What is warehouse work like?
Warehouse work is an interesting sector. I’ve worked in Warehousing now for close to 11 years. I’ve been exposed to their operations, so generally get an idea of how things run
Some people may have not worked in this type of environment before and wonder what it’s like. This list isn’t meant to be a “pros and cons” of working in a Warehouse. Just a summary of of what you can expect.
I came from an Office working background, so this experience is more specific to Office working in a Warehouse, and general related to the operators
You need to develop thick skin
As warehouse work is predominantly men, you will be in an environment filled with testosterone. This means lots of arguments, confrontation, swearing, farting, footy talk and general sarcasm or male humour. Operators love to wind people up. So usually you will find they will keep digging and digging at you until they get a bite. Once their goal is achieved they usually have a laugh then bugger off and go wind someone else up.
Ironically usually these type of people can’t take it themselves. Generally wind up merchants are Extroverts. Extroverts love an audience, so play them at their own game. Wind them up back and watch them bite.
This environments usually make or break some people. Usually HR nightmares because there’s always someone complaining about someone. The same culture however, also helps build working relationships. People respect you more when you give as good as you get.
What’s the culture like?
As a team, generally you know how your team work, who plays well together. Which quirks every person has. You learn each others strengths. Operators for all their problems are people you get used to. Usually the lads on the “shop floor” are spot on. It’s normally the “higher up” management who are complete arseholes. They’re usually so far detached from how things work in a Warehouse everyone thinks they’re lost because they only ever appear when something goes wrong.
It’s exhausting work
If you work in a Warehouse as an Operator. The work is physically exhausting. If you work as an Office staff, the work is mentally exhausting. I’d argue that the Office work is harder, although my opinion could be considered biased. Most people classify exhaustion as physical and not mental exhaustion.
Physical exhaustion, you have a bad day, you go home. Have a beer and a hot bath, you’re recharged for the next day. Your body also develops stamina and gets stronger over time, so the work itself helps keep you fit and you become less exhausted and can repeat it again and again.
Mental exhaustion however, you have a bad day. That person could potentially commit suicide. If the body is exhausted, it recovers. If the mind is exhausted. The body follows.
That’s why when people admit defeat, they can’t do something. They have already convinced themselves that’s something isn’t possible before they’ve even attempted it. Which is so many people commit suicide when they’ve had a bad day at work. This isn’t specific to Warehousing, it’s all job sectors. I’m simply trying to highlight my reasoning behind why I think Mental exhaustion is the more important than Physical exhaustion
Think about it. How many times have you gone to a job in a bad mood. Argument with someone, just found out a friend was ill, family member died etc. Worried about a medical bill, got money issues. All of these problems add up. Some people take it out on others by lashing out their anger. Some people keep quiet about it. You don’t always know what somebody is going through, and that one day you’re being sarcastic could be taken the wrong way.
Mental health is no joke
Mental Health is affected in these environments. Operators are treat like slaves, and not cared about. So they generally don’t care about the job. I always tried to perk up the staff I used to work with bringing in them sweets and food every now and then. A little pick me up never hurts once in a while. I considered myself one of the “lads” on the shop floor.
I knew exactly the stuff they had to put up with, which irritated me too.
Never understood why companies don’t value their staff. They lose all the job experience and practical knowledge because they pay fuck all to their workers. If you want money, you invest with it. This is why Warehousing can become a toxic environment. When people stop caring, work quality suffers and so does job performance and mental health.
Don’t expect to be treat fairly, most employers will want their pound of flesh from you, and then some more afterwards. Rather than pay employers an extra £1 per hour, employers would rather save this money for themselves. That extra £1 per hour is equivalent to an extra £2080 per year if working a 40 hour week.
Obviously this depends on how much money the company makes, but I’m saying start small. Even if it’s just £0.20 extra per hour, it all adds up (especially with overtime). The employees feel more valued and are likely to stay.
Shifts will make or break you
If you’re working in a Warehouse. Expect to most likely work shifts, and have no social life whatsoever. Shifts can vary, anything from 4 on 4 off. Days, Lates Nights, 2-shifts. Usually working shifts means you lose part of your social life, or part of your weekend. It varies on company to company really. Could be 7am – 3pm, 11pm – 7am, 6am – 2pm, 3am – 3pm, 4am – 1pm. There’s nothing specific about what you work. The only bonus is that by working shifts, you generally get a boost to your pay because you’re working unsociable hours. Anything up to 30% on top of your base pay.
When working shifts, you have to weigh up the risk. Some people are morning people, some are night owls. I personally hate Night-Shift, anyone who’s worked it will understand what “the wall” is. It’s basically the point where you struggle to stay awake, normally around 4am. You’re also risking your health driving home, and increasing the risks of developing Cancer, Diabetes etc, due to messing with your Cicadian Rhythm.
You gain transferrable skills
One of the perks you can walk away with if you ever need to change jobs, is that the skills carry over. Being able to drive a Reach Truck, FLT. Devanning a curtain sider, or a container. It’s all universal language in the Warehousing environments. That’s why the labour is cheap, because it’s an easily replaceable skillset. So don’t be afraid when it comes to the job about walking away. There’s always another place who can take you on. The skills are always in high-demand. It’s normally why you find recruitment agencies dealing with Warehousing companies. It’s a constant source of money for them.
Salary isn’t always the best
Unless you accept a managerial position, you’re essentially just a grunt. Which means you’re easily replaceable. Forget the fact you’ve got 15 years of experience operating the Forklifts or Reach-Trucks. That means nothing. If you give the company a reason to fire you, they will. It’s not hard to find another person who can drive a truck. What the company loses is more experience on the job rather than the skill set to replace. Another one of you is easily possible. Doesn’t matter whether you’re the one slogging away doing all the work on the shop floor. Or a grunt in the Office. Same situation, it’s the job experience what’s valuable. The actual job is replaceable. So don’t generally expect much more than minimum wage.
The only way you’re going to get a good wage is working for a company that pays high wages from the start. Going into a managerial role, working shift patterns. Or doing lots of hours and lots of overtime.
Google Translate is your friend
Generally speaking, most companies receive deliveries from abroad. Basically because it’s cheap. Usually this means you’re going to be dealing with Drivers who speak to the bare minimum (if any) English at all. Sometimes they just show you their phone with text on it.
Now, this isn’t necessarily bad, it’s actually a great experience if you want to practice learning to speak other languages from the exposure you get. If you’re not that way inclined however, if you don’t speak another language. Chances are you’re going to have to try and explain to a foreign driver where to go.
Or, if you’re in a Customer Service position usually a pissed off driver. Simply because they have driven 1000’s of miles and are being passed about with no help. You will find operators generally don’t give a toss. So if the driver doesn’t speak English, it’s normally a case of “not me”, or “go see them in there” and then they disappear.
I try to be as helpful as possible. Google Translate is broken, but it helps get the point across. It’s a universal app, so don’t be surprised if a Foreign driver has it on their phone. Always try to think of how the driver feels. How would you feel driving many miles to a foreign country, and find someone shouting at you or telling you to fuck off. It happens. More than you’d believe.
You can get the chills
Depending on what role you do in a a Warehouse, it can get chilly. If you’re a manual worker, general you can get hot from constantly working, so it’s good exercise. If you’re an office worker, unless you enjoy the cold, you’re heater will always be on. The problem with Office work is that you’re not moving. So you tend to feel the cold a lot.
Both feel the temperature difference, the Office Workers feel the cold because they’re used to the warm office. The manual workers feel warmer, because they’ve come from a cold to a warm environment.
My preference to this was to sit in the Office without the heating on, the window open and no coat/jacket for additional warmth. It helped me climatise to the temperature; I would frequently walk around the building without no coat. It’s better for tolerating the cold as your body gets used to it.
The added benefit to this is that I’m a lot more resilient with colder temperatures now, and I don’t get ill as much. The downside now, is that I hate the heat. I’m too used to the cold, so I actually remove layers in “normal” environments because the temperature makes me uncomfortable.
PPE is important
This actually surpises me, but you it’s common knowledge, if you work in a Warehouse.
Minimum of high visibility top, and steel toe capped shoes (or rigger boots). Normally rigger boots, or boots for shop floor operators. Office staff can get away with steel toe capped shoes.
Depending on the location, some people may need you to wear ear defenders, eye guards and a bump cap. Also if you’re wearing “boots/shoes”, consider keeping an extra pair of boot laces. You’d be surprised how often they snap.
It’s amazing how many people turn up for Warehouse work, who have worked in the environment and still don’t bother wearing steelies or a high-vis
This post was just a quick summary from my own personal experience. Would I recommend working in a Warehouse?
Don’t be fearful of it. If it’s something you’ve never tried, give it a go and stick it out. You might just enjoy it