Expecting the Unexpected – Shift patterns at the Jamboree

Happy Monday everyone.  I had to go into work for a couple of hours yesterday (Sunday) morning to take a test off the heat, check the results and issue the report so it could be sent out to a customer today (Monday).  Whilst I was waiting for the test to cool down I found myself thinking about the Jamboree, and since I was near a PC with an internet connection, I started drafting this post.  Thinking about the Jamboree isn’t massively unusual for me, it’s only 75 days till Matty and I fly (eeeep!!!!!).  I’m going to try and use the story of today to make a point (of sorts).

The first thing to say is that I’m contracted to work Monday-Friday 8ish – 5ish with a half day Friday.  That I didn’t leave till nearly 6 every day last week and had to come in for two hours on a Sunday is uncontracted overtime (that I’m not paid for).

If I hadn’t gone in the test wouldn’t have been finished, I couldn’t have issued the report and we’d have fallen behind on a contract.  If I’d left the test till this morning the material under test would probably also have caught fire and might have taken out some of the kit, but that doesn’t really matter to this tale.

How I spent my Sunday morning. Well nearly. My lab-coat is blue and I don’t think I’ve ever used a micropipette…

At the Jamboree I, like most/all of the IST, and to a degree Unit Leaders and CMST, will have a rota of when I’m ‘on duty’, and when I get to go and play.  That might be a shift pattern, or a series of days you are expected to work.  If, for any given shift, I don’t turn up, my job won’t get done.  My team will have more to do and less bodies to get it done.

Beyond that, there will be occasions where something happens.  A lorry that needs unloaded is late, someone goes down sick and can’t work.  We may find ourselves asked to do “overtime”, to work extra shifts.

I’ll be the first to admit this is a massive pain.  Especially if you’ve arranged to meet friends or do something elsewhere on the site.  It might even be that you are knackered and you can think of nothing other than your bed.  I have been there, at least once every event as IST.  You will be faced with the dilemma and have to make your own mind up.

To paraphrase The Clash, “Should I stay or should I go?”

It’s amazing what’s become a motivational poster these days…

Do I stay on and work the shift/”overtime” and miss what I was planning to do, or do I say “No” and go and have fun.

It’s a tricky question.

Truthfully there’s no right answer.  I know what I’ve done in the past, and I know what I think I’d do in the future.  For reference, this was stay on and do the shift, work the overtime and enjoy myself on another day.

On the one hand, as much as we are there as International Service Team, we have paid a substantial sum to go, and for many of us this is our summer holiday.  We are there to do the work, but we are there to have fun and have a good time.  If we spend the whole two weeks working and never seeing beyond the extremes of our work area and the inside of our tent/eyelids, it might not be particularly fun.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have had a load of fun ‘on-shift’.  The egg-and-spoon races in Sweden, Bruce and I having a microwavable ‘breakfast’ during one of our endless night shifts in Iceland.  The day my security patrol became the mounted branch (on bicycles) in Japan.  These were fantastic fun with fantastic people, but we all want to see the site, meet new people, explore cultures and food.

However, as I’ve said elsewhere, we are there to do a job.  Whatever our job there is, whether running activities or unloading lorries, doing admin or being a paramedic, every job is vital to the Jamboree as a whole.

A prime example would be from when I worked as a ‘Safety’ Steward (Security) in Japan.  Safety/Security is usually one of the biggest departments at a Jamboree.  We were all assigned to teams and given duties and ‘beats’ (for lack of a better word), but through some oversight or other, the organisers had forgotten that the ceremonies would need security.  So we were asked to volunteer to help with these over and above our usual duties.  On the day of the closing ceremony I worked 0600-1200 on traffic duty, went to have lunch, had a nap and at about 1600 reported for duty in the arena where I stayed until about 2200 – only to report back at 0600 the next morning to support the participant departures.

My duty post was about twenty feet from the stage, so I got a really unique view of what was going on – probably the best seat in the house for parts of it.  I got to stand in front of nearly 33,000 people from all over the world and watch them enjoy the ceremony.  It’s an experience I’ll never forget and I even remembered to take a photo to commemorate it.  Pity I’m so bad at selfies.

About 20 feet from the stage!
And, in front of the world!

Similarly, as part of the ‘IST Gathering’ weekend for Sweden way back in 2010 I remember we were given a piece of a jigsaw puzzle as we registered.  We were told to keep it with our ID and not loose it.  All would become clear in course.  Later in the weekend, we were organised into regional groups.  The Scots, Northern Irish and Welsh were all grouped together (somewhat oddly given the geography) and we were asked to produce our jigsaw piece.  As a regional group we assembled a jigsaw that was part of a map of the Jamboree site.  When all the regional groups were brought together it became clear that each group had made part of the map so that the IST together made up the whole picture.

We’re all part of a bigger picture, even if we can’t see it

What’s the moral of this story within a story?  We are all part of a bigger picture.  We might not realise it stacking shelves in a warehouse, or sat in an office putting numbers into a spreadsheet, or hidden in the IST Kitchen peeling potatoes, but we are all critical to the overall success of the Jamboree.  Without the activity instructors, the activities wouldn’t run.  Without the medical team, there would be no first aid or emergency provision.  Without Participant food, no-one would eat.  Without the admin and HR functions, the whole system would grind to a halt.

But, overall, you have to put yourself first.  If you’re an activity instructor or have what we call a “safety critical role” at work, then being fatigued through working double shifts or overtime on your day off is a recipe for disaster.  I talked about this when I wrote about sleep last month.  The UK Health and Safety Executive estimates that 20% of road accidents are a direct result of fatigue, and point out that fatigue is a major contributing factor, if not the underlying factor in a series of Major Accidents.  Network Rail, the organisation who own and maintain the railway infrastructure have a fatigue management system that prevents workers who are suffering from fatigue from even stepping foot on the railway.

The HSE have published guidance, as part of their ‘Managing Shift Work’ Publication (HSG256), on avoiding fatigue and dealing with shift work.  Massive thanks to Kath Murphy for pointing out this link 🙂

Whilst I don’t think many of us will be operating heavy plant equipment or working in particularly high-hazard environments at the Jamboree, fatigue is something to bear in mind.  It’s something I’ve definitely suffered from at Jamborees.  Anyone who is at high risk of fatigue (particularly shift workers) or those working in a high-hazard environment, I’d expect your induction to include something on this, but just in case, maybe look at doing some reading before you go.

Why mention fatigue?  Well, because if you’re asked to work on or come in on your day off and you’re already running on fumes, this won’t help.  As Lyndsey said when she wrote about FOMO and Mental Health, knowing your own limits is vitally important to your enjoyment of the Jamboree.

Keep an eye on Fatigue and keep your batteries charged!

Doing too much won’t help you in terms of how you’re feeling.  It won’t help your team when you don’t turn up for a future shift because you’ve burnt yourself our and you’re too exhausted to get out of bed.

At least once per Jamboree/Moot, I have a ‘me-day’.  I lay in late or go to bed early (as my shifts allow) and get a good solid amount of sleep.  I make sure I have a long shower and a shave, well, more recently a trim but the point stands.  I spend a bit of time focusing on me – checking on my blisters, reading a few chapters of my book, decompressing from what’s going on around me and grounding myself.  I tidy my tent and do any washing I need to get done.  I treat myself to a big meal from one of the food houses, stick my headphones in and listen to the greatest and best album of all time, The Levellers 1991 seminal album ‘Levelling the Land‘ right the way through.  It helps refresh me and keep me going right the way to the end.

I have commented on a number of occasions that Scouting and Guiding) are full of absolutely selfless people.  People who would drop everything and travel hundreds of miles to help at the drop of a hat.  People who will give up their time freely to help run an event or keep a section running regardless of personal cost.  The very fact that wee IST have paid anywhere up to £3000 (plus extras) to give up two weeks of our time to work in a far field of a foreign country says this in the best of ways.

But, sometimes we need to put ourselves first, if only to recharge and come back the next day to get back to the grind.

4 Replies to “Expecting the Unexpected – Shift patterns at the Jamboree”

    1. It was what we needed at 0430 in the morning! It was certainly a bonding experience for Bruce and I!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *