Posted by: Steve Pitcher
after hours, compensation, salary, support
Being in IT, most of us have accepted the fact that after hours work is a part of the job. Usually after hours work is divided into two camps: scheduled maintenance or support.
Scheduled maintenance would be, for most of us, a part of the job. If you’re a systems administrator then you need to perform hardware upgrades, software patches and other late night activities when all the users are home and snug in their beds. Well, not the accountants. Odd folk…I hear they just sit with their briefcases and wait until morning comes.
Support is what it is. Something has worked for ages and now it’s broken. Maybe someone locks themselves out of Active Directory at 2AM because he’s got caps lock turned on. The IT person who has the beeper (they still make those, don’t they?) or after hours phone needs to either get online and remotely fix the problem or in a worst case scenario drive to the office.
About 2 years ago our department was required to start carrying an after hours cell phone. Our template is a flat yearly rate for all on call staff. There’s no formula (i.e. $X for each weekday and $Y for each weekend/holiday). It’s just a flat number the company felt was fair. As well, any time we spend answering after hours calls could be applied as “vacation time” sometime afterward.
At first it wasn’t too bad, but after a while some issues came up. I did a little research and found that there’s a lot of common ground in the tech community. Here’s some of those problems:
- Banking after hours time spent as “comp” time – It’s a great idea in theory, however it’s probably the lowest form of “vacation” time.
- People still send emails so the company supplied blackberry is buzzing like any normal work day.
- The blackberry phone number is published in the corporate directory so users don’t mind calling it if they can’t reach you at your desk. If they call your office phone and hear the voice mail click in, chances are they will hit the # key and leave a message expecting a callback or hang up before hearing your “out of office” message.
- Comp time doesn’t take precedence over a staff member officially on vacation. If you get 3 support calls on a Sunday night and need to take a few hours to recuperate, you’re still expected to be available in some capacity if the other IT people are on vacation. The person taking comp time in this scenario will always be called before the people on official vacation.
- Even if you’re taking vacation, you’re still expected to be available in case you have the skills or the answers to keep the business going.
- Documentation of critical systems and procedures can only go so far. Appendectomies are fully documented, but an experienced surgeon removing an appendix would do a far better job than a drug rep with a manual.
- If you’re not on call you can still be called by the person who is on call
- Again, you may have an answer to keep the business going.
- No form of monetary compensation is worth being tethered to the office 24/7/365
- I’ve heard people who get upwards of $10-12k for beeper pay alone who swear they’d give it up in order to put their 50 hours a week in and go home without the beeper
- Sadly, some people aren’t being compensated other than being able to take comp time. It’s part of the job. However, everyone cuts their own deal when they take a job.
- A stock departmental policy may seem unfair
- Is the home life of a senior analyst with 10 years experience, a spouse and kids more valuable than a junior analyst with 2 years experience and is single?
- Is the senior analyst much more effective in solving after hours issues than the junior analyst?
- Is it fair to pay the senior analyst $75k/year and the junior analyst $35k/year, while giving them both the same compensation for after hours support?
So what’s fair? I’ve mentioned the fact that everyone cuts their own deal. But how much is it worth for you to be tethered to your office? How long do you think you could live with that deal?
I’d love to see your comments about this topic.
Outside of the compensation issue, here’s a great way to cut down on after hours calls:
Invoice the department that calls you after hours. The guy on the 24/7 production floor will start to check his caps lock the 1st time he keys in an invalid password once his department manager starts getting the quarterly bill from the IT folks.