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Landscape Views - Issue 15

This is a column by landscapers, for landscapers. In it, you’ll find knowledge, views and insights from professionals just like you, who are currently working in the industry

Q. How do you manage work and staff morale in difficult and unpredictable weather?

Tautara Landscapes

Interviewee: Glenn Coulter – Owner/Operator Location: Kerikeri

Staff: 7

Staff morale takes a big hit during bad weather. When that happens, I try to show as much gratitude and appreciation to my staff as possible. We’ll put on social events, such as a midwinter get-together to try to lift the team’s spirits.

Sometimes we’ll offer leave, but that’s not always an ideal situation for staff and I appreciate that, especially if they’re new and they haven’t accrued any yet.

This winter has been really bad. I think we’ve had seven washed-out days as opposed to one or two last year. We’ve got some really hardy staff who want to push through and, while that’s impressive, there are times when you have to pull the plug.

For example, we’ve had torrential rain start while using power tools on construction work, putting in retaining walls, digging holes or trying to set concrete posts. That work just isn’t possible in the wet.

Luckily, I find that clients are understanding and nobody is grilling us. I assume that people

are more understanding since Covid – my feeling is that people have almost been conditioned to be a bit more patient.

New Vision Landscapes

Interviewee: Luke Thelin – Director

Location: Nelson-Tasman

Staff: 34

We’ve really struggled with the weather this year – it’s probably the worst winter I’ve seen in the 18 years I’ve been landscaping! The ground hasn’t had the chance to dry out at all – it’s been horrendous.

Luckily, our workers take it all on the chin. They know we’ve got a job to do and, by and large, they get on with it. Saying that, there is the odd day when conditions are so bad we give them the option of having a day off or coming in to work – most of them will choose the day off, but if they want to come in, we always make sure to give them work, even if it’s just timber staining or painting.

There are a few ways in which we like to reward our staff and let them know we are grateful for the hard work they put in. For example, we keep the fridge full for them and we provide wet weather gear and gazebos, so they can get the work done as comfortably as possible in bad weather.

We’ll also put on a cook-up for breakfast from time-to-time and make sure there’s a coffee cart there as well.

We also get everyone to chip in and make sure the managers lead by example and show the rest they’re not in it alone. If the guys help us out in tough times, we’ll always look to see them right further down the line.

To be honest, I feel the sorriest for concreters! They literally can’t do anything in the wet.

Vavasour Landscapes

Interviewee: Andrew Vavasour – Owner/Operator

Location: Marlborough

Staff: 3

We’re fortunate that we have several hard and soft landscaping jobs on the go at once, so when the weather gets really bad, we can switch our focus to hard landscaping. That lets us work a bit longer in the wet.

However, if we’re soaked to the skin and it’s freezing cold, we call it a day. Nobody wants to work in that weather!

We try our best to provide inside work when the weather is too bad outside. This year, we’ve got the tidiest shed I’ve ever seen, plus we’ll have a few more coffee mornings. We get a bit more relaxed and that seems to help keep morale up a bit.

I always say there’s no point working an extra half day in the wet to spend a full one unable to work. From an economic perspective, it makes no sense to work in the rain. All it does is make staff sick and shortens the life of our tools.

This winter has been a lot worse than recent ones, but at least that gives us something to complain about!

One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve had more time in the industry is that attitudes are changing. Now, we’re more likely to stop work in foul weather, but with age we have become more sensible!


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