Stress in the workplace is common across industries, and, unfortunately, landscaping is no exception. Landscaping professionals need to be on top of workplace stress concerns given the nature of the work — manual labor, hot summers and demanding projects can all impact a worker’s physical and mental wellbeing. Managing stress requires a combination of physical wellbeing, good project management and mental health discussion. The following tips will help handle stress in the landscaping industry.
1. Heat-management policy
One of the most significant inhibiting factors against landscapers is high temperatures. Whether planting trees, mowing grass, or spreading fertilizer, the bulk of the work occurs outdoors.
Heat stress is critical in any conversation about mental health and physical wellbeing. Hot days can be linked to a variety of physical and mental ailments — from dehydration and heat exhaustion to less visible issues such as a higher risk of mood disorders and occupational injuries, according to a Boston University researcher.
Therefore, landscaping teams should have a heat-management policy to protect employees and contractors during a project. Landscaping businesses can start their heat management from the beginning. New employees can learn about heat-related illnesses during their onboarding, so they know what to watch out for during the long days.
On the job, site managers should be armed with heat safety education and keep track of breaks and PPE so they can help workers stay cool and refreshed during the day.
2. Consistent water breaks
Another crucial part of a good heat management policy is to have regular water breaks. Workers who labor in the sun should make it a habit to drink plenty of water before their shifts for the best results. But on the job, managers can help set expectations for water breaks.
Throughout the day, employees should hydrate themselves with water. As a best practice, landscapers should drink 1 cup every 15 to 20 minutes or about 1 quart every hour they’re outside. However, workers should be careful about drinking too much water because the amount of salt in the bloodstream can get too low.
Working in direct sunlight can cause dehydration rapidly if workers don’t hydrate enough. Dehydration and stress go hand in hand because dehydration can cause an increase in cortisone levels, which ties into the body’s stress levels.
3. Rethinking employee scheduling
Stress isn’t only about the environment, of course. In any demanding job, stress can be caused by a variety of factors including management styles, challenging tasks and tight timelines that put pressure on workers. While business owners can’t eradicate all of these sources, they can rethink their team workflows and delegation to give workers a fair balance of work and sense of meaning in their careers.
One way to alleviate this problem is to rethink employee duties and ensure managers aren’t overloading them. Employees who feel overworked can quickly become stressed out, leading to a decline in the quality of their work and productivity.
Where possible, schedule with both worker and project needs in mind. Can longer shifts be offset with more flexible, relaxed days? Can new technology simplify administrative tasks to take work off a manager’s plate? While the landscaping industry’s tough competition and labor shortage may make flexible scheduling difficult, workers can appreciate when their leaders are cognizant of their workload and stress.
Finally, good leaders can help workers find a sense of progression and meaning in their work. Does your workplace offer the opportunity to learn new skills, earn certificates and/or progress upward in the business? Workers who feel a sense of purpose in their work are less likely to feel overwhelmed when challenges arise.
4. Talking about mental health
Studies suggest stress in the workplace is at an all-time high, with about 57% of American and Canadian workers saying in a recent poll that they felt it daily. While this finding is alarming, business leaders can make a difference by confronting these issues head-on and with empathy.
Conversations and policies are adjusting to the modern era because of an increased emphasis on mental health as part of an employee’s ability to engage with work. Stress at work can lead to a decline in mental health, affecting employees in their personal and professional lives. Managers should emphasize mental health and encourage open discussions in the workplace.
Supporting mental health can effectively build teams, but employees may need help talking about it. Landscape business owners should emphasize from the beginning their open line of communication. Managers should help their employees feel that they can discuss problems about work or their home life.
There are also specific tools that can help with awareness of mental health at work. In one survey of construction industry professionals, more than 60% of respondents identified supervisor and employee training as the most helpful resources for their workers. Other ways to show commitment to work health include “Toolbox Talks,” or group discussions on a particular safety issue.
Leaders can’t force workers to come forward with stress and mental health concerns, but company culture can show them that they are safe and supported should they choose to do so. Stay transparent and consistent with your emphasis on mental health resources, and leaders can open up critical lines of communication to support their teams.
Stress in the workplace is damaging for all involved. Workers feel overwhelmed, hurting their own sense of purpose and wellbeing, often leading to high turnover rates that harm business’s ability to thrive and grow. Landscapers can benefit themselves and their employees by taking measures to reduce stress in the workplace.
Evelyn Long is a writer and editor focused on home building and construction. She is the co-founder of Renovated, a web magazine for the home industry.