PagerDuty Blog

Top tips to make Round Robin Scheduling successful for your team

You may have heard of Round Robin Scheduling before and thought to yourself, is this right for my team? Understanding how Round Robin Scheduling can be used and what teams it works best for is important when considering this method of on-call. Additionally, it comes with some pitfalls you’ll want to avoid, as well as best practices to adopt. In this blog post, we’ll share everything you need to know about Round Robin Scheduling within PagerDuty and how to get started.

How does Round Robin Scheduling work?

Round Robin Scheduling is a way of distributing on-call responsibilities across a team. It makes for more flexible rotations and allows multiple responders to be on call for the same shift. Assigning new incidents equitably across different users ensures that teams are resolving incidents as efficiently with as little risk of burnout as possible.

Many organizations begin this process by using spreadsheets and a lot of manual intervention. Each time a person responds to an incident, the manager has to move around the schedule and let the next person know they’re up when another incident occurs. This is ad-hoc, and leaves teams feeling like they’re expected to jump online at a second’s notice. Without tooling to support it, Round Robin Scheduling can seem more like a burden than a boon. That’s where PagerDuty comes in.

With PagerDuty Round Robin Scheduling, your team will be able to seamlessly resolve multiple incidents occurring on the same service while distributing work as needed to reduce burnout. Imagine you are on call and have two or more incidents occurring simultaneously. It’s easy to see how you could quickly be overwhelmed. With Round Robin, you can pull in as many people as needed across multiple incidents to ensure that customer impact is mitigated.

Below is a comparison of working styles.

Without Round Robin Scheduling With Round Robin Scheduling
All incidents assigned to one person and the rest of the team is idle as they’re not on the schedule Incidents are assigned fairly amongst a team of people who each share the load
MTTA and MTTR increase as a single responder attempts to handle multiple alerts MTTA and MTTR decrease as each responder is able to give the alert their full attention
When the responder is overwhelmed, they are forced to escalate Escalations are less frequent as there are alternative responders who can jump on incoming issues

But is Round Robin Scheduling right for all teams? Not necessarily. There are two types of teams that this method works exceptionally well for.

Who has the most to gain from Round Robin Scheduling?

Creating or changing the way your on-call process can be difficult. You need to determine why a certain on-call method is best for you taking into account your team’s goals and incident volume. There are a few teams that often benefit the most from Round Robin Scheduling:

Customer support and helpdesk teams: For teams that receive calls consistently across time zones, weekends, and holidays, a single on-call team member may not be able to handle the influx of calls. Within a few moments of logging on, they may feel overwhelmed with the volume of requests and need assistance. Rather than needing to tag in unexpecting teammates, Round Robin Scheduling will allow for a predetermined set of people to alternate handling requests, spreading the workload evenly across the team.

Central IT teams or NOCs: Similar to customer support and helpdesk, these teams are often responsible for staffing around the clock and receive a high volume of requests. For Central IT teams or NOCs that support multiple services, the incident volume can easily overwhelm a single on-call engineer. For the teams who are often the first responders for a variety of incidents, having additional responders can ensure that the right subject matter experts (SMEs) are looped in promptly, decreasing customer impact.

Tips and best practices for Round Robin Scheduling

Getting the hang of Round Robin Scheduling can take a bit of time. Like any on-call change, it won’t be perfect right away. People will need overrides, or have objections. There will be challenges to overcome. However, here are some tips that you can use to make the transition easier.

  • Don’t put everyone on-call every weekend. It may seem to make sense to add your entire team on call each weekend or evening. After all, dividing the work between more people makes the load per individual naturally lighter. But, this can lead people to feeling like they’re always on. Instead, think about the minimum number of people you need to handle an on-call shift comfortably and schedule that number for the shift. Ensure that you give others a break to decompress.
  • Remove teammates from the rotation if they’re taking time off, even if you’re sure they won’t be called in. You know what the typical on-call shift looks like. Maybe your team is large enough and the volume of incidents to handle is small enough that it’s highly unlikely that someone at the end of the rotation will ever receive a call. Still, it’s important to remove anyone on PTO from the rotation, even if it’s just so they can feel truly unplugged during their time away from work.
  • Move around! For some teams, this may be strange, but on-call means you don’t need to sit at your desk watching your screen all day. You just need to be available to resolve problems as they come up. And, with the PagerDuty mobile app, you can resolve many incidents on the go.
  • Train your team. Having multiple people on-call doesn’t mean you should let training for new teammates lapse. In a Round Robin on-call rotation, everyone needs to have a similar skill set and level of expertise to ensure consistent customer experience. Weekly on-call reviews with the team can surface knowledge gaps and increase information sharing across team members.
  • Check in with your team! Round Robin helps reduce burnout, but isn’t a cure-all or silver bullet. You still need to have team chats to ensure that nobody is feeling overwhelmed and tweak the rotation if necessary, especially if team members are on more than one on-call rotation and working on other issues in addition to the current rotation.

Ready to try it out with your team?

Round Robin Scheduling is generally available for all Business and Digital Operations plans. If you’re a current customer and you’d like to upgrade to unlock access to this feature, reach out to your PagerDuty account team. If you’re not a customer yet, you can try this feature for free for 14 days.

To learn more about Round Robin Scheduling, you can read our support documentation here or watch a short YouTube video here.