Remote managing or managing remotely? A Land Manager’s view of Covid-19 crisis

By Malcolm Taylor
Partner, Rural Land Management
malcolm.taylor@bellingram.co.uk

The nature of the job means that Land Managers have always worked remotely, but “remote working” is a new concept for most of us.

In a few short weeks, Covid-19 has changed the working landscape for Land Managers, forcing us to abandon face-to-face contact with our clients, colleagues, tenants and contractors, and instead embrace all the advantages modern communications platforms have to offer.

It’s definitely taken a period of adjustment … but the switch has been surprisingly positive.

Land Managers have a close affinity for the properties we oversee, and my main concern was that we would lose this vital connection by following government advice to restrict visits to estates and rural property with no face-to-face interaction with staff on the ground.

Yet we have swiftly adapted, using the phone, email, text and group chat, to keep in touch with all members of the management team and staff, be they owner, farm manager, wildlife manager/gamekeeper, housekeeper, accountant or lawyer.
This regular communication is crucial in these challenging times. With a plethora of advice emanating from the legal profession, professional bodies, management agencies and the moorland groups, it is essential that the information is passed on as soon as possible.

It may change daily, but where a farm or estate is in receipt of government subsidies or EU funded schemes, all involved in the day-to-day management of the farm or estate must be fully aware of what is happening round about them. There is a significant amount of money at stake if we get it wrong and with ever changing information we, and those on the ground, need to as well informed as possible.

Keeping records will be vital for future reference especially if key dates and targets are missed.

The exchange of information be it by email, text or group chat ensures that everybody knows what everybody else is doing. Evan a telephone call can raise the spirits of a shepherd or cattleman who has had a difficult shift and nobody to sound off too. Those members of staff lone working must not feel isolated.

It is noticeable that wildlife managers, gamekeepers, shepherds and rural managers are all engaging with each other, which as the world around us shuts down can only be for the best.

The big challenges are yet to come. IACS forms are due soon, lambing in the hills is just about to commence with a vengeance (and many seasonal lambing shepherds are missing this year), heather burning is in full swing with a glorious spell of weather, yet the guidance is to stop burning to reduce the risk of wild fires which could put strain on the emergency services. Holiday cottage bookings are being cancelled and fishing lets are also under threat.

With such a turbulent and fast changing world, communication and regular communication is essential. In an odd sort of way because face-to-face contact is not possible, we are probably making more of a conscious effort to keep everybody involved in managing a property informed.

We may be managing remotely but we are now even more engaged in the day-to-day activities of the properties we look after than before the virus struck.

Article posted on 01/04/2020

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