‘To get on in this job, I think you need to be calm enough to not react to stress factors when they arise and be very rational. Work isn’t something I take home with me.’ 

Job: Warehouse Team Leader. 
Typical hours worked: 35. 
Profile: Eric is in his early 30s and lives in Nottingham with his wife.

Career history

After sixth form, I didn’t go to university. The only thing I wanted to do was play music and I figured I didn’t need a degree to do that. I was playing music for a while and supporting myself with part-time jobs. I had a job in retail for about five or six years and ended up as a Team Leader at Argos, which involved some warehouse work, working the tills and deliveries. I then worked for a couple of record labels for a few years, before finally becoming a Logistics Manager. When that didn’t work for me anymore, I joined a web agency producing content and testing, with bits of project management. I really enjoyed that, and the job had career progression and opportunities, but I got made redundant. After that, I joined my current company and I’ve worked here ever since.

I joined the company in a technical role supporting clients with the printing systems. I’d do site visits, installations and fix problems –that kind of thing. Then in March 2020, the entire world ended. Lockdown meant that nothing was open, no car dealerships, so we had nowhere to send the product to, and nothing to install. A lot of staff were furloughed, but I was kept on and asked to help in the warehouse to cover someone who was on long-term sick. This involved running CNC machinery, which I did for about three months. Then the Warehouse Manager left, and the Team Leader was promoted, leaving a vacancy which I was asked to fill. I accepted and that’s where I am today. 

My working day

We either work a 7:30am to 4:30pm shift or a 9am to 5pm shift. There are two team leaders in the warehouse and we both look after the same team of about 13 people who work across the two shifts. Both team leaders are keyholders, so we’ll be the ones that open up in the morning or lock up at night. What we do on a daily basis varies depending on who’s off or what areas are really busy. So, if someone isn’t there, we’ll run machinery, pick and pack orders, or anything in the division that needs doing.

We also conduct staff appraisals twice a year and are responsible for stock management, which means ordering stock through different suppliers and prioritising orders, so deciding what goes out first. There isn’t a set thing I will do every day; it can literally be completely different from day to day. 

Work-life balance

To get on in this job, I think you need to be calm enough to not react to stress factors when they arise and be very rational. Work isn’t something I take home with me. When I was making websites, you’d invested a lot in the client, there were lots of decisions to be made that were really important and that often weighed on my mind. Sometimes I’ll get stressed over this job but as soon as you finish for the day you can leave that behind because nothing’s really going to go wrong. So, for me, it’s easy to have a good work-life balance and separate the two. 

Job design

Most of the jobs and tasks we do don’t excite me, but it's not hugely demanding. I don't think it's a bad job or a terrible place to work and none of the jobs are difficult. I’m not unhappy about it, it’s just not what I’d like to be doing, or what I ever envisaged myself doing. 

There’s not much of a career path in the business; the business just isn’t big enough. If I wanted to progress any further, then I’d have to wait until my manager left. I don’t see that ever happening – she’s good at her job and has been here for over 25 years. There are also always opportunities to learn new machinery and different things within the same role. I’ve learned so much more about the business since being in the warehouse. I always want to learn a new skill or find out how something works. I think that’s important because if anyone comes to me for help, I want to help them. 

Part of my role includes having to stay when it’s busy and help people out. That’s fine, I don’t mind that. It can get really busy when a lot of fairly big orders come in and we need to get them out that day, but that’s where I can step in to help. Although I’m a person that can’t leave a job half done, I won’t put extra pressure on somebody else. So I’ll make sure I finish what I’m doing before I leave. The team leaders are salaried though, so we don’t get paid overtime. 

Pay and benefits

I’m paid enough to be comfortable, but I think I’m paid less than some other team leaders, which does bother me. Pay shouldn’t be arbitrary. I’m not really complaining about it, but it’s about feeling valued. There are no employee benefits really, which I think is typical of the manufacturing industry.

They’ve recently upped the pension contributions to 5% and they’re adding an extra day of annual leave for every two years of service. So they’re slowly trying to be more employee-focused, which is good. I don’t think most people in this role feel valued or do the job to feel valued. Most people just view it as a job.

Relationships at work

My manager knows the business inside out, which is good when you want to learn something. She’s a very likeable person and easy to get on with. She won’t be on your back all the time, but she’ll still make sure things are getting done and getting done properly. I’m like that as well. I won’t be really harsh and strict with people, but I don’t show favouritism. The view the business generally takes is that as long as everything’s getting done then nobody really has any issues. If I had a problem, there are a few people that are absolutely happy to help you with things and explain things. There’s always the right person there. 

Reflections

The thing I really love to do, sadly, is difficult to make money at. I've not been able to do as much as I would perhaps have liked with music, because I have to go to work to pay the bills. I would absolutely love to play more, to tour more extensively but I can only take a certain amount of time off work to do that. If you asked me what I really wanted to do it would be making music. Music is the thing that keeps me sane but music doesn’t pay the bills, and this does. 

Thinking points for people managers

  • Put a plan in place to identify employees who aspire to career development. Look for opportunities to improve job design, enabling individuals to use the skills they have to benefit the company.
  • Develop a transparent, clear salary structure to ensure no arbitrary decisions are being made, which could lead to potential equal pay claims. If an element of performance-related pay is relevant, this should be built into the policy.
  • Use a performance management system, which can support individuals to perform at the best of their ability, and increase productivity and efficiency within the business.
  • As some warehouse tasks can be mundane, it is important to ensure good job design and deployment of resources so that everyone has the opportunity to do more interesting parts of the role, and to experience both busy and less busy periods.
  • Social and team-building events to enhance team-working and improve the overall work experience could be beneficial.

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