4 Keys to success on your first day at a new warehouse job

With tons of open jobs and a shortage of workers, warehouses are bumping up pay to attract staff — making it a great time to pick up warehouse shifts on Instawork. But to get high ratings from employers, and maybe even tips and an invite to come back again, you’ll have to bring your A-game on the very first day.

There are some things you should do on your first day no matter what kind of job it is — show up early, wear the right clothes, bring what they ask you to — but a warehouse is a unique kind of workplace. To do well on your first day at a warehouse job, there’s some specific advice you should keep in mind.

Below, we’ve listed a few ways you can stand out as a star warehouse worker from the minute you clock in. Each workplace is a little bit different, but following this advice will give you a great start.

1. Think safety first

If you’ve worked at a warehouse before, you may have already heard this, but it's worth repeating: safety comes first.

“Working in operations and warehousing is a lot different than office work. Operating heavy equipment as well as running manufacturing/processing equipment comes with some significant risks,” pointed out Andrea Ahern, VP of HR at Mid Florida Material Handling, a company that supplies warehouses with equipment like forklifts, pallet racks, and shelving. “Showing up on your first day with a ‘safety-first’ mindset will make any operations manager impressed.”

So what exactly does a safety-first mindset look like? 

For one, “when scanning pallets on high shelves, look for hazards, such as falling boxes or forklifts in operation,” said Anthony Antonuccio, a Vice President at Definitive Technology Group, a company that provides workstation carts and battery systems for warehousing and fulfillment center operations. 

And “in order to avoid repetitive stress that could sideline you and create a hole in the shift,” Antonuccio recommended “adjusting your device screens and scanners so that they are ergonomically arranged to meet your height and position needs.”

You can also find training on the Instawork app, which covers topics like warehouse basics, picking and packing, pallet jack training, forklift training, and more. Remember, the more prepared you are, the better you can perform.

RELATED: How to get a forklift license

2. Work smart

While safety comes first at a warehouse, productivity is a close second. Many warehouses run a tight schedule so that they can fulfill customer orders within a certain timeframe — so being as productive as possible is the best way to get a glowing review. But your every move costs time and money, so the key is working smart, Antonuccio said.

“For every step you take, ask yourself if there is a way to bundle up activities to minimize them,” he added. For example, “instead of moving around the warehouse floor to print out labels or gather shipping materials, try to accomplish these tasks at the point of task.”

And of course, you’ll have to be comfortable in order to do your job well.

"Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking A LOT all day. Make sure you're drinking fluids to keep your body fueled and strong."

- Instawork Pro Christopher E. 

You may also want to bring a snack with you in case there’s nothing available on-site.

And the temperature at warehouses can vary a lot, so make sure to “wear layers,” Instawork Pro Kevin M. said. If the warehouse you’re working in is refrigerated, “have cold weather-specific gloves,” he added.

Another way to set yourself apart, according to Ahern, is to “have an attitude for ‘continuous improvement.’”

“The cornerstone of operations improvement is the ‘lean’ process” — the practice of maximizing efficiency by getting rid of redundant or unnecessary steps. “Show a knack for recognizing wastes and have some ideas to correct them,” Ahern said.

“Operators and warehouse workers that have this ‘continuous improvement’ attitude are always first for promotion,” she added.

3. Communicate

Being a great warehouse worker isn’t just about packing, lifting, and moving things — you also need to be a good communicator. You can start by getting the information you need to do your job well.

At the beginning of your shift, a team lead, supervisor, or other employee will likely walk you through how things work and what you’re supposed to do. Pay close attention so you don’t have to ask them to repeat themselves — but if there’s anything you don’t understand, or are unsure about, ask questions.

“Make sure to get clear instructions on what you should be doing. Otherwise you will be doubling your work,” pointed out Instawork Pro Rahdeese A.

If you have a question once you’re on the floor, you can turn to your teammates for help.

“You may need to ask a lot of questions,” said Instawork Pro Shana S., but “employees and other Instaworkers are very helpful and kind.”

You should also keep your shift lead or supervisor up to date.

“Make sure your team lead [is] notified on where you are at all times,” recommended Instawork pro Delondo B.

4. Don’t shy away from the hard stuff

Anyone who’s worked in a warehouse before knows that it’s tough work. But “too often, people who are inexperienced in warehousing roles underestimate how physically demanding the role can be and therefore shy away from tasks like stacking and unstacking heavy items,” said Mike Skoropad, owner of the automotive parts wholesaler United Tires.

If you’re able to (safely!) take on tasks that others try to avoid, step up to the plate.

“To create a good first impression, put yourself forward for the tasks that could see you get sweaty, dusty and out of breath,” Skoropad advised.

This will prove that you can handle tough work, show your can-do attitude, and, as a bonus, give you a great workout!

"[Warehouses are the] best place to get a good workout and good pay. It's fast-paced, but it makes time fly.”

- Instawork Pro Francisco M.

At the end of the day, doing a good job on your first day at a warehouse isn’t rocket science — it’s largely about following common sense, working hard, and having the right attitude. But these small things can still really make a difference. Follow the advice above next time you start at a new warehouse job or pick up a warehouse shift on Instawork, and you’ll be in your employer’s good graces in no time.

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