The 5 Things Farm Owners Can Do Right Now to Improve Their Work/Life Balance
Farming can require punishing long hours with very little respite. And carrying out agricultural tasks for hours on end can often be lonely too. That leaves many farm owners with a poor work/life balance.
So, here are 5 things you could do – right now – to get some quality time back and improve your working conditions:
1. Adopt a new management style
Farm owners and managers are always under pressure: to keep down costs, drive up quality, meet performance targets and delivery schedules, and more. Such stressful circumstances almost invariably tempt those in supervisory roles to micro-manage project workers, just to guarantee they can be sure to ‘get things done’.
But what about auditing your management tasks to see which aspects of the job you could actually delegate to workers? Given more room to manage how they get the job done relieves stress on workers, builds trust, makes people feel more valued and encourages them to use their own initiative.
And importantly, it also frees up valuable time for managers and owners – a win-win situation that certainly deserves a try.
2. Create a time-flow worksheet
You can only ‘make hay when the sun shines’, plants will ripen according to nature’s bidding, and your stock will always give birth ‘ready or not’. So why bother to adopt a practice which might work in some cozy office, but surely has no place on a busy farm unit?
There’s no doubt that the above examples, and many more, prove that farming can be as full-on and hectic as it gets. But remember the saying: ‘To everything there is a season ...’ What that essentially means is that farming’s seasonal rhythms can be tracked, and will thus produce a chart showing peaks and troughs: Times in the year when the farm’s demands are at their most, and also least, intense.
Creating a time-flow worksheet identifies the periods when labour is required most, but it also pinpoints potential breaks which will be optimal times for holidays, extra time with the family, social events etc. Highlighting, and using, these times will improve the quality of life for farm workers, making them far less prone to burnout.
3. Pool resources
The need for a better work/life balance can often be a unifying factor within farming communities. Collaborating with like-minded farmers with family responsibilities can bring benefits such as sharing machinery and labour, as well as bulk-buying opportunities to take advantage of discount prices.
When approached constructively with everyone buying into the benefits, this can both bring down costs and free up extra hours to give a much-needed break to those who will get a major boost from getting at least some regular hours away from the constant treadmill of farming work.
4. Buy bigger machinery
This may seem counter-intuitive, but it can pay to buy in larger equipment than you actually need to do the job. Firstly, the greater capacity available should enable any job to be done quicker, which frees up precious time. In addition, it may give a farm owner the further option to loan or hire out a machine, maybe to earn extra cash, or in return for some favours in kind.
A further business benefit is that the farm is then in a prime position to branch out and take up new contracts almost at a moment’s notice whenever such opportunities crop up.
5. Bond while you’re busy
It’s true that farming’s long hours have the potential to put a strain on family relationships. But families who understand that such isolation can have a negative impact may also find there is a solution close at hand.
Identifying regular times, tasks and farm situations which allow families to work together can do much to bring people back into closer contact. Couples can share tasks together and enjoy each other’s company at the same time.
And likewise, children of all ages can ‘work’ alongside one or both parents and enjoy a kind of togetherness which is often denied to those who spend their days working in a stuffy city office.
By Bruce Hakutizwi, Director of North America for BusinessesForSale.com, the world’s largest online marketplace for buying and selling small and medium size businesses.