How to deal with the IT Skinner box?
November 27, 2008 7:22 AM Subscribe
I'm starting to have trouble with stress from being perennially "on call" in my IT position. I need some advice on how to deal with it.
posted by anonymous to work & money (32 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a bad job. I work for a medium-sized business with a substantial number of employees. We're a two-man shop -- I'm the manager, and I also have a full-time sysadmin; we run around 20 physical servers, physical security and phones. My employers are nice, I like my co-workers, and I've been given the money and opportunity to improve the network so that it works well. Generally, I like to think that we run a rather good IT shop; the staff appreciate what we do. I've been doing this for several years.
My employers are casual, but (naturally) expect good work. They're loathe to demand a particular service level agreement -- or even specify one when asked -- but it's clear that they want the systems up and available. Last year we hit four 9s.
I'm ultimately where the buck stops. My sysadmin, while very capable and a great troubleshooter, doesn't have the experience to fix all of what we do quickly. We maintain a very diverse number of systems running different apps on different platforms; I can't just hire "a linux guy" or "a windows guy" or "a so-and-so guy" who can deal with most of what we work on. If something with any of the systems goes wrong, I'm ultimately the one on the hook. If someone sets off the alarm, I'm on the call list.
Even though the vast majority of days are problem-free in reality, and even during those times I know my sysadmin is technically on-call with the monitoring system, I feel like I'm effectively on call 24/7, every day. I'm worried about visiting friends in a far (but drivable) city tomorrow for Thanksgiving, since my sysadmin has traveled by plane far away, and it'll be a nightmare for my family for me to have to head into the office if something goes down that I can't resolve remotely, or if there's a security problem at the building.
I'm starting to find my stress level increasing -- not because things are going wrong, but just out of doing contingency planning, considering all of the options to determine what I should be prepared for in case something does go down. I can't enjoy life anymore, and I feel like I can't "get away."
I feel like when I was a bit younger, I was able to deal with this much better emotionally -- or, at least, I worried about it less. Now, I'm slowly becoming a nervous wreck.
I'm sure others in small-business IT have experienced this before. What can I do to deal with the stress? What changes can I make -- short of adding experienced staff -- to make this easier to take?