What working in a warehouse is like

Whether you realize it or not, warehouses play an important role in our daily lives. They help supply us with the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the gifts we buy. Working in a warehouse is also a great way to earn extra money, especially during the holiday season.

And now is a great time to give warehouse work a try! Shifts are plentiful, pay well (especially on Instawork!), and often go by quickly — time flies when you’re busy. All you need to get started in a warehouse role is a good attitude, a basic level of fitness, and a commitment to safety and following instructions. There are advanced skills to learn, too, like learning to drive a forklift.

If you like fast-paced physical work, then warehouse work might just be a good fit for you. Wondering what you can expect? Here’s a quick overview.

The warehouse environment

1. Everything's organized

2. Tasks are standardized

3. Safety is key

Warehouses are set up to be clean, safe, and efficient. The goal is to keep products organized and to make them easy to locate, pack, prepare for shipping, and load. Warehouses are designed to avoid congestion, facilitate maintenance tasks and enable fast workflows.

A warehouse is made up of a few different parts. These include areas for loading/unloading, reception, storage, picking, and dispatch. Each warehouse has unique qualities, but all warehouses function somewhat similarly. That’s one thing that makes working in a warehouse great. You can easily pick up shifts at different warehouses and get comfortable with the work fairly quickly. Even if they ship very different items, you are likely to find that processes are similar across all warehouses.

Warehouse professionals are very detail-oriented when it comes to safety procedures. Safety rules are often reviewed before the start of your shift, and you’ll be expected to follow them.

“The warehouse is a fast-paced, organized environment. . . Be sure to keep your eyes peeled to maximize safety,” said Instawork Pro Queen V.

What does working in a warehouse involve?

1. Assembling & shipping packages
2. Getting a great workout
3. Building specialized skills over time

It’s always exciting when the doorbell rings and you receive a package you ordered online. Of course, there has to be someone on the other end to make that possible. When you work at a warehouse, you get a whole new perspective into how that takes place.

Usually, you’ll start out moving merchandise and packing orders as a warehouse associate or picker/packer. These roles often do the picking and packing it takes to assemble packages. Picking involves grabbing your trusty RF gun, a scanner that helps you identify where items are located in the warehouse. Packing means wrapping those items securely so they will be safe and complete when they reach the person or business that ordered them. Packing also involves making sure the correct paperwork and label is included with the package. This process generally involves a team approach where the contents are reviewed by a series of checks and double-checks — you can find an example in the video below.


Working in a warehouse is often pretty physical, which means you get a great workout.

“Great gig if you’re looking to shed extra calories,” said Instawork Pro Tam N.

“Come prepared to work hard and think of it as a workout,” added Instawork Pro Jamya T.

The more warehouse gigs you work, the more you will streamline your best practices. This way, you can work well and consistently wherever you go. Some of these best practices include: communicating well, staying organized, keeping your space clutter-free, paying attention to details and working efficiently.

As you advance, you can get more experience operating equipment, like pallet jacks and forklifts. Forklift driver, warehouse machine operator, warehouse clerk, shipping and receiving associate, and warehouse material handler are some additional roles that you can qualify for as you get more experience and training. 

Prepping for success

1. Review Instawork training

2. Take quizzes

3. Ask for help when needed

You can find educational resources for working in a warehouse on the training tab of the Instawork app, or here on your computer.  These go through the basics you’ll need to know for skills like picking and packing and operating pallet jacks and forklifts. It’s a good idea to review the training materials and take the quizzes. For one, it strengthens your profile, which gives you access to more jobs. And when you come to your shift prepared, you’re more likely to do a better job.

Continuing your professional training also builds your confidence. It can be nerve-wracking to start a new kind of job, but your coworkers will likely be happy to help you.

“Don’t be afraid if you’re intimidated by operating warehouse equipment,” said Instawork Pro Jonathan L. “They will show you how, and are generous with how much time they devote to first-day workers!”

Pro tips

1. Wear the right clothes

2. Bring anything you need

3. Stay aware of your surroundings

As mentioned before, working in a warehouse is physical, so plan to wear clothes you can move in — but avoid loose clothing that could get caught in machinery — and comfortable, non-slip shoes. You’ll also want to keep the temperature of the warehouse in mind. Some warehouses can be chilly, while others can be hot and stuffy. Until you know what to expect, prepare for both.

Here are some tips Instawork Pros shared:  

  • “You will be standing on your feet for most of the time so wear comfy shoes and breathable clothes for the hot temperature of the warehouse. Take your breaks on time and make sure you have water with you.” - Latrice M.
  • “There are plenty of positions you can work here, be sure to bring a jacket and gloves and comfortable shoes. If you ever work the warehouse position, bring a back brace — lots of heavy lifting for the first few hours but after [that] it's a piece of cake.” - Ruben R.
  • “Bring headphones and a hydro flask.” - Rachel K.
  • “Strongly recommend bringing your own lunch… Stay aware of all forklifts driving around the warehouse.” - Ruben R.

The bottom line

With plenty of open jobs, quickly-rising wages, and the ability to learn new skills and advance, working in a warehouse is full of opportunities. And when you use Instawork, you can find tons of high-paying warehouse shifts in your area that work for your schedule. 

Ready to start earning money? Sign up today!


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