Getting the right roster for your farm
Firstly, check you have the right number of people doing the right jobs. Being short-staffed is stressful and tiring for everyone on farm and can lead to cutting corners, costly mistakes and accidents. A session with your team, brainstorming all the main work to be carried out and assigning responsibility for achieving it, can help identify any skill gaps or shortfall in staff numbers.
Talk to your staff about what kind of roster system would work for them. Great employers will aim for a maximum average of 45 working hours per week and a minimum of three days off every fortnight. Consider ages and stages as well. Young employees may prefer the weekends off for sport or to catch up with friends, while parents may appreciate time off during the week to attend school events.
As a good practice guideline, the roster should be structured so that both employers and employees:
- don’t work more than 10 hours a day
- don’t exceed four hours in any day before they take a break
- have regular days off, set by the roster system within the employment agreement
- have two consecutive days off.
Design a roster that best meets both business needs and employee preferences. Good rosters are simple, easy to follow, fair and flexible.
Put down on paper what the roster would look like over a two or three month period. Consider whether you might need additional staff such as relief milkers or part-time help to cover weekends or rostered days off. Everyone needs time off to recharge their batteries and if the work can’t be delayed then getting extra help can be a good solution.
DairyNZ has developed an online roster-building tool which is currently being tested. This will be available later in the year, but if you’re interested in helping us with testing, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keeping time records
Under the Employment Relations Act, employers must maintain a wage/time record for each employee. In practice, the best way to achieve this is by keeping timesheets.
Timesheets benefit both employer and employee as they are an accurate record of the actual hours being worked and both parties can monitor that these are fair and reasonable in accordance with the employment agreement. They also give you information to assist with your workforce planning.
You might consider updating your team’s employment agreements to reflect the requirement to keep a timesheet and/or update the farm policy and procedures manual.
Encouraging communication about the hours being worked will help employees see the benefit of doing it.
Involve your staff
A good roster and working reasonable hours are achievable when you have good systems and processes in place.
Take a close look at tasks such as milking, think about the yard set up, cupping processes and cleaning routines. Could these be done in a more efficient manner? This could save time, improve cow flow, reduce SCC (somatic cell count) and improve water efficiency.
Involve staff in these discussions, it is likely they will have some great contributions to make.
Staying happy in your work
Research has found that wellness is 50 percent determined by genetics, 10 percent by what happens to you and 40 percent by how you choose to deal with it.
The things which keep us well, according to the 2005 UK foresight project “Mental Capital and Wellbeing” are: connecting with others, continuing to learn, spending time doing things we enjoy, keeping active and giving to others. Rest and making good food choices are also important.
Some practical ways to incorporate these things into our lives include:
- spending time with people you enjoy
- attending functions and joining groups, both within the industry and outside of it
- volunteering your time and talents
- embracing new ideas and trying new things
- watching and reading things which stimulate your mind
- getting your body moving – choose to walk instead of using the bike when you can
- eating plenty of fruits, veggies and protein
- avoiding high-sugar and high-fat foods and limiting alcohol and caffeine intake
- listening to inspiring music
- taking notice of surroundings and appreciating nature
- taking breaks during the day to get perspective
- taking holidays and getting off-farm long enough to unwind
- trying to get consistent amounts of sleep
- doing things which make you laugh!
For more ideas for achieving balanced and productive work time on your farm, visit dairynz.co.nz/people
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy April 2015