Being Accessible 24 Hours Per Day for Work

Q: I am interviewing for a job and was told that the CEO expects “7 by 24” accessibility to the engineering team. I have a strong work ethic but I do coach my son’s basketball team and enjoy time with my family. Have you ever heard of this and what do you think it means? I check email seven days per week and am usually available to pick up my phone but not 24 hours per day.

A: I am so glad you asked! Employers seem to be encroaching into their employees’ personal lives further and further. While smart phones can be helpful, sometimes their usefulness can be abused. Usually I see this “7 by 24” expectation at the senior levels but not this same expectation for an entire engineering team. Yet there may be exceptions. For example, if a project deadline for the engineering team is approaching. Then I can understand that a call (or calls) outside of normal business hours may be required. However, this does not mean complete accessibility when there are no pressing issues.

I think there is an expectation that very senior-level leaders be accessible after hours, even on a regular basis and a greater expectation if there is a crisis. However, asking an engineering team to be on call as a norm seems excessive to me. Again, if there is an urgent project or upcoming deadline, that is another matter.

In your specific situation, I would ask. One way to ask would be: “I have a very strong work ethic. Of course, in my current role if required, I work evenings and weekends. But you mentioned a requirement of ‘7 by 24’ accessibility. Can you tell me what that means?” Then you can decide if that is a requirement that is in or out of your comfort zone. Some CEOs can be powered on 24 hours per day. While others are a bit more flexible and may require phone calls outside of normal work hours, but it is not a consistent pattern, but instead an outlier. You will want to ensure that you clearly understand this expectation before accepting a new role.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section. Click here to read about more employment topics in The Job Doc Blog at