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The Almighty Buck

How Do Companies Pay for "On-Call" Support? 255

Posted by Cliff
from the getting-good-24/7-service-and-paying-for-it dept.
Wampamnstr asks: "In my organization (a mid sized non-profit hospital), it seems that every day the powers that be determine that yet another application/service is mission critical. Of course, they expect the tech workers to support it 24/7, yet fail to see the increased number of calls that are generated. I'm putting a proposal together to define where the problems lie, but I am looking for some feedback as to how other companies pay thier on call staff. The latest application they demanded that we support on a 24/7 basis is e-mail. One of our operating procedures dictates that no critical information is to be sent via e-mail, but they justify this by saying that e-mail is a integral part of what the users do for thier jobs. We'd love to support it, but any calls for e-mail support would result in the on call person being paged, which would increase the number of calls from 1-3 calls a week to closer to 20-30." Read on to learn about the companies current "on-call" payment scheme. Is this a fair way to compensate the workers providing the support?

"We have an 'on call pager' that each worker carries for 7 days, about once every 13 weeks, and the pager is only used between the hours of 5PM and 8AM. The person on call gets paid $60 for the week. If paged, and the on call person can walk the user through thier problem over the phone or via remote dialup the on call person gets paid nothing. Regardles of how many times they get paged and can fix the problem over the phone, or via remote dialup, they still get paid nothing. If the on call person has to go on site, they get paid an additional $60. However if they have to go on site more than once, they are limited to only getting the additional $60 once.

Simply put, the call volume will increase dramatically, as well as the after hours work load, but the organization isn't volunteering to pay us more. I'm looking to inform managent that the people who are on call know that the industry pays better than they are getting for the same type of work. So, I'm soliciting to find out exactly what other companies do."

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How Do Companies Pay for "On-Call" Support?

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  • To Whom it May Concern:

    You are receiving this e-mail because we regret to inform you that due to lack of staffing we will be unable to attend to your after hours e-mail problem. If this problem persists you may contact the help desk via e-mail at help@mycompany.com between the hours of 8:00am-5:00pm. Please include your department, job title, name, phone number, and e-mail address, network id and a complete description of the problem. We will send you a confirmation e-mail with an anticipated date and time when one of our technicians will be able to assist you in correcting the problem.

    Thank you

    MyCompany Technical Support Team

  • by Anonymous Coward
    First: I am a "union geek" that gets hourly pay (an exception, I realize). I also work in a state university where there are very few 'mission critical' operations that have difficulties after hours, and no-one wears a pager. If they don't get us at home, they call the next one on the list or leave a message on the machine. I get perhaps two calls a month.

    Overtime requiring a trip to work is paid at 1.5*salary, with a 3.33 hour minumum (ie 5 hours pay), payable at employee's option of salary or 'comp time'. Phone calls were generally handled casually, very few wrote them up.

    Then a particular employee was getting LOTS of calls during a rough software transition period started writing up overtime for phone support, saying he would get it if he came in. And if he got two unrelated calls in a night, he wrote up two five-hour charges. This 'raised the issue', even though he took comp time.

    The next time our bargaining unit contract came up, the issue of telephone support was raised, and not just for computer services. The agreement now amounts to "if the call is 15 minutes or less, it is not billable. If it's over 15 minutes, then the pay is 45 minutes or 1.5 * the time spent on the phone, whichever is longer."

    This is a two-edged sword, though, because now people are more willing to write up overtime for phone support issues.

    Doug
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Union this. If they don't give you what you want... quit.

    Great. And if no one will hire you at your terms...STARVE!
  • At the small company where I used to work, we used to have two dedicated tech support people. Had 'em for a while. Things were great. They eventually quit at different times for non job related reasons, and were mysteriously never replaced.

    Afterwards, the night time support cell phone was rotated among the five programmers. No extra pay, just extra work every 5th week. Complaints were brushed off with the "salaried worker" excuse. And besides, we were told it was only "temporary" until new techs were hired. They never were. "Cost effective" I guess.

    Well, pardon me for sounding like an arrogant bastard, but users should not have direct access to the programmers. I don't have the ability to bug Bill Gates 24/7 every time Windows GPFs. If fucking (l)users have problems, they need to talk to a dedicated tech support person, who logs and reports the problems. Then management can prioritize problems and assign programming staff to fix things. Yet company policy is to "never anger the user". You know, like saying "no" to them. Fuck that. User scum aren't my boss, they'd better not try to fucking tell me what to do and when to do it. After a while I took the the phone to the boss and said fuck you and your support phone too and walked out.

    After I left I kept tabs on what went on. The phone was then given to a programmer one week out of every four now. As I expected, piss off factor grew. Sure enough, one more quit. Now one week in three was hell for the remaining. Then it all snowballed one day and all the programmers quit.

    After that I don't know what happened. The company is still there so I guess they hired new staff. My guess is that the same shit will happen all over again. And looking back, it probably happened before too, as a great many programmers names could be found in comments scattered all through the source code comments, now including mine:

    //I quit because I'm a programmer, not a fucking tech support flunkee. Beware the after hours cell phone.

  • A maximum compensation of $120/week with a workload that's likely to cost far more than that if you value the employee's free time at the same rate as (loaded weekly salary / 40) per hour.

    I don't know your location, but I'd assume that the above number would usually range from $50 to $150 depending on all the standard salary factors.

    This means that the proposed compensation, in return from never knowing whether or not you'll be forced to cancel your plans without any notice, possibly multiple times in a week, would be the same as they're willing to pay for between 45 minutes and 2 and a half hours of your regularly scheduled work time.

    Obviously, this isn't very important to the person who is trying to get you to carry the pager. I'd treat it as such. If they insist that e-mail is mission critical, I'd insist that only the e-mail server be considered as such, and agree on software to monitor it for you. At least that way you won't get calls from people who can't figure out how to use Outlook.

    --
    "Don't trolls get tired?"
  • Spelling corrections are moderated as "Informative" these days? What on earth are the moderators on...
  • They're being ripped off.

    Our on-call is as follows:

    No fee for carrying the phone, but if called, the
    rate is person's overtime rate (>US$100) per hour or part thereof.

    Hence if a problem takes only five minutes, we still charge an hour.
  • I don't get anything for being on call.
    If something breaks, I have to fix it or I get behind deadline.
    I guess that is part of the problem of being your own support.
    Others, that I know, have turned off the work cell phones on the weekend because they were getting nothing for being on call.
    Be glad your company recognizes it but you should fight for better terms.
  • I love responses like this. I am young. I am 22 years old and married. I have a life and I enjoy that life very much. The software that I support is enourmous. I haven't even written 1 percent of it. It is also mission critical for quite a few large name clients (such as kmarts BlueLight.com and Dicks Sporting Goods)

    Your last line summarized it, though. I love competition. I want to be the best. I want to propve to people that I can do anything, because I find that fun. Supporting a large piece of mission critical software can be a blast, it is a competition like any other to see how fast you can find the problem and fix it.
    --
    Mike Mangino
    Sr. Software Engineer, SubmitOrder.com
  • It depends on how you feel about your job. I work for a relative startup (just more than one year old). I am on call 24/7 every third week. I get called about 4 times a week when on call, normally during the middle of the night.

    How much do I get paid for this? 0 dollars. I make no extra money when I get paged. I do it because I want the system to work and I want our customers to get their packages as soon as possible.

    It amazes me that it is rare to hear people complain about getting paged, even when they get paged 3 times a night (2:00am, 4:00 am and 6:00 am) 6 days during their on call rotation. The company is neat and we like what we do.

    In short, if you are dedicated to the company and agree with the job that you are doing, you may not need to be paid extra to carry the pager.

    If you are interested in seeing what we do, check out our website [submitorder.com]
    --
    Mike Mangino
    Sr. Software Engineer, SubmitOrder.com
  • We have 600+ people, 3 warehouses and 2 call centers. This one is going to make it big.
    --
    Mike Mangino
    Sr. Software Engineer, SubmitOrder.com
  • Not a bit less. I am paid fair money for what I do, and I expect to be paid more in the future. I am simply saying that being on call is part of the jobs, and we are already being paid to do the job. Maybe I sounded brainwashed and enamored by the prospect, however I understand this is a job, it just happens to be a job I enjoy.
    --
    Mike Mangino
    Sr. Software Engineer, SubmitOrder.com
  • We are paid a flat sum (£100) a week for simply being 'on call'. This is roughly from 7am to 10pm at night. If we are called out however, and most of our work requires on site visits, we are all paid (no matter what our salery) £12.50 an hour overtime. This works well for me as its a substantial increase over my hourly rate, or even time*1.5.
  • The large telco I work for has the following policy:
    Waged employees get a bonus of $125/week plus time worked for after-hours work. This can be counted towards overtime once a total of forty hours has been worked.

    Salried employees used to be eligble for the $125/week bonus, but this was discontinued about a year ago. No bonus, and no overtime.

    I'm not too angry about this, despite being a salaried worker.

  • There are thousands and thousands of high paying interesting IT jobs out there. There's a skills shortage so you *can* just say no. If they insist then resign and get a better job paying 50% more elsewhere.

    If you want to do it then insist on double time for on call because after all, it's *your* life that they are taking over.

  • Each application must be owned by a manager who is responsible for delivery, and will be billed at the end of each month for having the staff on call, pager, telephone, and onsite support. The costs will come out of their monthly budget, which they will have to justify to their management. That should cut down on the number of "critical" applications! And, it pays for the support group, which should not be a cost-center, but operate as a profit-center, with product that is "sold" internally.
  • was when I worked for the corporate support group for a large computer vendor.

    To be "on-call" meant carrying a pager. For every 8 on-call hours, I got paid one hour at my regular (salaried) rate. If I had to go to the office, it was an additional $100.

    If you were on call 24x7, you got paid for 7 days instead of 5, a big fat 40% bump. People in my group fought to be on-call, we had to have a waiting list to carry the pager.

    The pager rarely went off; I would love to have that deal again.


    there are 3 kinds of people:
    * those who can count

  • I'm on-call for a week at a time, roughly once every 6-8 weeks. I get paid $100 for the week, regardless of whether or not I get paged or have to physically go on-site.
  • I work for a pretty decent Internet Access company, and am on call two weeks out of the month.

    For each day on call, I recieve $15.00 regardless of whether I was paged or not.

    I get paid per hour regular rate for any work I need to do while on call if I can do it from home.

    If I need to travel at all, I get paid for the miles, and a two hour minimum. So if I travel somewhere, and it takes me 5 minutes to fix, I get paid for 2 hours plus milage. If I work for 3 hours, then I get paid 3 hours.

    It's not too bad, considering things work very well around here, and there are hardly any serious problems.

  • I've worked two schemes, the current one is UKP 70 per week, and UKP 10 per call. On-site calls are paid at overtime rate, 1.5x or 2x. The previous system at my last place of work (5 years ago) was, I think, nothing for being on call (it was supposedly included in our salary) and .5 hour at 1.5x for calls before midnight or after 6am, or 2 hrs at 1.5x for calls between midnight and 6am. Additional calls that fell during the time we were being paid for were unpaid in our team, but some other teams didn't enforce this because they got a lot less calls than we did. Sunday calls were x2 instead of x1.5. Salaries were roughly UKP 12k to 24k at the time.
  • I work for Taos, Inc. [taos.com] and this is how they do it (at least, this is how I understand it and how I'm doing it - no one's said otherwise in the last 3 or 4 months):

    • record +2 hours to every on-call day
    • any calls/pages are billed in .25 hour increments
    • you get to count transit time (but, of course, use the best available - you can't walk 60 miles and count it) [I generally just round to "fair" because I always forget to note it when I'm in-transit]
    I am personally very happy with this arrangement. But then, I almost never get paged (maybe once a week, max, and I really wish it were more).

    I have a friend who, upon being paged, charged a 2-hour "base", and then "real time" past the first two hours. and, whenever on pager duty, he billed half-time. An impressive sca^Hheme if you can pull it off.

  • I'm up in SF...If you're ever at an inter-office event, I'm the tall bald guy with piercings and tattoos (perhaps riding my purple Harley) :) --boinger
  • I run the network area for an insurance company. Technically, I and my staff of four are on call all of the time, but we have practical limits, based on reasonableness. A couple of my workers have expertise in particular areas, so we'll call or page them as needed if after-hours problems occur in those areas. For all practical purposes that's about one or two times a year, though.

    Then we have myself and our key network/mainframe guru on Skytel 2-way pagers, which we use to reply by e-mail as needed. We tell people to use the pager email addresses unless e-mail is down. That way we can usually attend to the issue with no phone call or trip required. Also, I get all the alert messages from our anti-virus system mailed to my pager - so it goes off a few times a day (I have a quiet time programmed into it).

    When a crisis does happen, I'm first on the notification tree (I'm paid to be the boss, so I better be willing to back it up). If I can, I deal with it myself. If I can't, I call in whoever's appropriate. Basically, this drags in someone at a slightly off-hour a couple of times a year. I do all overnights myself if need be - again, it's a matter of being willing to walk the walk.

    Our mainframe programming group (under a different manager) simply has a pager and laptop rotated to the on-call programmer. Each programmer gets a week on rotation where they need to deal with any issues that may arise when our batch jobs run at night. That's typically between 6-11PM. There are 8 programmers on the rotation, so they serve about a week every two months.

    Neither of these generate any extra pay (neither for myself or my staff - we're all salaried) - but I give comp time pretty liberally if I have to drag one of my people into the office.

    - -Josh Turiel
  • most of the places I've worked at or seen do something like the following:

    person on call gets a fixed amount per week (or weekend) usually around $100 flat.

    for any calls received, the person gets paid at basically contractor rates for a minimum number of hours. I've often heard $75-$100 per hour for a minimum of 2 to 4 hours.

    that said, it's been a few years since i've been on call personally.

    -chris
  • This is for salaried, full time employees. Each tech keeps the pager for an evening (5pm to 8am) on a rotating basis. For each evening they have the pager, they get $100, whether they get 0 calls or 100, and they never visit the site - that's for business hours. The tech on the weekend is on call from 5pm Friday to 8am MOnday, and gets $100 and a comp day.I have worked in several places where this was the method. The company gets 24 hour supports for less than 40k a year, and the techs get some cash and some comp days. Everyone wins.
  • At what level would you draw such a line? What about someone making a penny less or more? No matter what you are getting paid, it is under the understanding that it is based on a 40 hour work week. Anything more than that must be compensated. It was great when the bank I used to work for realized that legally, us Senior System Engineers did not meet the legal definition of "exempt" and thus began paying us overtime! :)

    Any job that expects you to carry a pager for freee, even if you are salary, is bullshitting you. Quit as soon as you can find another job.

  • First, let me say: once every 13 weeks? Damn, that must me wonderful. The last company I worked for didn't have enough people for the rotation so you were on call about every 4 weeks. Needless to say, this had all the oncall people very pissed off and very stressed out. It wasn't uncommon for the person oncall to go 24 hours without sleep do to significant production problems. Anyways...

    What you're talking about is generally considered 'comp time' and according to my now ex-HR department they couldn't do that in the state of California due to conflicting state/federal laws. What we did though is have an unoffical-offical policy that at you could take a 3 day weekend (we rotated Th-Th) at the end of it so you had either Friday or Monday off. This was done under the table so as not to count against vaction/PTO.

    I think this policy was actually pretty good (definately a lot better than $60)- if they had enough people qualified to do the rotation I think they would of had much better luck keeping people.

  • Being on-call is considered part of our job and, thus, not worthy of any additional benefit or pay.

    Depending on the number of techies, your pager-duty (which is 24x7) could be every other week or every fourth week. Typically, you work a full day each day for the full week and are also on-call for the entire world, except Asia. You're likely to be paged a few times and as much as a dozen on busy weeks. The average situation can last between an hour and 18 hours. I've been in situations where I worked a full work week, didn't sleep two of the week nights and spent 18 hours on a saturday and another 18 hours the next day (sunday) responding to an on-call page.

    We found a web page on our internal servers that claims we're supposed to be paid what would equate to about $300+ per week that we're on call, which would come out to about $600 extra per month for each of us, but when we ask HR about it, they act like they've never heard of such a thing and think we're crazy.
    ---
    seumas.com

  • I see a pager as a warranty. If you're not willing to be on-call 24/7 to stand behind your work, I'm not sure I want you working for me or with me.

    I see. So I take it, then, that you expect the company that manufactured your car to fix it under warranty on demand, 24x7? How about the new house you bought?

    For anything that the average person purchases, 24x7 support will cost quite a bit extra if it's even available at all. And equipment that you buy for the operation of your company usually requires the purchase of an expensive support contract in order to get 24x7 instant support.

    Given all that, why exactly is the stuff you built any different? Are you being paid a whole lot extra to support your stuff 24x7? I suspect not.

    I agree that you should do the best you can to build things right. So should the companies that manufacture the things we buy. But just as it's unreasonable to expect the companies that manufacture the things we buy to support their products 24x7 with a (say) 20 minute response time for free, it's also unreasonable to expect a salaried employee to carry a pager to support his systems (software or otherwise) 24x7 without paying him over an above his normal salary.

    And before you mention how much such people normally make, keep this in mind: you're not being paid for the 24x7 support. You're being paid to produce a custom application, one that can't be sold in volume. Companies that create low-volume software charge each customer hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars for their software, and often won't even provide 24x7 support for it without an additional service contract.

    So why should you be any different, and why should the people that work for you be any different?


    --
  • I work for Environment Canada, and I do on-call, and I get paid for it.

    The pay works out to 1 hour of time for every 8 hours of standby (i.e. 2 hours a day during the week and three hours a day on the weekend/holiday), plus a _minimum_ of 3 hours at the appropriate overtime rate if we actually get called. That's time and a half or, rarely double time. The typical problem takes about 15-20 minutes to fix, from home. In rare occasions we actually need to get to the office to fix something (in which case we get paid travel costs).

    We don't always bill for the trivial stuff, unless it inconveniences us.

    c.
  • I have done technical support for years, suffered through many different schemes, but the one that worked best (AFAIAC) is one comp day for every week of pager duty. The cost increase is minimal to the organization as a whole, and is something the technical people could use, much more so than a few extra bucks that get taxed away...


    Of course, you would want to have folks working staggered shifts, so that the majority of calls can be caught by someone on duty, not the fellow at home with the family...


    In the long run, this particular company may wind up saving money - and it will only cost you 1/5 of your average tech support persons salary - and it will be lost time, not increased charges for the company...

  • Companies that need 24/7 support for an application, service, system, and so on use this novel concept called a helpdesk. I'm not belittling your question, just pointing out that your company doesn't seem to have a very coherent support structure if the helpdesk wasn't the first thought that crossed their minds. The alternative is really quite expensive -- OT pay for admins is not cheap, losing them is even worse.
  • Ahhh,
    This is the type of work I handle. In fact, I am actually responsible for handling all alarming in a large worldwide organization.

    I have held similiar positions in other companies as well. I can tell you how the big boys typically handle it and possible solutions.

    In the companies that I have worked for operations continue 24 hours a day. Having an outage at 3am in the morning is the same as an outage at 2pm in the afternoon in the comapany's viewpoint.

    Typically, if there is a high volume of mission critical applications running around the clock changing the support staff to a 24x7 schedule is generally preferred with the two off shifts receiving a 10% pay bonus.

    Also, the people working the 24x7 shifts are the front line defense. They are there to deal with user problems, ie tier I and moderate application problems (tier 2) they do not get on-call pay.

    Tier 3 people are paid around $12-$20 dollars a shift for being oncall. Not much money, ie for me $192.00 a week, but they seldom get called.

    An important note, is that my current company requires employees to be hired temp to perm. Temp employees are paid a minimum of 1 hour of time anytime they are called, ie 3 calls 3 hours billable time.

    My preference of course is to have a 24x7 team that can handle most problems so that I rarely get called. I have on-call 2 weeks out of every 6 currently, but have had it for 16 weeks solid in the past.

    As for the number of calls you are getting, I have the following suggestions.

    Get rid of the customer calls, this is better handled by a help desk. Help desk people are far less expensive than the actual techs working for you.

    Build a customer problem website. Create a website that lay's out what to do about frequent problems. Note, this will help a little, but some people refuse to use printed documentation to fix their problems and they will still call. If you are in the business of support though, these customers should not be abused. That's just the way some people are and you are still there to serve the customer. But this website would be helpful to your help desk people as well.

    Reduce problems. Currently, I watch over a couple of thousand systems and I have very few problems. Look into automating a lot of the problems that occur. There are several packages out there that let you monitor and take corrective actions automatically so that you just get an email in the morning about all the problems fixed.

    I can offer suggestions on how to set up automation to help if you would like.

    Hopefully this is of some help. This is the type of environment that I enjoy working in. Most companies are not willing to pay for it.

    Lando

    PS. If you are going to try to get the company to change it's policies, you will have to collect metrics on the number of problem calls and the amount of time you spend on them.

    PSS. Try getting some comp time out of your boss for time spent on work outside of work hours.

  • As salleried employees for my employer, the vast majoirty of their on-call Sys Admins and whatnot get nothing extra monatarilly for being on-call 24/7. Well we get the nifty pagers that give us world news on an hourly basis *smirk* guess we should be happy. The point being, my curiosity as to how many companies compensate at _all_ for this kind of thing. Our job description just says we'll answer the pages, and so we do. We do get some 'extra' benefits that are overlooked for us (long lunches and sometimes long weekends, et al.) but not officially. Overall at points the various people on my team range from content with the unofficial comp-time, to completely irritated that we aren't getting paid for it. Usually most irritated when some consultant comes in at $100+ an hour and racks up the money, whilest we have to be there too and gain nothing. Now, not to make this sound too much like a rant, it's not really, but again, I'm curious how many sys. admin type workers are in this situation, and how many are happy with it. I can also say, that frequently in my case at least that an extra day or two on the weekend (Though I still have to answer pages while out of town) without having to constantly use up my vacation, is well worth the lack of monatary compensation. But others on our team _NEVER_ take long weekends, and certainly should be getting something out of the deal in my opinion. Seems to be a lot of personal preference though.
  • by bneely (10004)
    The word "their" is spelled as I have done, and not as "thier".

  • Not to be too critical, but you're on-call for four weeks of the year and you get an extra $60 a week whether you get a call or not, and possibly an extra $120 if you go on site.

    Whilst $60 may not be a lot, the on call component of your job isn't much of an extra load if you're only doing it for four weeks in the year.

    You either want the job or you don't.

  • FedEx pays a flat rate for the time you're on-call whether you get paged or not (how much varies with different positions, but generally is higher than the $60 you mentioned), *AND* pays you your full "hourly rate" for any time you actually get called.

    I put "hourly rate" in quotes because most people in on-call positions are salaried.

    -
  • A subject near and dear to my heart. I am a salaried employee supporting an e-commerce app. Unfortunately there are only 2 of us on the support team, so we switch off every other week. We get paid 15% over our base salary for being on call all of those hours. The pay is nice, but we have to be near a dial up connection all the time, so no camping, no bars for that week - our service agreement says 15 minute response time. Not really worth it if you ask me.

  • Do you work for a non-union hospital?

    In my experience working in a union hospital, there was something that every PHB understood -- Someone carries a pager, they get paid per hour the pager is on. Someone works overtime, they get time-n-a-half. Someone gets called in when they were off, they get paid for 4 hours minimum.

    This was on the health care side, so if your hospital is union, perhaps the bosses understand the situation all to well, and are perfectly happy to abuse the non-unionized techies. Usually, it's just too difficult for management to treat a small number of employees as a special case. Simple solution? Have the techies vote to join one of the hospital's unions.
    --
  • There are a lot of good answers to your question, from people who are experienced with similar setups. While other new "needs" will come up, and your question will require answering now or later, I have a question I'd like to ask...

    Why would you call someone to fix your email after hours?? The only reason I can think of is that you have some urgent message to send ASAP. So you call a technician? Why not just call the person you needed to get the message to? Wouldn't that be faster for everyone?
  • I don't know what others out there are getting, however the company that I just left has this plan:

    $2.00 per hour just for carrying the pager
    1.5X base rate for answering a call - Base rate being Salary / 2048
    4 hours mininium for an answered call, no more than 8 hours a night for overtime, so no 3 calls=12 hours

    If I was scheduled to leave the office at 5.00pm, and got a page at 5:01 it counted as an after hours page and I got the 4 hours

    They were pretty cool, I just didn't get to write code there
  • They charge by the hour. If it turns out costing too much, that means something needs revamped.
  • It appears that you develop the systems you support - that's a whole different ballgame from supporting systems developed by others.

    It's the latter that I was referring to. It appears, from the poster's description, that he knows the email system is unreliable, or has end-users who use support for questions best answered by referring to documentation. Also, I'd assume, this situation is beyond his direct control (ie: Management chose the email system and user training). In which case, my statement is still true - no matter how good a job he does, he'll still get the same number of pages due to those issues outside his realm of authority.

    Rest assured, I did give my previous employer a chance to fix my situation before leaving. I asked for a simple promotion, in order to qualify for a higher salary which would compensate me for the additional workload. My manager declined, giving me some BS line about waiting a few more months... Right! One of the biggest pleasures of my career was announcing my resignation in a project meeting completely spur of the moment. I had nothing planned, no new job to start, just simply "enough". When asked where I was going next, my reply of "Not sure, haven't got to that detail yet!" was met with the most blank stare I've ever seen! hehe

    But back on topic, I can agree that if you create something you should feel compelled to stand by it. I don't feel, however, that it's proper for an employer who doesn't give an IT Admin the authority to implement a robust system, complete with failover and redundency - along with a help desk to filter real IT problems from end user questions, the mandate to support the inferior system 24/7 without appropriate compensation.

    Bottom line - if the CFO chose the crappy email system, let him/her get paged at 2am when the system barfs! When I come in the next morning, I'll remind once again why using Product ZYX like I had recommended would have let them sleep as soundly as I did.

  • by MO! (13886)
    I have to completely disagree with the basis of your argument.

    Just because the email system may have failures 20 times a week does not necessarily mean the email admin is not doing thier job! The Company as a whole is responsible for that system. If someone up top decided a robust, stable system is too expensive - and purchases instead an instable one, that's the Company's fault - not mine!

    I've worked in the past for a rather large company which had a subsidiary purchase a low-end, untested in large-scale environments, instable transaction processing system. It was then my job as the IT person to support it. This thing was a total piece of crap! I recommended multiple architectural changes to it to stabilize it and the vendor who developed it would shoot the idea down. Management sided with the vendor, after all - it was his system, not mine!

    You can't possibly tell me that the above situation is an issue with me not doing my job correctly! After 3 months of that crap, I quit in frustration!

    I don't care what hospital resident's work, that's not my business. If they're getting screwed, it's up to them to fix things. I'm not going to accept some other industry's curse being placed upon me for the simple reason that they accept it - so I must too.

    Finally, if you were stupid enough to provide pager duty during your honeymoon - you deserve the divorce you're probably headed for.

    There is a quote I've heard, and vehemently adhere to, although I don't know the originator to give proper credit...

    I work to live, not live to work

  • I work for a smallish department in a large academic institution. I am in a salary position and I am not directly compensated for my time on call. Though, if I am called in for three hours, that is three hours I can take off some other time.

    A coworker of mine is paid by the hour. When he is on call, he is paid $2.00/hour just to be on call. If he is called in, he gets paid a two hour minimum for each call. If the call exceeds two hours, he gets paid his normal hourly rate for everything beyond that.

    Moneywise, we end up making about the same.
  • by 198348726583297634 (14535) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @12:04PM (#698420) Journal
    is to compensate hourly for your time on the pager. If you're not being given even a paltry sum (say, $10/hr for on-call time, plus OT for having to go on-site), then you're being screwed. It sounds like you're being screwed.

    If your management isn't receptive enough to make a change in policy to compensate you fairly for this PITA job (i had to wear a pager for several months- fortunately didn't have to respond to it much), then I'd say you should find a way to get out of pager duties entirely or find a different place to work. One that'll pay you what you're worth.

    (but is any amount of money worth giving up hours of precious sleep/coding time/bedtime-fun to step a user through making Lookout2k work at 11pm?)

  • I am swedish and I work in Sweden. Neither my employer nor I am affiliated with any union. My deal for taking customer calls on evenings and weekends is that if I get called at all I get one day off the next week for each call.
  • Hmm. Preview didn't help, I forgot some stuff anyways:

    I am swedish and I work in Sweden. Neither my employer nor I am affiliated with any union. My deal for taking customer calls on evenings and weekends is that if I get called at all I get one day off the next week for each call.

    Oh, and I'm being payed for those days off. That means that I get 8 hours of salary for every call, plus normal salary for the time I spend taking the calls and handling the reported problems on nights and weekends.

  • If you are so vital to the company that if you're not available when something goes wrong the company will fail to be able to do business... you are too vital.

    There are two of me; me and a Bob unit. For our mission-critical systems, we are interchangeable. There are some specialized areas of the system where one of us is clearly better than the other but we both know enough to keep the system running in a pinch.

    Redundancy is only part of the no-call on-call solution, however. Procedures and documentation are my other tools.

    In my environment, we have computer operators but not a help desk. Our operators are trained in customer support, take user support calls and are low to mid-level technicians. They computer room is staffed 24/7. Eventually, they will become Matts and Bobs. In the meantime, they answer stupid user calls, learn the systems and fix what they can.

    If I'm doing my job correctly, they should only have to get me out of bed once an event. After a problem develops, it is my responsibility to either fix it so it never happens again or document a workaround. Sometimes, both.

    Thus, if tomorrow morning at 04:00 I get a call because the widget got hung up and crashed the dingbat, I've got to either prevent that from every happening again, automate a response so production is not affected or write a procedure so that if it happens again, the operators can fix it themselves.

    Once again we're back to my original theory... I am substantially in control of how often I get paged on off-hours even though I'm required to carry a pager 24/7. If I'm doing my job, I don't get calls.

    My guess is that I'm getting so much flack on this issue because there are a lot of shops out there were management has their heads in their respective buttocks. I'm finding it hard to believe that folks of our level are doing first level support after hours. That's insane. Further, I can't believe that in such a rabid labor market folks are putting up with it.

    Before the tech labor market goes flat (as it's bound to sooner or later), y'all need to find solid places to work. Sure, there are a lot of places where you can get money firehosed at you but are they really the best place to work? I know I could double my salary by going to a startup. However, I like where I'm at because I don't have to put up with 20-30 pages a week. I've got computer operators running defense for me. I've got management that understands that time, like money, is a resource and it just doesn't magically appear.

    If this thread does anything, I hope it opens some eyes. From the sounds of things, there are a lot of people out there getting screwed rectally without the benefit of lubrication. If you are one of those people, ask yourself if the problem is the on-call schedule or the company. If the answer is the latter, you better start looking for a new company.

    InitZero

  • by InitZero (14837) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @12:27PM (#698424) Homepage

    I've worked for a number of newspapers in systems support. At all of them, I've been on call 24/7. In the past eight years, there hasn't been a single time that I didn't carry a pager. That include weekends, vacations and my honeymooon. During the day, I carry a two-way radio and most of the time I've got a cell phone. That's the nature of the beast.

    I see the above as part of my job. The better I do my job, the fewer pages I get. When systems I'm responsible for break, it is my responsibility to fix them. Period. If I'm doing my job right, my after-hours calls are few and far between.

    If you expect your mail server (Exchange, right? {grin}) to break 20 to 30 times a week, you are not doing your job. Your system is unstable. Your procedures are flawed. Your operators (or whatever group handles daily maintenance) are poorly trained. Something is horribly wrong. That is your problem. Not the on-call schedule's.

    If you want to look at worker abuse, look not at the IT workers in your hospital, look at the residents. It's not uncommon for residents to work 80 hours or more a week. My aunt, a nurse, tells me that 20-hour shifts are expected. It's part of joining the Club Doctor.

    InitZero

  • by InitZero (14837) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @02:00PM (#698425) Homepage

    After 3 months of that crap, I quit in infrustration!

    As well you should have. I was working under the assumption that folks in an unworkable situation would move on to another job. What I got from the author was that the rest of the job was fine and the only problem was being on-call.

    if you were stupid enough to provide pager duty during your honeymoon - you deserve the divorce you're probably headed for.

    {grin} My wife, who works for the same company, brought her pager, too. We were gone two weeks and didn't get a single page. Before departure, we each thought about the problems that might arise in our respective departments and wrote procedures so that pages wouldn't be needed.

    Would you hire a plumber that wouldn't warranty his work? If you spent $65,000 a year on a piece of software, wouldn't you want 24/7 support from the vendor?

    I take great pride in my ability to do my job well. When I put together a server, I will stand behind the work I've done. I'm responsible for several mission-critical databases. If I have an hour of downtime between 18:00 and 01:00, there is a good chance that my newspaper will miss publishing. We haven't missed a single newspaper in 124 years.

    We won't miss a day on my shift. My systems will not be what causes us to break a 124-year 'uptime'.

    I stand by my earlier statements. I don't think any of us make minimum wage. If you're not making more than $20 an hour and are required to be on-call 24/7, maybe you have a complaint. However, if you're a typical IT worker grossing more than $40k and are required to carry a pager, I don't think you have a leg to stand on. It's part of your job.

    If you are getting paged a lot such that it is interrupting your life, you need to look at what you can do to change the situation. Are you being called about the same problem over and over again? Do you have a procedure the help desk can follow? Have you automated failure detection and remediation? What have you done to fix the problems? If you can't change the situation, you may need to change jobs.

    I see a pager as a warranty. If you're not willing to be on-call 24/7 to stand behind your work, I'm not sure I want you working for me or with me.

    InitZero

  • While it sucks, and I am fortunate enough not to carry a leash, I would suggest obtaining a laptop with a cellular modem.

    Bill the cellular time to the company.

    Camping is possible that way :-)
    --
    Leonid S. Knyshov
  • What's more important to you....cash or free time. Cash will NOT bring back your weekend.

    I worked for a company that supported a major airline. Our SLA's were at least a decade old (mainframe days), but the customer expected us to uphold the SLA with newer, more complex systems. Did anyone else here go through GBIC hell on the old photon disk arrays? The company skimpped on high availability h/w, and had us by the throat with that outdated SLA.

    Made for some long nights when you have to have 24X7 on faulty h/w. Made for a great many lost weekends.

    It was the fault of MY management for not updating those SLA's. If you have it in your power to get an agreement signed, DO IT! It will be an uphill battle if you are already supporting a system, because people resist change, but you will be very thankful for putting the effort in.

    Vacation: what most IT people get in the form of a check at the end of the year.

  • by mlc (16290)
    If you feel like your employer is exploiting you, then you might want to consider forming a union [aflcio.org] at your workplace. Even if you feel that you're paid sufficiently well, if you're subjected to unreasonable conditions and talking with management isn't fixing things, you may want to get someone to do the talking for you.
    --
  • by Chris_Pugrud (16615) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @02:55PM (#698429)
    In the company that I work for the managers are copied on all pages.

    This is easy to do in our environment because the pages are generated by a trouble ticket system.

    People are text paged on high or critical tickets. Managers are copied on all pages to people beneath them. Add it all up and yes, the CEO gets paged every couple of hours.

    Paging the manager every time a tech gets paged is a great way to make sure that management is aware of the on-call work load.

    Chris
  • Not always true, where I work, when we are hired we are told that we will have on-call time. Our salaries are higher than usual though, and we have set limits to what can be called-in.

    Desktop issues are 8:30am to 5:30pm, period. If you have a desktop issue, that will not get handled by on-call. We have 24/7 Computer Operations (They get paid hourly), and they deal with most of the nightly issues, however if there is a problem with backups then someone is called. Or if one of the 24/7 websites is down.

    However, when I started managing the Server teams I insisted on improved equipment for backups (AIT2 Libraries) and web servers (Clusters). This has GREATLY reduced the number of calls we receive. Plus, since we have extra equipment we can set limits to how many failures we have before we get called.

    If we lose one tape drive, or one web server from a cluster, we get notified in the morning.

    The only problem with this is, that by the time we get called, it's going to be something that requires us going in.

    Depending on which team it is, it's generally 2 weeks on, 4 to 8 weeks off. When you are on-call you MUST be available, if not you must notify Computer Operations that you are out-of-area (Hey, emergencies happen), and I'm secondary on-call for all systems.


    -- Keith Moore
  • I did forget one thing, If you have to come in (regardless of how long), or if you have to spend 4+ hours on-line off-hours, you get a comp-day. This allows you to actually get to see your family if you get stuck working all night.
    -- Keith Moore
  • Every hospital I've worked for pays nurses, x-ray techs, ultrasound techs, and sometimes physicians for on-call services. My suggestion is to find out how your hospital deals with its nurses and ask for the same.

    (BTW: from what I've seen, a typical arrangement is to pay an hourly rate for the call plus a two-hour minimum at overtime rates if the employee has to come in. OTOH I was an administrator-on-call for years and never got a penny.)
  • I work for Taos, too...Santa Clara.

    So, hi. =)

    Regards,

  • Ahh.. but the difference is that, if you happen to be not home, not available, or drunk... you don't get fired.

    When you are paid to be on-call, you *MUST* be available.
  • by mindstrm (20013) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @12:35PM (#698436)
    The on-call employee should be paid all of the following:

    a) An on-call fee that is reasonable. This need only be a fraction of their daily salary as if they are working, however, $60/week is rediculously low. Usually $50/day or something (provided the employee generally makes say, $150/day on a working day).
    b) Time spent doing actual support should be paid at full wages, regardless of whether a trip in to the office is required or not. The 'on-call' fee is not supposed to compensate you for actual work done, only for keeping yourself available.
    c) If you do have to go in, not only should wages be paid for work, but for the time driving to and from the site to solve the problem.

    In short.. on-call fee is paid so that your time can become 'their time' on a moments notice. You give up some freedom in exchange for a fee.

    If they decide to take that freedom and have you work, they shoudl pay you for it.

  • by PxT (26449) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @12:06PM (#698446)
    I work for as a Unix Admin at a large IT company. After hours support (in my area of the company) is maintained on a volunteer basis. The on-call person carries a pager three weeks out of the quarter on average. They are compensated based on the actual number of hours in the month (outside the normal 8-5) that they have to wear it. The extra pay then ranges from 5-15% (based on their normal monthly salary) depending on the amount of time spent. This is whether or not a call comes in.

  • When I was hired to my current job I was doing every other week on call, with a bunch of crappy apps on 150 poorly configured NT servers in distant locations on slow links. Oncall was a nightmare. I got paid no extra for the odd hours of the night at which Dr. Watson would decide to Dr. Watson.

    Then the extremely controlling senior tech (hi, Mike!) quit. Within weeks I was down to on call one week in thirteen, and instead of first level I was down to second level, and in some cases third level. Of course, I still don't get paid any extra.

    To answer the question (in a pathetic attempt to get back on topic): get some quotes from third party companies to do the additional support you require. That gives you a figure to base your extra compensation on. I would recommend a fixed extra amount for oncall weeks, rather than trying anything per-incident, as the more complex you make your scheme the more loopholes there will be in it. I've seen companies where a pager would go off and half the department would get in their cars to drive to the office for the "having to go in" bonus.

    As long as the problems are getting fixed (and you should make sure they are) it is in your interests to have them fixed from home. They get fixed quicker that way.



    --
  • Your suggestion to get quotes for something which will never be purchased is, essentially, a theft of the resources of the company giving the quotes.

    Right. That's why I keep getting arrested and thrown in jail, right?

    Or maybe it's not theft at all, but an acceptable cost of doing business, that is absorbed by the people who do make the purchase. Have you never browsed in a store? Never followed a link to ebay [ebay.com] to look at the latest goofy thing being auctioned?

    Maybe I should have them put it on Napster? Then it would be theft.



    --
  • Some will get the message if stated properly, some merely won't. Those who can be persuaded to understand will do what is right for the hospital, which involves doing what's right for the support staff (given how hard it is to replace the techies). Those who cannot be persuaded need to fully realize the consequences of their actions, through a sort of capitalistic darwinism.

    In plain talk, if the clue-by-four doesn't work, find another job and let it be their problem.

  • I've done a lot of healthcare consulting, and to be honest, the original poster's attitude seems whiny and selfish to me.

    Remember, this is healthcare: people will get sick and injured on distressingly inconvenient schedules. Also, the folks doing the real work (docs and nurses) are highly paid professionals that don't think twice about having to get up and do thier job at 3 AM two hours after pulling a long shift. (That's a legitimate reason, I think, why docs and nurses are entitled to big bucks. Lawyers are a mystery.)

    In short, recognize that the work simply must be done, and if you are not up to it, your administration can and should find someone that is. I hate to say it, but if your management hired me to give an opinion on the circumstances as I understand them from your posting, my advice would be that their core business is healthcare, and the entire IT staff is hired help, and should understand that they either play with the team or "get traded."

    Finally, like it or not, healthcare IT has never paid well and will never pay well compared to other industries, but it offers one of the most interesting and rewarding working environments in the world. (The average hospital has an IT complexity equivalent to a very large corporation.) If you're just after the bucks, you're certainly in the wrong place.

    Oh, and remember: There is no indispensable man. [editcorp.com]

  • by BacOs (33082) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @12:00PM (#698459) Homepage
    In a former position, we rotated on-call support for the application we supported between the two support people on a weekly basis. We both had dial in access to the system and were paid overtime (minimum of one hour) for each incident that could be solved from offsite and for any incident that required an office visit, we were paid for a minimum of four hours.
  • Where I work, people who are on-call get a 10% bonus, plus $180 ($60 for Saturday and $120 for Sunday) for the week. If they're actually called, and end up spending a significant amount of time on it, they can get comp time as well. That said, we charge for 24x7 support, so what the on-call personnel are being paid is a small fraction of what is being brought in by providing it.
  • OK,
    I'm a programmer (Boo Hiss). Our HELP desk? You mean the ones that won't WON'T look at a help procedure? There is the slightest problem, they call us (Right down to resetting passwords). Their excuse? "I couldn't figure it out", or "The program wan't installed on my support PC"

    The one that drove US nuts though was when the night LAN crew started reprogramming routers (without telling us), and DENIED it. A who segment's worth of users would call "We can't access the Database", but everyone else in the company was up. We check the router, and sure enough, there was a problem. An hour or so later it would go away. Next morning, we'd talk to the head LAN admin, and he'd say "We didn't have any problems, and nothing was done" - This went on for over a month. We finally set up our own logger. It seems that some night tech was doing it on his own, and when his boss asked, was saying "I didn't do anything"

    AAARRRGGGHHHHH

    Sorry for the vent, but 30 straight days of 2x/night calls sticks with you, even months later

  • First off, you have to determine how much coverage you need. If you're getting more than 1-3 calls per night, you need to eliminate some useless calls or (if they're all real) hire off-hours support people for 3rd and/or 2nd shift.

    Next, you need to figure out a way to compensate people for the extra time. One tactic that works quite well is to establish service levels and testing to monitor the service levels (e.g. you can monitor system uptime and then require that the system be up 99.8% of the time).

    Once you have that in place, I recommend a quarterly bonus structure based on meeting the service levels. You get to answer questions like: how much? Do you pay for partial success? How do you measure things like "customer experience" and what constitutes downtime?
  • Surely it only makes sense to worry about actual difficulties than theoretical ones?

    If person A is looking after their sick daughter, then it makes no difference if it's Alice or Alex, they have equal requirements. Similiarly if person B spends all their nights watching who wants to be a millionaire, it makes no difference if it's Betty or Brian.

    However, I'd say that in most circumstances there should be no special consideration for family responsibilities. Anyone is entitiled to take a bit of time off, someone might be getting a new fridge delivered, someone else might be taking his daughter to the hospital. However, if the amount of time off gets exessive, it impacts their ability to do the job, and starts unfairly impacting their co-workers.

  • Large corporate.
    We used to have 2 rates which projects could choose, with different 'time to respond' and 'time to fix' times. Both were worked as 1-week-in-4 rotas, with pay dependent on whether you had to attend in person, the length of the callout (in a half-dozen bands or so) and whether it was unsociable hours (weekends, holidays). Both also paid a retainer independent of whether you were actually called out.
    The system DID NOT WORK. People took on multiple rotas (not allowed - can you really provide emergency support in 2 places at once?), claimed for attendance when they dialled in, and didn't meet the tight targets imposed by the higher rate.
    Now we have a single on call arrangement. Still 1 in 4, with an intermediate retainer, time to respond (to a pager, 30min?), time to fix (2hrs before fault escalates IIRC), a reduced number of call time bands (3 I think), identical rates whether you attend in person or not (more realistic now we can all dial in), unsociable hours still count.
    Things do seem a little happier and more honest now, especially as the rates were not averaged but were put in as part of an inflationary adjustment, so they're closer to the old high-paying rate.

    Our rates are actually fairly generous (now - they werent before) - the retainer and a few calls can easily add up to 15-20% of your pay - but we do have substantial out of hours support anyway so on-call only really happens when the shit really hits the fan.
    The high cost of on-call rotas is passed on directly to the projects who ask for it, which tends to keep the number of rotas down. You can't just ask to get put on call.
  • But you probably knew that going into the job (if you're an intern, you've almost certainly been around recently enough to watch St. Elsewhere, and maybe even ER before you got into medicine).

    Yep, that system completely sucks. Yes, it's probably quite a bit of a "I had to do my time, now so should you." (kind like learning Scheme, IMHO). But you probably knew that going in, and once you're through the intern phase you'll never do it again.

    Saying that you HAVE to go through that (and you don't....if you're a competant programmer you could do that for a living and make a quite nice salary) and that others should grow up isn't quite fair. If they all of a sudden told you, mid-way through your internship, that you'd have to start staying up every 4th night, you'd probably fight back quite seriously.

    • He's already said that the hospital has a policy that critical care/services are not provided under email.
    • Have you ever seen a hospital that relied on email for things like medical care? If it's time critical, they'll page the doctor/pharmacist and use the phone.
    • Most hospitals are very paper-bound, mostly because they need written records and it's not usually good to carry palmtops around everywhere.
  • Unfortunately, this is a common refrain that I've heard whenever dealing with technical people. It's like squeezing water from a stone: no matter how hard you squeeze it, without fundamentally changing the nature of the stone (and turning it into a sponge or something) you're never going to get more out of it.

    Explain to them that your people aren't robots/computers, and you can't just add load to them without changing something. Tell them that if they institute this policy, people WILL quit, and the cost of replacing them will be prohibitive.

    But perhaps you should phrase it in an analogy that they can understand. Let's say that they have 100 beds in the hospital. Let's say that it's a VERY well-run hospital and they're running a 90% utilization rate. The hospital only covers non-emergency care (i.e. no Trauma ward in the ER). Now the hospital wants to start taking Trauma cases. Maybe the ER itself can handle it, but they probably don't have enough beds for the additional load. They probably don't have enough nurses, additional doctors, etc.

    They can't make the decision to take trauma cases just based on the ER....they have to look at the WHOLE hospital's ability to handle the increased load.

    The issue with additional 24-7 support of email is very similar. They can say that they're going to do it, but without providing additional resources, it can't actually be done. If they want to offer trauma care, they have to be able to handle the whole thing, add additional beds, nurses, etc. This is the same thing.

    The problem is that the people you're dealing with probably don't understand it on the same level. They just think of services, and think that they can just add them for free.

    The most difficult thing to do, but probably the correct one, is to have the person running the on-call program categorically refuse to do it. If you stand together, unless they just fire the lot of you (which they KNOW they won't do) you've got a lot of leverage there.

    Make your best case. Speak logically, use analogies, use numbers. When all else fails, make blatant, explicit ultimatums and refusals. You wouldn't tell them how to run medical care, they shouldn't tell you how to run a support centre.

  • And for this you are paid.... $50k/yr? $75k/yr? $100k/yr? What?

    The question of whether or not someone is being exploited rather depends on how much they're being paid, doesn't it?

  • At what level would you draw such a line? What about someone making a penny less or more? No matter what you are getting paid, it is under the understanding that it is based on a 40 hour work week. Anything more than that must be compensated.

    No, it depends on the job description. What the work week understanding is is.... whatever you agreed to. I think that people should have the right to negotiate for almost any terms to their employment contracts. If someone wants to agree to work a 40hr week, or a 50hr week, or a 30hr week, and they find an employer who agrees, why not?

    The question of whether or not you're being exploited is then whether or not the employer is compensating you fairly (and whether or not you entered into the contract freely or under coercion, which is a separate issue). You get to decide for yourself if what you're getting for your contribution is fair. If you agree to a job with a default 40hr work week, but wind up working more hours without pay, well, you're getting screwed. If you agree to a job with a 60hr work week, and get the agreed upon compensation, then no injustice is happening -- your agreement to a crummy contract is not a crime.

    A job which upfront specifies carrying a pager or being on call, and in return pays a salary of above market rate is hardly "carrying a pager for free".

  • by stukuz (63484) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @12:17PM (#698483)
    When I was doing systems programming in Sweden, the unions, both employer and employee unions, agreed that a service call between 8pm and 6am, for a day shift person, was equivalent to 3 hours of your personal time. It was rewarded by 3 hrs pay or 3 hrs of comp time. Maybe there is a need for white collar unions here too.
  • Considering how many companies no longer operate 9-5, having functional communications systems at all hours of the day and night makes sense. The fact that you may wish to send a Word document or PGP signed Network Solutions update at 9PM is a valid reason to choose a support contract that offers those options.
  • The labor movement is powerless against those take the start-up gamble and don't mind working 80hrs a week and think anyone they hire should feel the exact same way because of stock options that are probably worthless.

    The best part is this doesnt undermine our rights as workers, these people choose to enter shitty situations and prospective employees can shop around.

    To get back on-topic this is a non-profit which when used properly an get volunteers to do all sorts of things, maybe even support. Or if money is especially tight you have to ask yourself which jobs are critical and which aren't and replace non-criticals with volunteers to pay for a decent support team. Either that or suffer.

  • I work for a medium-sized regional ISP. We have three call rotations (plus one for senior management): systems, networking and customer service (we don't operate a 24x7 call center). The call rotates through departments of 4-5 people, so everyone is on-call every 4-5 weeks.

    We compensate people by paying them an extra day (8 hours) for each week on call at their current rate (everyone is salaried, so there's no easy way to pay them a multiple of current hourly rate.

    There's not really differential compensation for what people do when they're on call but if it's really busy most managers give people comp time.

    Does this seem fair?

  • by tmu (107089)
    One other thing i thought of that hasn't really been discussed (probably because a disgusting majority of slashdotters are male and are not very gender-aware): are on-call policies gender biased?

    women are more likely to have family responsibilities (whether children or elderly, we rely, as a society, on women to take care of everyone). as a result, it may be more difficult for them to take care of on-call duties than it is for men.

    does anyone work anywhere where on-call policies are sensitive to these sorts of considerations (not gender, specifically, obviously, but different amounts of time that different people spend on caring for family members)?

  • Carrying the pager over the weekend is three hours pay. Each page is one hour's pay, PLUS the number of hours spent working on the problem, in hour increments.

    Let's say I get paged twice, and the first call takes 45 minutes and the second takes two hours. Three hours plus two pages plus one hour (rounded up) plus two hours. I get credit for eight billable hours.

    (And yeah, that's considerably more than $120.)

  • That would work fine for another industry, but it will not work if people's lives are on the line at this hospital. Imagine a doctor giving some guy a medicine that they are alergic to, because the doctor couldn't access the records, and you weren't there to help them...
  • by Kagato (116051) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @12:17PM (#698517)
    First, there are a lot of holes here to fill in. Does 24X7 mean just critical sytem outage, or does it include any questions the Gaylord Fochers of the world may have for you? Is there any front line technical support 24X7? Is this a crapy exchange based mail system, or something stable in UNIX such as Openmail?

    Generally, I've found non-profs are the worst to work for IT wise. It's almost as bad as a Co-op. Limited funding is always an issue. However, this being said I can add the following:

    * There are plenty of places that offer outsource support by per minute prices. On the low side you can expect $1.50/Minute. If you have a lot of simple questions you get then this can work well.
    A more cost effective measure is to hire a sudo technical person for second shift. Enough to take the heat off, and to be able to do simple tests to determine if the system is really down, or if it's a client issue.

    * Being on call is one of the bains of the exempt employee status. It's not uncommon to only be offered comp time. On the other hand, it's not uncommon for an email admin in a 24X7 enviroment to get in the high 50K range as starting pay.

    The problem with the wage comparison charts is that they rarely look at the pay ranges for people who work the long 24X7 hours.

    Work based compensation is okay, but it doesn't factor in the stuff you can't do because you were tied to the pager.

    * You should have the higher ups compare how much you're getting VS how much it would cost to outsource. Compare that to how much value the service you're offering is.

    * Finally, if all else fails. It's a good IT market right now. Get a consulting job. Consultants are usually exempt for pager duty, and often you can tell your pimp upfront that you expect time and a half for all after hours works.
  • I am pretty surprised to see any compensation being thrown at people for this.
    Not to be antagonistic, or anything, but this kind of offends me. The entire point of 'compensation' is an agreement between two entities; something is exchanged for something. In the case of a normal '9 to 5' working job, the agreement is (x per hour|y per year) in exchange for 8 hours a day of work. Being on call (especially if there are iron-clad response requirements) effectivly raises the number of hours of 'work' per day, assuming that any period of time can be EITHER 'work' or 'personal.' And in this case, it is, if one is expected to respond before 9 o'clock next morning. Think about it; my time is NOT my own if I need to do work related things. So why not be compensated for that? If one shouldn't be compensated for being 'on call', why should one be compensated for being at the desk between 9 and 5? What is the difference? That having been said, I'm technically 'on call' 24/7, but I've never been called past working hours. If it starts to happen, fair compensation will be negotiated, or they'll be one less sysadmin. Oh, and has been mentioned a few times; CHECK STATE/PROVINCAL LAW. You may have LEGALLY REQUIRED compensation coming at you; commonly 1.5x base rate, EVEN IF YOU'RE SALARIED. And most laws, to prevent corporate reaming of employees, state that this legal right cannot be given up in any way shape or form.
  • Note that by law in Alberta, Canada, a person must be paid for three hours minimum when called in regardless of whether they worked three hours or two minutes.

    I don't know if this applies to salaried employees, though.

  • If your employer is abusing you, don't just bend over & take it -- do somthing about it. If you are a competant technician, you have negotiating power with your employer. If you threaten to quit over it, your employer will take notice. If you get a bunch of your co-workers to do the same, they'll really get a clue (or a rude awakening). For the time being at least, skilled geeks have the upper hand on employers.

    I believe that if you are on-call, you *are* working -- you are not free to do as you please when you are on the electronic leash. While on call, you deserve to be paid *the* *same* *amount* you would be paid if you were sitting at your desk on-site waiting for service calls to come in.

    I've learned from experience to ask during the job interview if any on-call time is required. Personally, I refuse to take jobs that want me to wear an electronic leash; but if I were to take one, I'd insist on being compensated for my time. My free time is MINE, damnit. I take a job on the understanding that they are paying me X amount of dollars for Y amount of work. You want more work, it's going to cost you -- either by me more or by paying a headhunter to find someone to replace me.

  • Check out your state's labor laws. This may be illegal. In many/most states, if your employer is restricting your activities IN ANY WAY due to being on-call, then you are ON THE CLOCK -- and this usually applies to "exempt" (salaried) employees as well.
  • Given that your support needs sound like they're growing enough to overwhelm any one person, consider establishing a "help desk". They could staff a desk 24/7/365 and handle some first level calls (my password doesn't work, my e-mail prints on the wrong printer, etc.) Anything requiring escalation is sent by them to your pager. The staff doesn't call you directly.

    This not only solves your problem of tech staff being overwhelmed by on-call duties, but the manager of the help desk is then responsible for budget and staff increases as the responsibilities increase.

    You're just experiencing growning pains. Remember, support needs always grow. I have never heard of a support organization shrink because the company involved dropped some troublesome technology. Sell this idea by telling management you're positioning yourself for the future.

    If they balk at the expense, you can lease 24/7 support desk service from any number of vendors. And before you ask, yes, prompt service will suck if you don't spend the cash. Hey, it's that or lose the techies they've already got...

    John

    Disclaimer: Before you believe anything I write, remember that in the back of my mind my retirement depends on my company's stock doing well over the next 20-30 years.

  • I didn't catch if you folks are getting paid hourly or if you're salaried employees. I worked at an ISP where the emergency pager was rotated around the staff (someone new got it every two weeks), and if the pager went off after hours the pager person was compensated for their time. Of course, we were all hourly employees so it was a bit easier.

    At my last job (not the aforementioned ISP), our sysadmins had a rotating on-call schedule, so no one person was stuck answering all the "Server/Router Down" phone calls all the time. Usually, if someone was really stuck working late after hours, she would simply come in a few hours late the next day. It was a pretty good system: abusable, but with a small enough group and a decent manager, definitely workable.

    In any case, your best bet is to sit down and talk with your manager and voice your concerns. Make your points calmly, yet firm. Let her know that you feel the volume of work is going to increase dramatically and that there should be a similar increase in compensation. Good luck.

    --
    Mando
  • by Nidhogg (161640) <shr...thanatos@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @12:19PM (#698559) Journal
    Do you mean to tell me that people are actually getting paid extra for 24/7 on-call tech support?

    Where the FUCK is my boss.

    Brb.

  • by Eric Gibson (166760) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @12:23PM (#698565) Homepage
    One of the guys at my job when he was hired requested that an addendum be added to his sign on aggreement (he was perm) that if there was any pager duty his wage would be renegotiated. At the time, his job didn't require a pager. A few months later, his boss said "We need you to carry a pager". He responded "You need to look at my contract, my wage needs to be renegotiated." The boss got a little angry I believe and sure enough when he looked at the workers contract, there it was. The nasty addendum he had forgotten. Long story short, he didn't have to carry a pager.

    I thought that was a cool idea.
  • by scrye (169108) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @12:00PM (#698569) Homepage
    when i worked at an ISP, we had the duty pager as well. We all got paid an hourly rate based on our salary*1.5. I feel this was a great way of doing it, and made people not feel so angry about being on call.
  • Also a Union guy in Canada, here's how it works for me.

    If on call, we are paid 1/8th our wage while on call. Any call results in 3 hours overtime based on our contract. The way our contract works is this... first day of OT (say a Sat.) is 1.5, 2nd, 3rd, etc. are at 2.5*.

    Its actually not a bad system. As the RAS administrator, I often get put on call when we have clients doing weekend demonstrations. We use RSA's SecurID tokens and a lot of users have trouble remembering exactly how to use them. So, I get a call that takes 5 mins, and get 3 hours overtime. However, if that call comes at 10:00, and I get another 5 min call at 12:00, I'm still only paid for the 3 hours OT (10:00 - 1:00).

    I think this is a pretty fair way of doing things though. For having to carry my phone, I get paid, if I have to do anything, I get paid OT. Of course it doesn't differentiate between solving a problem over the phone, or having to come into the office (or the client site if they're in town), but generally speaking, it works pretty well. Especially over the Y2K thing... I was on call for 72 hours straight, phone didn't ring once, and I got paid for like 9 hours of work, well, okay I took it as comp time, but anyways.

  • At a former employer, I had similar after-hours responsibilities. I was on a pager rotation (1 week every 7). I was paid as follows:

    $60 for each complete week on-call

    Regular overtime for each phone call fielded, minimum one hour.

    Regular overtime for on-site visits, minimum four hours.

    Regular overtime means 1.5 regular rate after hours, double between 11pm-7am, double on Sundays and holidays.

    Not a bad deal, really.

  • I have been a manager, employee, and consultant where 7x24 is the rule (ps: there is also no such thing as holidays either!) Every time I have been asked to wear a pager, I have shown the costs envolved and ask "Do you realy want to pay for that?" and should out ways to get the same results.

    SO --

    Consultants -
    Being "on call" is being on the job. Every hour you are "on call" is an hour worked. That is what customer asked to you do. PERIOD.

    Employees -
    Hourly or Salary - the States have overtime limits were your employer is required to give people time rest. Being "on call" is being on the job. Every hour you work you are to be paid. Many full-time salaried employees have sued and won money of past MANORY over time pay.

    Managers -
    IF 7x24 is a requirement, staff 3 shifts 7 days a week. Every thing else is taking advange of your staff. If 5x18 is required, try flex time, alot of employees and consultants would love to come to work around noon, and others around 5am.

    Hire the employee, don't abuse them.
  • While working in the IT dept. of a small regional hospital we were on the same call-time arrangement as the nursing staff. You got normal time if you were called in, and a small amount for having to be on-call. The best part was it was a pretty easy sell to the CFO.
  • by Anne Marie (239347) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @12:56PM (#698618)
    I've held many jobs, but I will never work for a company where I have to be on call. No incremental salary compensates for the lost family time and lost personal time. I work for a living, yes, but I'm doing precisely that: working for a living, not working as my life. Living comes afterwards, at the end of the day, when I can go home and see the smiling faces of my loved ones and feel content about my small place in the universe.

    It's like with leasing a home: I own my house because it's important enough to me that I want full control of it. It's the same with one's occupation: I don't want to lease my life; I want it to be my own life, and I don't want to have to answer to my boss unexpectedly at all hours of the day and night. It pains me to see so many people of my generation taking up the yoke of servile labor our grandparents and great grandparents fought so hard to unload. eighty-hour work weeks? Previous generations fought tooth and nail to get a ten-hour workday, and we undo their efforts in one fell swoop.
  • by jeepmeister (241971) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @12:43PM (#698623)
    Here, here. I work for a similar healthcare outfit which does not compensate at all for on-call pager duty after hours. The management seems to think we do on-call because we like it. We don't like it. Many engineers in my group have taken their talents elsewhere and cited 7 days of on-call in a highly stressful environment every four to six months without compensation as an important factor in their decision to leave the company. Unfortunately, management seems to be indifferent to the situation in spite of the high cost of replacing these skilled and knowledgeable individuals. The truth is, pointy haired managers simply do not have a grasp of the issues regarding remedial maintenance support. Their expectation is based on uptime percentages devoid of the human cost to acheive those numbers. This is a losing battle on the technical end. The pointy hairs seem to clearly grasp the concept of time in the opposing direction however. When negotiating on-call compensation, suggest time off on a 1:1 ratio for on-call time on and see how fast they recognize the value of worktime.

    Jeepmeister

"I got everybody to pay up front...then I blew up their planet." "Now why didn't I think of that?" -- Post Bros. Comics

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