A day in the life with the...Survey Logistics department

The Survey Logistics team is a bustling department made up of 14 staff members and a team of seven freelancers.
Workers examining printouts
  • Authors:
    Ben Sheil
    Amanda Gill
  • Publishing date:
    14 March 2024

The Survey Logistics team is a bustling department made up of 14 staff members and a team of seven freelancers. Predominantly the roles within Survey Logistics are office-based at our Ashton Gate site in Essex, with little home working flexibility due to the hands-on nature of the work.

So, what do we do in Survey Logistics? 

People often wonder what we do in Survey Logistics. I’m sure many will think that all we do is put labels on boxes, pack up materials and ship them out. Nothing is further from the truth, the Survey Logistics department delves into the details of survey research projects from start to finish. Logistics is considered as a small cog in a large machine, however, we work from the costing stage through to ensuring our Interviewers and Biomedical Fieldworkers have the tools and equipment necessary for every project.

The department is built up of multiple teams working collaboratively to ensure the smooth running of some of the biggest social surveys in the UK.

Firstly, the Briefings team ensure that fieldworkers on every project have attended the relevant briefing session, so that our interviewers have all the important details of the projects they’ll be working on. The team also arrange the venues and lunch requirements and ensure online meetings are booked. 

Next up, the Allocations team; they upload work for the fieldworkers, liaise with the field managers, arrange translations, and advise the despatch team of the fieldworkers so they can send the work packs. The team manage 300-1,200 allocations a week. 

The Print team arrange the printing of documents on all projects, as per the print specification provided by the research teams, uploading print ready documents and sending the proofs to be approved. These documents include letters, leaflets and other participant materials regarding each study. We are also responsible for quality-checking that all documents are as per the print specification when they arrive on-site. The printing and fulfilment are often arranged via external printing companies, which our in-house team manage.

The Incentives team offer a range of incentives from physical gifts to electronic vouchers, to encourage participants to respond to surveys and/or to thank them for their participation. The team order and despatch incentives, arrange thank you mailouts which are manually fulfilled in-house and daily top-up the gift cards which have been handed out the fieldworkers.

Within the Survey Logistics department, we are also responsible for sending respondent emails for projects, which can range from an invitation email to participate, reminder emails, reminder text messages as well as thank you emails to participants. This is managed by the Bulk Comms team and they have seen a dramatic increase over the last few years due to the demand of electronic communications rather than postal. On some days, the team can send around 100,000 emails. 

The Equipment team arranges the despatch of the fieldworker’s equipment and consumables, as per project requirements. A large part of their day is spent arranging the collections of items for calibration, leavers and end of survey returns. This can often include medical equipment for our biomedical fieldworkers, who work on national surveys such as the Health Survey for England.

Finally, the Despatch team is made up of our valued freelancers who fulfil our allocation requirements. These consist of work packs, starter kits, bio kits, equipment, and stationery needs. In 2023, we shipped more than 17,000 parcels.

Apart from the daily administration, our day-to-day tasks are varied in that no project is the same. One day we are sending out generic work packs, tomorrow it might be building personalised nurse kits or fulfilling 4,000 incentive thank you letters – each project is unique, and we do our best to accommodate each requirement. 

Although we each have our daily tasks, one of the most enjoyable parts of the job is when a complex assignment is completed, working to an incredibly tight timeframe, juggling multiple projects, and thinking that this is never going to be achieved. It’s in these moments when the team really shines and pulls together, turning challenges into triumphs. It really is a never-ending process; the second we complete one task, the next big project is already lined up. We are very much one big family, looking out and supporting each other. We often bring home baked goodies, celebrate staff birthdays and also meet outside work for team outings. 

What’s next for Survey Logistics at NatCen? 

Over the past couple of years, we are noticing a change in the research projects, as both customers and research teams are prioritising the environmental impact of our work, with a reduction in printed documents and increase in electronic incentives and communications. Considering this, we are now working more closely with our research teams to ensure we stay ahead of our competitors.