5 Ways to Beat the Off-Hour On-Call Blues

by Tony Albanese January 31, 2014 | 3 min read

In a recent survey we conducted of on-call engineers, 51.5% of people stated that while on-call during non-business hours they like to spend time with their friends and family. But an alarming 36% indicated that they feel they are stuck at home doing nothing, just incase something breaks!

Being on-call no longer means you need to be tethered to your desk or stuck at home. You can have a life. Still, many on-calls feel they can’t do much of anything while they have a shift. In response, we’ve put together this list of activities we encourage you to participate in while on-call.

Get Healthy by being Physically Active

PagerDuty Bike RakesSitting has adverse health risks, this is nothing new. Regardless, most of us do this over 40 hours a week at work, then do even some more at home when parked in front of the TV. That’s why it’s imperative to be physically active when you can. Being on-call is no excuse to sit around being inactive.

Bring your laptop along when you go to the gym, go indoor rock climbing or go bowling! Staying active when you can will keep you more alert when you have to dive deep into code to fix a problem or develop something new.

Finally, Play Some Video Games

video gamesPlaying video games means you probably won’t be too active. As adults, it’s hard to keep up with our favorite characters. We work, we have responsibilities. Being on-call is a great excuse to slay some old-school vampires in Castlevania for the Super NES or play some Call of Duty: Black Ops.

According to a study by the Boston Psychological Association, playing video games actually improves scientific thinking. So play games, be smarter.

Do Your Chores!

Sam Doing Chores“PagerDuty is like your mother,” says Clay Smith, software engineer at PagerDuty. PagerDuty makes sure you act responsibility and fix incidents that are assigned to you. But you can also think of your on-call shift as your mother insisting you do chores around the house. No matter how old you are this applies.

While on-call, make your bed, do your family’s laundry or clean the bathroom. It’s amazing how much you can complete around the house during one on-call shift.

Be an Entrepreneur

Work On Something You LoveHave big ideas? Turn your ideas into something tangible. An on-call shift is a great time to work on a side project of your own without feeling guilty about not fulfilling other responsibilities, such as babysitting your sibling’s kids or helping a friend move.

Or spend time putting mustaches on all your company logos, that can be fun too.

Have a Little ‘Romance’

Romantic Dinner with DoubleNo, we’re not suggesting you snuggle up by the fire and read 50 Shades of Gray. Not that we would judge you if you did (we will). But take some time to be with your partner. PagerDuty will only interrupt the moment if there is a critical issue that needs to be handled. And besides you can also quickly reassign it, if necessary. We’re sure the secondary on-call in your escalation policy will understand.

These are just a few ways you can be productive while being on-call. How do you usually spend this time? Let us know in the comments.