Maintaining Work/Life Balance at Sea to Stay in the Green

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Navy News / November 15, 2018

When deployed on ship, sailors live in the same place as they work. While there is a regular watch rotation in place, it can become far too easy to allow work time to blend into rest time until it feels as though life at sea has become an endless cycle of work broken up by sleep.

So how do sailors work to maintain balance on ship?

In many cases, it takes some discipline to recognize that without appropriate rest and relaxation time, a sailor’s productivity and effectiveness will go down as one moves along the mental health spectrum from green to yellow to red.

“It’s a question of stamina and longevity,” offers HMCS Nanaimo’s Physician Assistant, who cannot be named for operational security.

“If you can take time to bring yourself out of the yellow or red back to the green then you are increasing your capacity for longevity and maintaining your mental health for the duration of the sail.”

In HMCS Nanaimo, while deployed on Operation CARIBBE the crew is working hard to maintain the ship while sailing, but as we progress, there are some interesting and unique “down time” activities that are coming to light in the messes and flats.

“I brought an easily portable project with me,” says Nanaimo’s Deck Officer who crochets in her spare time.

“Crocheting is something I don’t often have time to do at home so I take advantage of the time between my watches to work on a sweater.”

“I actually really like laying in my rack and reading before bed each night,” adds a Boatswain.

“The reading helps me prepare for sleep by giving some separation from the work I do during the day.”

For command, ensuring morale and mental wellness while deployed at sea is a priority.

“Our job at sea is hard work that is often stressful,” says Lieutenant-Commander Jason Bergen, HMCS Nanaimo's Commanding Officer.

“It is important to take time to decompress each day to maintain the green. Mental health is an important key to maintaining morale on the ship and directly affects our overall mission capability.”

As HMCS Nanaimo continues on her deployment, the crew has settled into a regular routine balancing operations with time off watch. Morale remains high and a recent survey revealed that when it comes to decompressing while off watch, working out is the most popular choice, with reading a close second. Other popular activities include sleeping, hanging out with fellow sailors in the mess and watching movies.

Ship’s Survey – What is your favourite thing to do on ship when not on watch?

  • Workout – 9
  • Read – 7
  • Hanging Out with Fellow Sailors – 6
  • Sleep – 6
  • Watching Movies - 4
  • Other (gaming, crafts, music) – 7