The stress of being on call 24/7…

For those who have made the commitment to professions or work that requires them to be on call 24/7 – we salute you!  This type of work situation will require extreme willpower – and some clever coping skills.

Work out some boundaries

You can be on call and still ‘stretch’ the cord that attaches you to work.  When you’re ‘on call’ you need to be available, but this doesn’t mean you have to be physically working.  So remember:-

  • You're allowed to disconnect sometimes, even when you're on call. As long as your team knows you are taking 30 mins out to have dinner with the family or you’ll be offline for a short time – they’ll cope.  Let them break the curfew for an extreme emergency only and make contact with them again as soon as your time-out is over.

  • You're allowed to sleep. From a certain time, you should only receive emergency phone calls and not emails.  You should be able to rest and still be contactable.

  • On call has certain procedures, and these must change when you’re off duty. This is essential to keep your sanity and also to ensure your team remains efficient. Make sure everyone knows what constitutes an emergency wake-up or call and what can wait until morning.  Make sure you hand over to the next one on call at the end of your shift and then let the issues you were dealing with go.  Don’t worry about situations that are now the responsibility of another team member.

  •  Fiercely defend your personal time. When you're not on call, try to focus on your personal time and don’t be available for work.  Depending on the level of your responsibility, you will be there for emergencies, but otherwise – it’s personal time!  Turn of work-related emails and alerts and allow yourself downtime.

  • Try to synchronise on-call and off-duty with your family commitments and needs.

Technology can reinforce your boundaries

If you lack the willpower to ignore emails and alerts – turn your technology off!  There are lots of apps and tools that will help you – find them and use them! For eg:-

  •  Use ‘do not disturb’ features on your iPhone or use the app ‘sanity’.
  • Stop work-related notifications or adjust the time to differ between on-call and off-duty notifications. Check out ‘Pushover’ webapp to gain more control.
  • Make sure you filter mail and even use auto-response to differentiate responses for emergency or non-emergency emails.
  • Keep your family asleep if you’re on call at night.  Use vibrate or even a watch/bracelet notification system to minimise disruption to the rest of the family.

Remember, your health is so important.  Take care of yourself and ask for help if you feel your stress levels rising or you arent’ coping with the on-call demands.