Site visits are essential within systems integration, and both customers and engineers would agree that everyone is happier when the schedule goes to plan. However, site visit extensions can sometimes be unavoidable. Whether there are unplanned delays, technical mishaps, or unforeseen circumstances, the schedule can get disrupted. Instead of bracing for impending doom (insert horror movie soundtrack), here are some helpful tips for tackling site visit extensions.
Manage the unknown
When you first hear about a trip extension, take a minute to yourself to collect your thoughts. This news can open up many questions and feelings. Panic is understandable, but the key is making it manageable. Turning feelings of anxiety into actionable items can help leverage the unknowns of extended fieldwork.
Make a plan (and follow through!)
Like the schedule, your accommodations may have to change. Writing down each aspect of your trip’s plan that needs updating will reduce stress. Depending on the type of trip, you may need to prolong your hotel stay, rental car, and make calls home to keep everyone updated. Like other travel, making a plan and booking promptly is a priority. It can be easy with long days in the field to forget! If you are having trouble, reach out to a team member for additional support.
Prepare for success
Channel your inner Girl/Boy Scout and go to the field prepared for a possible extension. Look up your hotel’s stay extension policy. Do they offer laundry services for when your safety t-shirt has seen the plant too many days in a row? Be sure to pack extra clothing, including layers if you anticipate the weather may change while on-site. Does your flight offer travel insurance? Are there local grocery stores to pick up breakfast items when you grow tired of hotel offerings? Arrange a support network at home to watch your children, if you have them. These are all considerations that will save you time and energy if your trip gets extended.
Advocate for YOU
Communicating your needs is essential, and you are your own best advocate. No one besides you will know the full scope of your situation unless it’s shared. Extended fieldwork can be demanding, both mentally and on personal lives outside of work. Inform your project lead if something is limiting you from fulfilling the assignment to your fullest potential. There may be an alternative plan to better support the team and the customer.
When the site gives you an extension, make lemonade. More time on-site can help you build a better relationship with the customer and their needs, therefore laying a stronger foundation for future projects. In addition, you can use this time to have fun with your coworkers outside of the job. Plan some team bonding activities, find new favorite restaurants, and see the sites your field location has to offer! A positive outlook can help you make the most out of lengthy field time.
Lastly, take care of yourself. Self-care will always allow you to do your job better. Go to sleep earlier, call home, and rewind by taking advantage of your hotel’s free cable.
Seriously… cable isn’t cheap.
Gabrielle Hewitt is an Engineer at Avanceon, a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Avanceon, visit its profile on the CSIA Industrial Automation Exchange.