Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Bit on Field Schedules

Following on from recent posts and comments concerning various field schedules, I thought I'd elaborate on a couple field schedules with which I am familiar. [I thought there was another post by someone else recently, but I can't find it.]

Twelve and Two:
When I took my first job as a field geologist (although not my first job as a geologist), I worked a 12 and 2 schedule, drive on company time. The first thing to note about this schedule (or any other), is that 12 and 2 reads as 12 days on and 2 days off, adding to a total of exactly two weeks (not all schedules add to some variation of 7). Another thing always worth noting is the "drive on company time." That means, in this particular case, that the company paid for driving time, which amounted to about 4 to 6 hours each way, and allowed some time in the office getting ready every other Monday morning, and some time in the office to do expense reports or other things on Friday afternoons every other week.

This first job was hourly at $5.00/hour or less, and with the considerable daily and weekly overtime we made, working 12 days in a row and often 12 hours or more a day, our overtime brought our monthly rate up to about $1000/month, which was close to the going rate for summer geologists that year. It was one hell of a summer, in many ways, unforgettable and memorable, and the pay got me through my last year as a graduate student, the year during which I completed my thesis and wasn't funded by the university.

Eleven and Three:
The second field job I got started as a 4 to 5 month job and lasted 4 years. This was the infamous Northern Exploration Company that I've referred to in some other posts. The field schedule was 11 and 3, drive on your own time. Ten-hour days minimum were expected. The driving bit meant that on our last day in the field, after having camped out, and after having gotten up early in order to finish work early, we might leave the field by 4:00 pm, and then would have to drive home. Home, for most of us, was in Reno. I remember being all the way across the state east of Pioche, right along the Utah border in a district appropriately called Stateline, and driving nearly all night long to get back, it being at least an 8-hour drive from the actual field location, and possibly more like 9 or 10. We'd typically get in around midnight, or even as late as 2:00 am.

That would be midnight of Thursday night. The first day off, Friday, was spent sleeping in late, and then wandering around groggily for the rest of the day. Friday usually wasn't much of a day, but it was something. Saturday was a complete day off. Sunday was a part day off, because we would have to leave sometime Sunday afternoon in order to start work Monday morning bright and early (or maybe not quite so early on Monday). Although we supposedly had 3 days off, it didn't seem like it because of the drive-on-your-own-time requirement; our days off were really more like 2 to 2.5. I never liked that schedule at all and wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

Ten and Four:
A more typical schedule is 10 and 4, drive on company time, which leads to a full 4 days off, and maybe a half day in the office on the 10th day to do expense reports, and a half day in the office on the first day to get everything organized, depending on how long the drive to the field destination might be. This was the schedule preferred by Former Mining Company, where I worked for more than eight years. It's a schedule I can live with, but one which doesn't give many days in a row at home. If you don't have an office close to home in which to spend a quarter to one third or more of your time, endless 10 and 4's can get old fast.


Lost Geologist said...

So what would be the ideal (realistically speaking) schedule in your opinion?

Silver Fox said...

It really does depend on the person and situation. I personally prefer to get paid to travel to the jobsite, but it doesn't always work out that way.

A lot of people like the 10 and 4 schedule. I liked it better when I was based in a company office, so I had some office days where I went home every night. Whether it works well for you depends on how far you travel to the job site and what your family/personal situation is.

If you are working overseas, I wouldn't expect to work any less time than 30 days in a row, with maybe 2 weeks off.

As for ideal, some people I know would like to work 15 and 15, or even 10 and 20, but those kind of schedules are a little harder to arrange, especially when just starting, and they are less lucrative, also.

Another schedule, 15 and 6, isn't too bad! I have recently liked variations of the 20 and 10 schedule - that allows a lot of days off in a row. I don't get all those days at home, however, because of our peculiar work arrangement (MOH has a different schedule than I do).