays.

In a similar vein, you may also monitor your workers' work-life balance through routine one-on-one meetings and make necessary schedule adjustments to avoid overwork and possible burnout.

Workers who have had too many late shifts or unsociable hours may search for other employment opportunities. Your company's retention strategy depends on having a strong on-call strategy.

7. Members of the team should be treated fairly and equally.

Maintaining a positive and productive work environment requires that you schedule each member of your on-call team using the same methodology. Make sure that particular employees aren't assigned to on-call shifts or that the same personnel aren't often scheduled to be on call.

A favouritism in the distribution of after-hours employment could be detrimental to morale. Similarly, depending on the same staff members to be available at all times might cause burnout and negatively impact their physical health.

It is beneficial to be transparent with your staff about the process you used to develop your schedule. Clarifying the rationale behind your decision to designate specific staff members as on-call members helps foster greater openness within your team and avert future conflicts.

8. Post timetables well in advance.

Providing enough warning to your employees about their on-call hours might have a significant impact on their job happiness. Employees will benefit from not having to worry about missing work-related obligations like child care or doctor's visits.

If your team members don't get enough notice about their schedules, they could find it challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Working on short notice frequently may also cause them to miss significant occasions or find it difficult to spend time with their families. This circumstance may cause animosity, lower morale, and lower levels of employee involvement. 

9. Provide on-call staff with an emergency assistance phone number

Unexpected problems can happen with every on-call scheduling system, no matter how good it is.

For example, your on-call staff members can experience personal emergencies that prevent them from working. There are a number of reasons why this might occur, like illness or a car breakdown. In extreme cases, when your personnel show up at an on-call job site, they can discover a hostile or dangerous environment.

Having a specific point of contact for your on-call employees is crucial. This might be done via a chat app integrated with your staff team communication software, a phone number, or a group message service. 

10. Periodically evaluate your scheduling strategy

You must ensure that your on-call schedule is sustainable if you want it to be successful. One efficient approach to achieve this is to ask your staff members and clients or consumers for their opinions.

Find out from your employees how they are adjusting to being on call and decide whether your schedule needs to be adjusted. If an employee's on-call hours interfere with their personal life, you may look into alternate shift arrangements for them. 

Getting input from clients or consumers is equally vital. This can be accomplished by simple phone calls, emails, polls, and surveys. After that, go over the comments and adjust your on-call schedule as needed to accommodate any issues raised.

For instance, you may increase the number of seasoned employees on your on-call roster. This makes it more likely that in an emergency, your team will provide sufficient support. Alternatively, a primary/secondary on-call scheduling system could be implemented. In this manner, clients won't have to wait long for a response and your business may manage multiple issues at once. 

11. Make the most effective on-call schedule with scheduling software

Software for scheduling can streamline the process and automate a number of operations, including communication, time-off requests, and shift switching. You'll be able to concentrate on more important business operations because you'll save time and effort by doing this.

The all-in-one employee management solution Pagerly comes with an easy-to-use scheduling tool. Your on-call schedule can be effectively created and managed with the aid of the scheduling app. It's simple to monitor staff availability, make a rotating schedule, and keep track of attendance. Additionally, Pagerly makes it easier for team members to manage schedules by enabling them to easily request time off and switch shifts.

By utilising scheduling software such as Pagerly, you can make sure that all members of your team are informed of the schedule, minimise the chance of scheduling conflicts, and make sure your team is ready for any on-call duties at all times.

Pagerly allows you to:

  • View staff shifts quickly
  • Keep track of breaks and overtime
  • Remind employees that they have on-call shifts
  • View requests for time off
  • Give a rundown of what each employee is expected to do during their shift
  • Shifts can include files, checklists, forms, and more
  • Make open on-call shifts that workers are free to choose from
  • Make a schedule for the on-call rotation

Easily create a fantastic on-call schedule for your team with Pagerly's 14-day free trial!

Knowing the Law

If you mandate that your staff members work on-call shifts, it is imperative that you are aware of the applicable laws.

The Fair Labour Standards Act is the primary component of US legislation that you should take into account (FLSA). For workers who are protected by the act, this addresses compensation and working conditions. We refer to them as non-exempt workers.

Employees protected by the statute typically make less than $35,568 annually. This frequently applies to people employed in the construction or service sectors. 

Any time your employees spend on call at your location will be deducted from their total number of hours worked under the FLSA. Typically, during these hours, you will have to reimburse them for their time. If your on-call employees are free to leave your property, you might not even have to pay them.

If there are any limitations on what your employees can and cannot do while they are on call, you could also have to pay them during this period. 

If an employee is regularly obliged to take calls from your company while they are at home, their free time may be limited. Requiring employees to stay close to your company's office or job sites may also be considered a time limitation. Employees that must stay close to your place of work might not be able to spend their free time as they normally would.

If your employees fall under the FLSA, you will also need to think about the issue of overtime. According to the statute, if a non-exempt employee works longer than the typical 40-hour workweek, they must be compensated for overtime. This overtime must be paid at a minimum of 1.5 times the employee's regular salary.  

In brief

If your area of work involves crises at all hours, or if your company needs extra staff during peak times, then having workers on call can be essential.

You may guarantee that you provide your clients or customers with top-notch service by having a well-organised on-call system. Additionally, it enhances work-life balance, raises employee engagement, and lowers attrition.

There isn't a scheduling strategy that works for everyone. Have frank discussions with your team members to better understand their unique requirements and availability, as well as to ensure that they know what's expected of them when it comes to on-call scheduling.

As you create the plan, take into account various scheduling patterns, such as call rotations, and make sure your employees have adequate time off in between shifts. When allocating shifts, treat team members equally. You should also periodically evaluate and modify your schedule in response to input.

Lastly, to make sure you always have the correct people for every job, use a specialised personnel scheduling app.

Start using Pagerly right now with a free 14-day trial!

In brief

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