by Gina Tonic
I had my emails under control (just), handover was done, out of office was on and I have to admit there was a small spring in my step as I headed out the office looking forward to my summer break.
The weather was scorching so why head abroad when the UK had temperatures hotter than Jamaica (according to the morning radio) I smugly thought.
Packing preparations were the usual last minute it ‘fling it all in a bag’ and keep everything crossed that nothing essential was missed out. Every year I kid myself I will pack the weekend before and be ready just to calmly add my wash bag to my suitcase and head out of the door the morning of my holiday!! Maybe next year. Scoffing, ‘like we’re gonna need these’, I grabbed coats for us all and headed out the door. I was most definitely looking forward to enjoying the sunshine rather than watching it through my office window.
The first holiday G&T that evening tasted great and I was particularly looking forward to no more alarm clocks for two whole weeks. What did wake me up the next morning, however, was the sound of rain……… seriously!
With no Wi-Fi, no 4G and the type of 3G that makes you lose the will to live, watching the wheel endlessly go round trying to load anything, it was my perfect excuse to start on the holiday books.
An unusual choice of holiday read
Having been recommended a few years ago ‘Don’t tell my Mum I work on the Rigs: She thinks I’m a piano player in a Whorehouse’ by Paul Carter, this holiday I had packed the sequel ‘This is not a Drill, just another glorious day in the oilfield’. Grabbing a large coffee, I got comfy and started to read.
Straight away he hooked me in recounting the tale of being stuck in the middle of the Russian sea on a rig staffed by a crew from Azerbaijan. As he puts it….
‘The choppers are older than me and can only fly by line of sight, turning back regularly due to the weather which gets particularly interesting when they are past the point of no return, with half their fuel gone, and they are committed to finding the rig in a fog that’s thicker than a Big Brother housemate.
The closest thing to a hotel for miles around is the Asylum, a former soviet mental institution that now houses offshore personnel on-route to the rig.’
Now I know it’s not the sort of reading that provides escapism from work but, like the first book, it is such a fascinating open and honest account of an expat lifestyle in locations ‘on the edge of civilization’ that I couldn’t put it down. Also, what it does provide, in bucket loads, is perspective.
It made me think. As Global Mobility professionals we often sit in headquarter or regional offices and whilst we do all we can to support assignees, empathise with their challenges and use all our superpowers to fix the issues they come across, do we really know what it is like to walk in their shoes? Can we truly empathise with an assignee when their day job is so very different from ours, when their environment is a world away from the comfort of our airconditioned warm offices and where an increase or decrease to their hardship allowance, painstakingly calculated, checked and accurately notified to payroll, I might add, goes almost unnoticed as they solely focus on the job in hand.
Time for a career change?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that the first thing I want to do when I get back to work is undergo offshore helicopter crash survival training and head out to the nearest rig to immerse myself in offshore working, but I do think there is something to take away from my holiday read.
I do think I need to spend more time with the business when I get back to the office (and before I immerse myself in salary review preparations). I need to understand the pressure points like why are projects which urgently require 10 assignees to be sent to outer Mongolia seemingly such a last minute decision? What sort of assignee would drop their plans for the next 3 months and sign up to do that at a moments notice? What are the drivers for an assignee when the assignment isn’t part of a career development strategy? They are more than just employees with a ‘cowboy’ mentality as a previous GM manager once so eloquently described it! Perhaps when I understand the mindset I could provide more proactive support.
But for now, I can feel the air warming as the sun makes a welcome return and I do believe it is over the yardarm. Perhaps holidaying in the UK won’t be so bad after all!