On Call Schedule

What Is an On Call Job?

In contrast to traditional part-time or full-time jobs, on call jobs don’t follow a fixed schedule. If an employee is on call, they must make themselves available for a window of time during which they can show up for work as quickly as possible when their manager calls.

Depending on the nature of the position, the employee may be expected to perform their regular job duties or cover emergencies.

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Which Industries Typically Offer On Call Scheduling?

Many people associate on call scheduling with professions in the medical industry (e.g., doctors, nurses, veterinarians), but several other fields also offer on call work. Some industry examples include:

How to Design a Fair On Call Job Schedule

A fair on call schedule should ensure your company has the coverage it needs while also protecting employees from burnout. Here are some factors to consider when creating a fair schedule:

Identify On Call Hours

Determine when your organization needs on call coverage. For example, restaurants may need on call coverage for lunch and dinner rushes. On the other hand, hospitals operate 24 hours a day, so certain positions may be on call in the middle of the night.

Determine On Call Staffing Needs and Qualified Employees

On call employees typically have specific skill sets that may be needed on short notice, so you likely won’t need on call coverage for each position within the organization. Figuring out what type of assistance you need outside of regular shifts will help you identify qualified employees.

Check In with Employees

Next, talk to the employees you’ve identified to see if they can work on call shifts and what hours they’d prefer. Some employees may have limited availability due to other professional or personal commitments.

Set Parameters

What on call coverage entails varies across organizations, so make sure your employees are all on the same page by going over these details:

Fairly Assign On Call Shifts

If you have multiple on call employees, have them rotate shifts so one person isn’t always stuck working early in the morning or in the middle of the night, for example. This sense of fairness can improve employee satisfaction and prevent burnout.

Ask Employees for Feedback

Creating an on call schedule doesn’t have to be a one-and-done effort. Regularly check in with your employees to ensure the business’s and their work-life balance needs are met, making adjustments as needed.

For example, foster a supportive culture that encourages shift swapping or calling in backup if your primary on call employee is dealing with personal issues or emergencies. When employees feel supported, they’re more likely to return the favor and be there for their colleagues in the future.

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Benefits and Drawbacks to On Call Schedules

On call schedules have pros and cons, so be sure to consider the whole picture when deciding if this model will be the best option for your organization.


Some benefits include:


Some drawbacks include:

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