Willpower is overrated. Go for smart work environments instead!

 

Willpower is great, but let’s face it: it’s a limited resource.

In reality, we’re the product of our habits and our environments. 

The key here is to use our willpower in a leveraged manner. Rather than try and use our willpower to muscle our way to productivity, we need to use our willpower to make decisions about what kinds of environments we create for ourselves and what routines and habits we establish in our lives

Today we’ll look at the environments and we’ll look at routines and habits in the coming weeks.

The following environments have a particular ability to make or break our farm efficiency and more importantly the farm’s enjoyability!

Farm Control Center 

This is a space that is often non-existent or drastically under present on the farm…. This is unfortunate, given the high impact that a well-designed control center can have on our ability to operate in an intentional and effective manner. 

The control center is the brain of the farm. This is where we manage the farm at an operational level. It is where we make our daily plans, hold team meetings, manage weekly workflow, and track your goals. This is a designated space for the operational management of the farm and includes: 2-3 large (4x8ft) whiteboards, 1-2 desks, enough seats for the whole team (or at least the core management team if your farm has a large crew), a computer, shelves and/or filing cabinets, and a coffee machine 😉 This space has the field maps, seeding schedules, planting and harvest records, timesheets, etc. Sometimes, the control center is also the farm office, though ideally have a separate quiet office workspace, since the control room can be a pretty busy, dynamic, bustling area of the farm.

The question to ask yourself is: How might this farm control center environment support me in coordinating the operational workflow and team dynamics I’m looking to nurture on my farm?

The office

Next is the farm office. The key is to set up the space to be conducive to keeping your bookkeeping up to date. Of course, there are things to be done other than bookkeeping, but if you are able to structure your work environment to keep your accounting up to date even in the height of summer, then you can do anything!

There are 2 key elements: each person needs to ideally ace their own desk or workspace; Use an inbox system to track incoming work and make sure it makes it to the right destination. I’ll get into this in a later blog post about how to manage your administrative workflow. 

How does the physical environment that you have created in your office support you to be a reliable, consistent business owner?

Is the environment of your office conducive to the good administrative habits you seek to cultivate in your farm?

The wash station

Here is another area of the farm where the physical environment we create has a huge impact on the behaviour of the people using the space.

At a very basic level, the wash station needs to be designed in a way that encourages efficient flow of vegetables from the field to the cold room while creating safe and ergonomic work habits for the team.

At a higher level, the way the wash station is organized needs to support the team to consistently do the important but non-urgent tasks that are parallelly related to washing and packing vegetables such as proper labeling, record keeping, food safety practices, making sure each order is complete and accurate, etc.

Map out the movement of products and people through the wash station… does it look like a bowl of spaghetti? How can you straighten and shorten the lines of movement?

How many times is each vegetable or box handled?  Do boxes get carried more than 2-3 steps without being on some type of wheeled device? (hand truck, dolly, pallet, cart) Are workers regularly lifting weights greater than 25-50 lbs?

Is each work surface at an appropriate height so as to not cause shoulder or back issues? Are wash hoses sufficiently flexible and well positioned so as to not cause torsion in the wrist? Do workers have to lift weights greater than 25 lbs while in torsion (ie lift and turn, lift and twist, lift and extend)?

Are packing and labeling tools and materials located exactly where they are needed at each step of the process? Can labels be applied with wet hands? Are clean hand towels available to dry hands so as to be able to apply the labels?

Are vegetable washing procedures and quality standards clearly written and visible? Are sanitary and wash station cleaning protocols or checklists clear and posted at the key locations? Is there a handwashing station with soap and hot water at the entrance of the wash station?

Are harvest records and packing slips located where they are needed? Are they in a format that can be filled in with wet or damp hands (whiteboard vs paper)?

Remember, this is a space where we spend a lot of time and that can often be a bottleneck in the production workflow. Having a well organized, ergonomic wash station can go a long way in creating a fun, enjoyable workspace for your employees. 

The tool room

GET RID OF YOUR CRAP!!! (oh, yeah, this applies to your office too… and all other workspaces).  Hopefully, you have a sense of humor… but, in all seriousness, this is truly a place where less is more.

The fewer types of tools you have, the easier it will be to have a place for each tool (and each tool in its place). The key is to develop a farm culture where a task is not considered “done” until all tools and materials are put away. This is so much easier to do when the tool shed is not a total mess (tidiness begets tidiness).

The question is: does your tool shed layout make it easy to keep it neat and tidy? 

Does each tool have a clear place?

Is it easy to walk into the tool room (without tripping on row covers, a seed, a couple of bags of green manure seed, and a ball of packaging material from the last delivery of irrigation supplies 6 weeks ago… you know what I mean, we’ve all been there)?

One last thing to wrap up this section… lest you think I’m some type of higher than thou clean freak … let’s just say that my wife would find it hilarious if she saw me writing these lines about tidiness. I merely emphasize the importance of neatness because I myself have been there and seen the enormous inefficiency that comes from farming in a mess!

Your turn!

What are you getting out of this blog post?

What change on your farm would have the greatest impact on the efficiency and enjoyability of the work?

What’s the next action to create the work environments you need?

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