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Balancing This Business & The Holidays: The Field Viewpoint

As if the holidays aren’t stressful enough, why not add the added stress of balancing outage season along with the holidays that the end of the year bring?? Sounds like a cake walk, doesn’t it? This is a thing that everyone in this industry faces each year so I would like to spend a little time to talk about the things that require balance as we maneuver through the holidays from a field-based viewpoint.

A typical Fall outage season ranges from August to December, which means it continues through the durations of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. Outage season occurring through these holidays can bring the struggle of several things but there are a few topics on my mind to talk with you about today.

Am I going to make it home for the holiday?

Trying to figure out if you’ll be home for the holiday is a major stress factor related to balancing outage season and the holidays. This could be due to project scheduling, travel arrangements, and/or financial burdens. It is extremely common for projects to complete near the end of December and many members of the team may not know an exact date that they will get “laid off” or sent home upon project completion. If the project will run beyond the holidays the management team has to determine if there will be time off allotted for the holidays or if there will be a crew on site throughout the duration and who that crew will consist of. All these factors are commonly determined last minute in outages that are fast paced – short duration turn arounds which can result in a lot of last-minute planning. As we all know, if we don’t know if we will make it home then clearly that leaves several additional factors that are pending based on that one answer.

I’d like to hear your feedback:

Do you typically make it home for the holidays?

It is rare that I make it home for Thanksgiving but this year I made it back to Texas the day before and I was able to spend it with my family. When onsite we typically make sure to feed the crew and do the best that we can to accommodate the fact that we are working through a time that many of the crew would prefer to be home with their families. I have come close to missing Christmas, but I have never worked through one, I’ve had a year or two where I traveled home Christmas Eve, but I have always been blessed to spend Christmas at home. Have you? I know many of you will say no. I’d like to hear your stories.

Do you ever get stressed about if you will have time off to celebrate?

In my opinion, one of the most frustrating things of being a part of the project-based side of this industry is the uncertainty that comes with project scheduling. This can be related to waiting to find out when you’ll go to work next (like I currently am), when you’ll be completed on a project, if you will get time off through the holidays, etc. It tends to come with a lot of last-minute planning when you get a call and need to be 12 hours away in 2 days for a duration of 2-4 months and when you find out at the start of the shift that you’re getting laid off at the end of shift. I am part of the management team, so I typically get a little more notice than some others, and for that I am grateful but the majority of people who work outages/turnarounds get a lot of last-minute notice they have to accommodate to, and this can bring an additional set of challenges for birthdays and holidays. Do you run into these issues? Has it created hassle for you before?

The emotional struggle of being away (The BIG one)

The emotional struggle of being away from your family, children, friends, home, and pets (or who/whatever means something to you) during the times where your heart yearns to be with them the most can be the worst part of any job that requires travel. I have never met a man nor woman who will not admit to the fact that there are trying times that make it hard to justify choosing this industry. The holidays can bring on an emotional toll as well as those times where we face loss while being away. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on that specific top right now because I feel like it deserves its own dedicated discussion but I (as well as anyone in the industry for any length of time) have personal experiences of tragedy or loss during times while I was hours away and inaccessible to the ones I love.

Being a part of our family or trying to parent through FaceTime, phone calls, and conversations with whomever may be temporarily filling that role is a sacrifice that we make to remain in this type of industry and to have the ability to financially provide in a sustainable manner. To have your babies ask if you’ll be home for Christmas is one thing, but to not know if you can answer yes is a whole different type of heartbreak. My heart goes out to the people I see go through this on a day-to-day basis but even more so during holidays, birthdays, through sickness, hospital trips, school celebrations, and all the things that mean so much more than any achievement our career could bring emotionally, socially, or financially.

I’d like to hear your feedback

I plan to dive more into topics related to this as we grow within this group but as for now what are your thoughts on the emotional struggle of being away during the holidays? Is it harder specifically due to the holiday or is it the same in general?

Planning for the holidays while away from home through working outage hours

Ok so y’all I am the planner in my family, I like to do an annual family gathering and that can create some interesting work arounds for planning while working 10-to-12-hour days plus factoring in any level of uncertainty in work schedule. If you are the person that must plan the family gatherings, the cook for the holidays, or Santa Clause then this can leave you ready to pull your hair out before even making it home. Luckily online shopping has made this a much easier task since it prevents the need for store visits with an already limited schedule availability but there is still plenty of work that is needed to pull off some of these events and/or tasks.

I’d like to hear your feedback

Do you have any tips for planning while on an outage?

I typically use social media, group texts, and email to maintain communication with the primary group of people that are involved in the efforts toward the event. I coordinate food and gaming plans by sending a list of required items, request volunteers to choose a certain number of items, and then I send the updated list out continuously to show who is responsible for what and the remaining items, this has been a huge success for this method of providing for the event. I also have found that planning events well in advance has the best result. What do you do? What works best for you and your family? Do you feel that office personnel (field or corporate based) have more advantage than other crafts?

Do you find it harder to plan while on an outage or is it very similar to your planning methods when you’re at home?

I have lived several hours away from my family for over a decade, so this process is very similar for me regardless of my work schedule or location. The benefits of being home vs an outage for me personally is the ability to shop for the necessities on a more flexible schedule and the skipped step of having to pack and transport everything from whichever state I was working in. I also like that I can dedicate my thought process to the event more when I’m not on an outage. What changes for you?

How do you feel about Christmas shopping while on an outage?

I enjoy shopping so I fit my holiday shopping into my day off and use it as a dual solution to keep myself busy on my day off as well as knocking out an item off the to-do list. I love getting the Black Friday sales, so I take advantage of those through online sales since they typically occur on a workday. I rarely have anyone at home, so I typically ship to my location and then the pain is transporting it all back home at the end of the project. Do you prefer to wait and do your shopping once your home? Does it make it easier or harder to keep gifts from the recipients?

Christmas has now passed and I specifically opted to post this blog in between that and New Years hoping that it would be during a time where you would have an opportunity to drop in and spend a couple minutes reading it during your downtime from the holiday craziness, bathroom trip hiding from your kids who are on break, drunken daze since you’re off work, need for an escape from your family, during travel time, or whatever else may have brought you to us today.

Throughout my holiday I spent time packing, selling my house, moving, and I’m still playing musical kids until they go back to school, but most importantly I put a good amount of work into quite a bit of promotional gear to assist in spreading the word about Balancing Hard Hats & Heels. Through these efforts I sent out about 25 filled stockings and/or boxes to co-workers within our corporate office and our Field Site Administrators. In additional to these, another 7 ladies who either agreed to be part of a promotional team or participated in our first giveaway received cups and promotional filled boxes. I plan to continue to spread promotional items to anyone interested in taking part in spreading the word about our page. With that being said, if you would like to join these efforts, please reach out to either of us to let us know!!

I cannot express the gratitude that I have for all the support we have received thus far, and I am extremely excited to see how we can continue to grow with the help from all of you!!

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and are planning for a fun and safe New Year.

Before I leave you, I want to send a special caring shout out to those of you who are in the same situation as both of us are this year. We are both celebrating these holidays without someone close to our hearts for the first time. For those of you also in this situation, just remember to keep your spirits high and do your absolute best to continue getting through it all but most importantly it is ok if you’re not ok! Feel those emotions, embrace the heartache so it can pass, cry the tears, and end it with reminiscing about all of the memories that bring a smile to your face.

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