December 23, 2020

Owners: Stay Healthy

During a pandemic, wellbeing is even more critical to prosperity


For most landscape companies, the impact of Covid-19 on the bottom line has been positive. With people spending more time at home, they are choosing to do more work on their homes, and that includes landscaping. Many landscapers, pool installers, and concrete companies are booking well into 2021 … some even into 2022.

Though we celebrate the financial blessing, business owners have paid a high price for the mental and emotional toll Covid has taken. Never have I spoken with so many business owners who are struggling with stress, anxiety, work/life balance, sleeplessness and exhaustion.

At the beginning of Covid, landscapers were concerned they would not be able to work. Then when they were able, they worried there wouldn’t be enough. When work started coming in — and lots of it — they were concerned they wouldn’t have the staff to complete the work. Then there were the material shortages, with owners concerned they could not get the supplies to finish jobs. In the midst of all this, we were unable to operate our businesses or our lives as normal. No wonder we’re tired. What a rollercoaster ride it’s been!

The result is owners who are overwhelmed, stressed out, and struggling with mental, physical and emotional health. This leads them to not manage well, make poor decisions, struggle with relationships and feel lost.

The health of one’s business is so often directly tied to the health of the owner or management. So let’s talk a bit about staying healthy so your business can be healthy.

Physical health

This is usually the easiest area to make changes. As landscapers, we’re used to being outside and doing physical work. But as owners, we often find ourselves sitting at a desk or driving a truck more than doing any physical labour. Here’s some small changes you can make to improve your physical health:

Go for a walk or run. Get up half an hour earlier to get active in the morning. Or take a walk/run around the neighbourhood after dinner. Just get outside and move. I started taking morning and evening walks this spring and I can’t tell you how much better I feel, how it clears my head, and how it’s improved my overall health.

Park further away. This drives my wife nuts, but when we go to the grocery store, I park at the far end of the parking lot in order to walk more. It’s simple and doesn’t really take any more time.

Buy a pedometer. This has made the biggest impact in getting me moving. Perhaps it’s my personality, but when I’ve set a goal for myself, missing it is not an option. So when I purchased a Fitbit this year and set a goal of 15,000 steps per day, I was not going to settle for failure. That has meant some late-night walks around the block or even around my yard. But I’ve rarely missed hitting my goal.

Find someone to exercise with. It’s so much easier to stay on track with your physical fitness goals if there is someone holding you accountable. It’s also more enjoyable to exercise with a friend.

Mental health

This is without a doubt the more difficult aspect of health, especially for men, it seems. Here are a few tips:

Start by getting enough sleep. The aforementioned Fitbit lets me know how much I am sleeping, and how deeply. It has been very interesting to see how often I’m restless.

Turn off your phone. (Dare I suggest such an extreme measure?!) There are many studies that link phone usage to mental health. Set hours for your phone usage and stick to them. Let your phone charge in a different room, or at least across the room from your bed. Turn off unnecessary notifications. And put the phone away a half hour before you go to bed.

Open up. I’m probably speaking to a mostly male audience and this is a tough one. But the older I get, the more I realize that whatever I’m feeling, someone else has been there and gone through it. When I open up about the struggles I am having, I am so often surprised by the response I get, the encouragement I receive knowing someone else gets it, the relief I feel knowing I’m not crazy. I usually find some helpful advice for moving forward. Find someone who you trust and let him know how you’re doing. Allow him to be a friend. You are not alone.

Take time for yourself and your family. I recently recognized that I was getting close to burnout and needed a break. I told my wife that I would like to take a couple of days to go away on my own for some silence, solitude and rest. She was delighted — not sure if she was delighted to see me go or delighted that I recognized my need and expressed it to her. Regardless, I spent a couple of days at a friend’s cottage all by myself. My time there included lots of walks, reading and napping. By the morning of my departure, I was ready to be home and ready to jump back into work with renewed perspective. I love my work. But it is not my life. I sometimes need to remember that. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

If you’re feeling burned out, stressed out, tired out — you’re in good company. Take a walk. Take a nap. Talk to a friend. As the government keeps telling us during Covid, we are all in this together.
Grant Harrison operates Nextra Consulting, based in Ingersoll, Ont.