Interview with Edward Idahor.
Where do you currently work?
I work at a Coop warehouse in West Thurrock and I have worked there in a temporary position since 2015.
What are your shifts like?
I work night shifts 10pm to 6pm all week.
How do you work your shifts around your home life?
I chose nights because I have a family and my wife works through the day so I can be at home to take care of the children and do the school runs in between having a sleep. It works really well because we both get to have a job and our children get to be taken care of by both parents.
What does your job entail?
My primary duty is to pick items for the Coop but I also receive goods and refill the shelves. I was also one of the first lead associates at my work placement, I was responsible for helping new starters, reintegrating those who are returning to work and help those who might be struggling to hit their targets.
Tell me about a typical day at work
I always come in a little bit early, so I am not rushing around before I start. You collect all your equipment and information, then you should be actively picking items by about 7 minutes into your shift, so by coming in a little earlier I get chance to prepare everything I need. I work for 4 hours then I get a 30-minute break at 2am. After my break I might be picking items again or I might move over to receiving goods instead. My shift finishes at 6am and the day staff take over from where I leave off.
Do you like your job?
I do, I like my job a lot. I take pride in my work and I enjoy knowing I have done a good job every time.
What is the best part about your job
The best part is that you earn a really good wage, that will always be the main motivation for anyone but other good parts are that it is close to where I live and the people I work with are really friendly.
What is the worst part of your job?
If I am honest the main one is that being temporary staff, it is hard to have time off sick because you don’t get paid and many of us cannot afford to lose the money. Time off can also really affect your chances of getting a permanent position, you need to have a certain period with no sick days to qualify for a permanent job which makes it quite hard. Another difficult aspect is not knowing how long you have a job for, you can feel like you are treading a fine line between having a job and unemployment.
How do you cope with that uncertainty?
First of all, you have to really take care of yourself to minimise your chances of needing to be off due to sickness. But also, if you work hard and make yourself very useful you get a good reputation and you are more likely to be kept on longer than someone who is not hitting their targets and takes a lot of time off.
We hear about boredom being a big factor in warehouse work quite a bit, how do you cope with that?
Yes, doing the same thing can get boring no matter where you work but you have to remember what your motivation is. Money is the biggest motivation for anyone but so is pride in your work. There is a saying I like that is, “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well”, how can you be bored if you are pushing yourself to do the best job every time? You should always give 100%, everyone is in the same boat we are all doing the same job. Your primary duty is to do your job to the best of your ability, you know what you signed up for, if you are not prepared to try hard and give it your all every shift then you will be bored and you shouldn’t be there, move aside and let someone else who does want to work hard have the job .
What were you most nervous or worried about before you started?
The cold. Someone said it was really cold, like winter all the time so I was worried about that but when I got there I was just in the ambient area for a while so then I was gradually introduced to the cold. It wasn’t nearly as bad as they said it was.
How do you cope with the physical aspects of your role?
It can be tiring at times, but I have learned that you have to just get on with it, you have to put in your best effort no matter what. I would much rather be tired than unemployed. You are given targets to work to so that can motivate you to work hard and get through tiredness, if you are busy you don’t notice it so much.
What would you change if you could?
As temp staff we only receive a 1-week rota, but permanent staff get a 1-year rota. I am not saying we need a whole year but a rota that includes a couple of weeks would be great so we can plan to do things in our free time a bit easier. I also think that for those of us who have been there a long time even as temp staff we should be entitled to some fixed hours, or even a notice period. We have been there longer than many of the permanent staff and we still don’t have the same rights as them, but I guess that is a motivation to become a permanent member of staff.
What are your co-workers like?
They are really friendly and helpful, I received a warm welcome from everyone. No matter how smart you are you always need help when you first start, even after training you will still find that you need some help. I struggled at first and people really helped me to understand and settle in to my job.
There has been a lot in the press about poor working conditions in warehouses, what is your view on that?
I have only worked in this warehouse and so I can’t say about any others, but the conditions where I work are good, they take staff safety really seriously. It is not a horrible place to work at all, in the chilled section it can be cold, but the ambient areas are not too bad at all.
What are your top tips for other warehouse workers?
Boots! A lot of safety boots are too heavy and will just make you more tired. Sometimes if you stand still a lot for work then it is not so bad but if you are walking a lot then find yourself some light weight safety boots, there are lots of different ones at all different price ranges so do shop around. Also, do wear thick clothing and make sure you wear layers. Dress warmly, you may be in some areas that are colder than others. Don’t try to brave it, you will end up sick and having to take time off.
What do you hope to achieve long term?
I want a permanent position because there are lots of benefits to having a secure job, like you can apply for a mortgage if you need to, you also get a pension. Temping is ok because you get paid more each hour, but I think the permanent benefits outweigh that, especially with having a family, I want the security of having a guaranteed job and fixed hours eventually.
Would you recommend your job to a friend & why?
I would always recommend my job. The money is really good, but you do have to work for 3 months at minimum wage when you first start. You have to show them what you are made of and that you are a good member of staff then you will get noticed and have more opportunities. I would say to anyone working in the role now, keep your head down and enjoy doing your job. Remember, this is not a social gathering, you are here for a reason. You are on the clock never forget that.