There was a period where I spent two consecutive weeks on support. I wasn’t primary every day but the sense of looming disaster followed me. Even though I never got called out I felt like I was walking on egg shells every minute.

As a creature of habit, I never wanted to put rules on my phone about being silent at night time, lest I forget to turn them off and miss a call out. However this lead to my phone constantly waking me up every time someone sent an email or text message, and as a member of the international community, this made sleep very difficult.

It’s also important to consider that people will understand if you are late for work after a late night call out. Just remember at the end of the call out to warn whoever may be expecting you that you’ll be in late. Personally I found that setting a status message on Slack and letting my line and scrum manager know was enough.

We had a WhatsApp group for support calls. It basically controlled my phone for years. I would shudder every time my phone gave the slightest indication of an alert. I have former colleagues who told of sleep-talking using internal acronyms. Other than risking security when we did stay on point, people sometimes had social chats on there.

The time spent on call, whether you get called out or not, does take away from your free time. I’m an Android developer, but one of my hobbies is social swing dancing. I hate dancing with a phone in my pocket and I just couldn’t find a decent Android WearOS watch (I do believe they are coming, looking at the new SoC’s - I tried the Fossil Gen 4, but it just didn’t make the grade). I basically had to convert 100% to Apple for the eSim so that I could receive calls and messages on my watch while dancing, so that I could run off the floor at a moments notice.

Drawing the line

It can be difficult to do, but it’s vital to ensure that when you are off, be off. You need to determine the appropriate manner of compensation from your employer, whether it be money or time or whatever else you may want to discuss. But my strongest recommendation is this: get it in writing or you will not get it.

I remember taking my laptop with me when going on picnics with friends, or having to plan my hiking trips around my support schedule. It’s a massive sacrifice, and you need to be able to accept whether or not it’s worth it. You will be losing sleep. You will be making sacrifices. Rather know that going in than be stuck on a call regretting your decisions.