On-Call Scheduling: The Ultimate Guide for Managers

on-call scheduling

In this article, we look closer at the concept of on-call scheduling, its applicability across industries, and the intricacies of setting it up effectively.

What is an on-call schedule?

An on-call schedule is a system in which employees take turns being on-call for certain shifts or tasks. This allows teams to ensure that there is always sufficient staff for any job or issue that arises, no matter the time of day.

Which businesses are suitable for on-call scheduling?

Call schedule works best for businesses that are open on a 24/7 basis, such as those in the healthcare or hospitality industries. It can also be used effectively for companies that rely on on-call employees during certain peak hours, such as tech support services.

Call scheduling is suitable for the following:

  • Ensuring that emergency assistance is available as required.
  • Having the appropriate specialized knowledge accessible at all times is paramount.
  • To guarantee that adequate coverage is provided during times of heightened demand.

Which industries use on-call schedules?

On-call scheduling is becoming an increasingly popular tool, and for a good reason. Companies across various industries are taking advantage of its capacity to streamline operations and improve customer service. These include:

  • Emergency services (police, fire brigade, NHS)
  • Shops and retail spaces
  • Call centers
  • IT firms that deliver technical assistance
  • Utility companies required for infrastructure maintenance
  • security staff tasked with protecting property.

How to set up an on-call schedule

Creating on-call scheduling can be a complicated process. It is important to take the time to plan and create the most efficient on-call schedule possible.

Here are some steps to get you started:

Determine your on-call needs

The first step is to assess your on-call needs. Identify what tasks or shifts require on-call staff and any time restrictions or special skills required.

Create a template

After you have determined the On-Call requirements, create a template for the on-call schedule that includes all relevant information, such as shift times and duration, on-call roster, and contact information for staff members.

Useful Read: Duty Roster: A Guide for Businesses + Free Roster Template

Distribute the schedule

Once the on-call schedule is created, distribute it to your team so they know when they are on-call and can be prepared for any job tasked to them. Ensure that written copies of the on-call schedule are available in each department or area where on-call staff will be working in case of discrepancies between on-call staff and on-call duties.

Monitor regularly

It is important to regularly monitor the on-call schedule to ensure that it is followed correctly by on-call staff. If any issues arise, address them quickly so as not to disrupt operations or waste valuable time and resources.

With the right plan and team, you can ensure that your on-call staff is adequately rested and ready to handle any job or issue.

Strategies for better on-call staff utilization

Once the on-call schedule is in place, you can use these strategies to ensure that on-call staff is being used efficiently:

  • Flexible on-call scheduling: Allow on-call to work flexible hours and switch shifts if possible. This can help manage fatigue and reduce the risk of burnout.

  • Communicate on-call expectations: Make sure on-call staff understand the on-call schedule and any changes in advance. This will help them plan and be prepared for any on-call tasks that come up.

  • Provide support: Ensure on-call staff access emotional and practical support when working long or difficult shifts – this can help reduce stress levels and increase job satisfaction.

  • Reward on-call staff: Show your appreciation for on-call staff by providing rewards such as bonuses, discounts, or extra time off after a successful on-call shift.

The benefits of implementing an on-call schedule

Happy cheerful young asian male in glasses smiling and using laptop in cafe

Having an on-call schedule in place can provide many benefits for your business. It can help you:

  • Ensures Adequate Coverage:  A well-planned on-call schedule will ensure that you have adequate on-call staff available to handle any issues or tasks.

  • Ensure on-call staff is rested and prepared for on-call shifts:  By setting an On-Call schedule, on-call staff will be better prepared and alert on their shifts.

  • Reduce Stress: An on-call schedule can reduce On-Call staff stress levels by clarifying when they are on-call and helping them manage their workloads better.

  • Better utilization of on-call staff:  An on-call schedule can help you make the most of on-call staff by providing flexibility and allowing on-call staff to switch shifts or take extra rest when needed.

  • Cut costs:  An on-call schedule can help you save money by reducing on-call staff turnover and ensuring on-call staff are on the job when needed.

Creating an on-call schedule can be time-consuming and complicated, but it is well worth the effort to ensure that adequate on-call coverage is provided for your business when needed.

How are on-call schedules beneficial for employees?

On-call scheduling also has many benefits for on-call staff. It can help:

  • Ensure on-call staff is adequately rested:  on-call staff can better manage their workloads and have time for rest on their off days.
  • Reduce on-call stress levels: on-call  staff can gain clarity on when they are on-call, which can help reduce call-related stress levels.
  • Provide better job satisfaction: on-call staff can take on challenging tasks and receive rewards or recognition for completing on-call duties.
  • Provide on-call staff with a sense of control: on-call staff can feel more in control of their on-call hours and workloads with an on-call schedule.
  • Reduce the risk of burnout:  With an on-call schedule, on-call staff can better manage their workloads and have time for rest. This will help reduce the risk of on-call staff burnout.

On-call scheduling can help create a better working environment for on-call staff, making them feel valued and appreciated by the organization. This can, in turn, lead to improved job satisfaction, higher morale, and increased productivity levels among on-call staff.

Potential drawbacks of on-call scheduling

Head of department standing and talking to smiling young employees in office-2While on-call scheduling can benefit on-call staff and businesses, there are some potential drawbacks. These include:

  • Excessive on-call hours: on-call staff can be required to work excessively on-call hours with an on-call schedule, leading to fatigue and burnout.
  • Increased on-call costs: on-call staff can be entitled to additional pay for on-call hours, leading to increased on-call costs.
  • Lack of flexibility: on-call scheduling can limit on-call staff's ability to switch shifts or take extra time off when needed.

On-call scheduling software options for your team

On-call scheduling software can be a great way to simplify on-call scheduling for your business. With on-call scheduling software, you can:

  • Create on-call rosters and schedules quickly and easily

  • Monitor on-call staff availability and fatigue levels

  • Automatically assign on-call tasks based on availability

  • Track on-call staff response times and performance

  • Send automated reminders to on-call staff

  • Log on-call activities for reporting purposes

Implementing on-call scheduling software can help streamline on-call operations, reduce staff fatigue and burnout, and improve on-call staff utilization.

Here are a few best on-call scheduling software options you can use:

  • Shiftbase: A cloud-based on-call scheduling software solution that helps you manage on-call staff, availability, schedules, tasks, and time off requests.
  • Swift Shift: An on-call scheduling software solution that helps you manage on-call staff availability, assign tasks, and track performance.
  • RotaCloud: An on-call scheduling software solution that helps you create and manage on-call schedules, and track on-call staff performance.
  • ShiftPlanning: An on-call scheduling software solution that helps you manage on-call staff, shift trade requests, and on-call task assignments.

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On-call schedule templates

There are a few options available if you're looking for on-call schedule templates.

  • Google Sheets: Google Sheets offers an on-call schedule template that can be used to create on-call schedules quickly and easily.

  • Microsoft Excel: Microsoft Excel also offers on-call schedule templates that can be used to create on-call schedules in minutes.

  • Smartsheet: Smartsheet on-call schedule templates can help you easily create and manage on-call staff rosters and on-call tasks.

Think carefully when crafting your template, and make sure to include the following important elements:

  • Who will be on-call?
  • What kind of rotation will you use (weekly, daily, or custom?)
  • Will there be restrictions placed on certain times for being on-call?
  • When does the schedule start, and at what time?

When selecting a tool to help you manage your timetables, search for one that offers automated scheduling features, is well integrated with other tools, and provides on-call analytics, which grants visibility into the policies and workload.

Tips for effective on-call schedule

Here are some tips:

Provide Transparency

Ensure on-call staff is aware of on-call schedule changes and any on-call shifts they are assigned. This can help reduce confusion and ensure on-call staff know their on-call duties.

To ensure optimal transparency, create a dependable communication network that allows you and your employees to access crucial data swiftly.

Building and utilizing a unified system provides everyone with the same tool, keeping everybody in sync. Taking advantage of the present technology, installing a communication method that leverages smartphones is an ideal solution for this day and age.

Facilitate Work-Life Balance

Make sure on-call are not assigned too many on-call hours. This can help ensure that on-call staff has enough time to rest and relax between on-call shifts.

Consider Employee Preferences

Take on-call duty staff preferences into account when creating on-call schedules. This can help create on-call rosters that are fair and equitable for all on-call staff involved.

In addition to considering on-call hours, also consider time-off requests and team events, such as parties or pieces of training, that on-call staff may need to attend.

Include Start Date And Time on On-Call Schedules

Include information such as On-Call start date and time on On-Call schedules. This can help On-Call staff plan ahead for On-Call shifts and show up on time.

Useful Read: No-Call No-Show: How To Deal With Employees Who Don’t Show Up For Work

Periodically Review On-Call Schedule

To keep the On-Call schedule running smoothly, periodically review the On-Call roster to ensure On-Call staff is on track and on-call shifts are balanced.

By taking the time to review On-Call schedules, you can also identify any issues early on and make changes as needed.

On-call scheduling compliance: what you need to know

When creating and managing on-call scheduling, there are certain regulations and laws that you need to be aware of. These include:

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to track on-call staff working hours, pay on-call staff for any on-call work performed, and provide overtime pay when applicable.

  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants on-call staff the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a qualifying medical condition or family caregiving.

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): This law requires on-call employers to provide a safe working environment and protect on-call staff from on-call hazards.

Failing to comply with these regulations can result in costly fines and penalties, so On-Call employers must understand their obligations and follow the On-Call scheduling laws.

What are the alternatives to on-call scheduling?

Young female businesswoman in the office-1Other options are available if an on-call schedule is not the right solution for your team.

Other options include:

  • On-demand scheduling: It allows on-call employers to assign on-call shifts on short notice. This is ideal for on-call businesses with unpredictable demand and can help on-call staff have more flexibility.

  • Shift swapping: It allows on-call staff to trade on-call shifts. This can help on-call staff better manage on-call work on a day-to-day basis.

  • Team-based scheduling: It enables on-call employers to assign on-call shifts to on-call teams rather than on-call individuals. This can help on-call staff stay on track and work with their peers regularly.

  • Fixed Scheduling: On-call employers can assign on-call staff the same on-call shifts weekly or monthly. This is ideal for on-call businesses with predictable on-call demand and allows on-call staff to build on their on-call experience.

By exploring these alternatives, on-call employers can find the on-call scheduling solution that works best for their on-call staff.


On-call scheduling is a great way to handle emergency needs in a growing business. By taking the time to analyze the type of business, identify on-call staffing needs, create a schedule and set up an efficient system with templates, compliance measures, and helpful software options making, smarter utilization of staff can be achieved.

According to research, setting up an on-call schedule may reap significant rewards for companies willing to dedicate the manpower necessary to utilize their resources efficiently. Knowing what is needed and understanding best practices will ensure your business can benefit from deploying such a system.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • A On-Call rotation is a schedule of on-call shifts assigned to on-call staff. It usually includes the on-call start and end times, on-call duration, and on-call duties.

  • On-call schedules should be reviewed regularly, such as monthly or quarterly. This will ensure on-call staff are on track and on-call shifts are balanced.

  • On-call management is creating on-call schedules, tracking on-call staff hours, and ensuring on-call staff has adequate rest time between on-call shifts. It also includes adhering to on-call scheduling laws and regulations.

Carin Vreede

Written by:

Carin Vreede

With years of experience in the HR field, Carin has a lot of experience with HR processes. As a content marketer, she translates this knowledge into engaging and informative content that helps companies optimize their HR processes and motivate and develop their employees.


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