I saw a tweet by Charity Majors that got me thinking–
On-call is stressful, overwhelmingly the negative type of stress, distress, rather than positive, eustress. I’ve written about the stresses of on-call before–urgency, uncertainty, duration, and expectations. We all know that distress can contribute to burnout, but individually those four factors are fairly benign. Expectations are part of any job. People on oil rigs work 12+ hours a day for two weeks straight. A number of jobs have uncertain and urgent of tasks, such as first responders or doctors. If these components can be managed, why then can on-call be so miserable?
Digging deeper, I came to the conclusion that the worst part of on-call revolves around frequency and volume. Everything we do around improving on-call I believe tries to attack these two causes. Why do these factors impact on-call, and how can they be mitigated?