- Gerard Danks is a 45-year-old IKEA worker in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
- He’s worked for IKEA for over four years and is currently employed as a quality support specialist, doing home deliveries and assembling furniture for customers.
- During the pandemic, Danks never stopped working, and says he spends six hours on average driving products to customers’ homes across Amsterdam.
- This is his story, as told to freelance writer Meira Gebel.
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After working in the casino industry for years in the UK, I started working for IKEA four years ago in its Amsterdam warehouse after moving to the Netherlands to be with my partner. I’ve always had a customer-facing job because I love working with customers. I’ve held many roles since I started at IKEA, but now I am a full-time quality support specialist.
The quality support specialist role is somewhat new — I’d say about two years old. When I started at IKEA, I would rotate through roles, and then one day this position became available. Sometimes I feel like it was made for me, because I truly enjoy helping customers.
I help customers solve problems with IKEA furniture in their homes, which sometimes includes going to see them in person to diagnose the issues they are having. Most of the time the customer has read the manual wrong, or there is a missing piece from their order. Other times, it’s issues like a sofa bed that is slumping, which is often a quick fix, like fixing a bolt that turned the wrong way.
The majority of my job entails assembling the furniture for customers, assessing missing orders and parts, and collecting the necessary pieces to their order for same-day delivery.
When I work the early shift, I wake up at 6 a.m. and get ready for work. I try to be out of the house by 7 a.m. so that I am at the warehouse by 9 a.m. I live in Almere, which is a 30-minute drive by car to the Amsterdam IKEA.
I first check in with my supervisor and see if there is anything outstanding that I need to do right away. Then I go into the back office and sign into the PC. There is usually a queue of quality support tasks lined up there for the day.
I look through the queue and see if there are any items that need to be picked from the warehouse floor and put in those orders. For example, if a customer ordered a dresser and one or two drawers are missing, I’d add those items to the picking line.
Once I have my list of tasks for the day, I will print out a list and create a route on Google Maps of all the deliveries I need to make. I make sure to call the customer to tell them I plan to drop off their order before I leave the warehouse, and schedule a time when it is best for me to come by.
On an average day, I make around six to 10 deliveries to customer homes across Amsterdam and Almere — that means I am in the car for about six hours of my eight-hour workday.
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I’ve never had a problem putting together IKEA furniture. It comes easy to me.
Many people think putting together IKEA furniture is difficult, but it comes very naturally to me, probably because I played with a lot of Legos as a kid. Most of the time I’ve found that customers aren’t reading the manual right, or they’re skipping a step.
The manuals from IKEA are largely visual and drawn, with pictures and graphics, so some customers who aren’t visual learners may find them more challenging to understand.
When I go to a customer’s house to diagnose an issue with their furniture, it usually takes me five minutes to figure it out, even with furniture I’m assembling for the first time. If I am ever stumped, I read through the manual carefully, and usually by the second time I am able to grasp the problem.
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During the pandemic, I never stopped working.
Our warehouse closed to customers for about six weeks, but we were still filling hundreds of online orders everyday.
During the lockdown, I couldn’t go into any customer’s home, so I was mainly delivering orders to their doorsteps. Because everyone was in their homes, there was less traffic on the roads, which made my job easier.
Since IKEA had to close its stores to customers during COVID-19, at one point the Amsterdam warehouse had a backlog of over 1,000 orders. Even compared to the busy holiday season, the pandemic increased our workload by a lot.
Usually the delivery orders we would get for our store were big pieces of furniture, like beds that couldn’t be rolled up or heavy dressers. During lockdown, orders started becoming a lot smaller, like candles and kitchen items.
The safety precautions IKEA took made me feel safe and comfortable working there.
Many of my coworkers were wearing masks before it was mandated. We keep a six-foot distance, and many of our most frequented routes in the store were made into one-ways so that we weren’t crossing one another as much.
I don’t recall any of my coworkers at my location getting laid off. Those who worked in the restaurant or the Swedish market were given new roles, like picking orders from the shelves.
The strangest part of the pandemic was that customers were no longer in our stores. It was only IKEA staff. I remember one time when the warehouse floor was so empty, it was almost like everyone went on lunch break at the same time. There were trolleys just sitting in the aisles, almost as if they were abandoned. It felt like it was a scene out of a disaster movie, because there was no one else around except me.
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One month after the Netherlands went on lockdown, our store reopened to customers again.
In mid-June, I resumed doing in-person assemblies in customer homes. I prefer working in a customer-based environment, so I was happy to have customers back in the store and felt safe knowing there were health precautions in place. It felt weird without them.
Now when I go do in-person assembling, I wear a mask and make sure I have the space I need to do my job effectively. Customers will often tell me what is wrong with their products, and go off and do something else while I am working.
I have a strong sense of pride working for IKEA knowing that the company and its products are used and loved all around the world.
All over the world you will find people who just love IKEA and it has been one of the nicest and most supportive places I’ve worked.
In terms of staff, everyone gets along well. Management is supportive and gives you a gentle shove in the right direction, always building you up instead of trying to knock you down. I feel like the company has also been looking after its workers a lot better than other industries during the pandemic.
It’s not the sort of place where you will be told not to come into work tomorrow if you did something wrong. They always ask you for your opinion and never use any kind of negative reinforcement, but instead offer suggestions on how better to complete tasks in the future.
I’m proud to tell people I work for IKEA. I get a lot of job satisfaction from working here, interacting with people, and feeling that I have colleagues who care about me.
Editor’s note: In an email to Business Insider, IKEA said it is mandated for workers wear a mask in the store in customer areas, and strictly advised in the coworker only areas. IKEA added that most coworkers in the Amsterdam store do wear their masks voluntarily all of the time.