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Shorter days and colder, wetter conditions can make working out in the field a challenging time for seasonal teams so what can growers do to encourage productivity? 

HOPS spoke to two growers that employ teams over the colder months to find out how they retain workers during the winter.

Staples

 Harvest Manager Lee Burrell

“Good accommodation and good heating is a must during the colder months. After a hard day’s work, it’s important workers have somewhere to relax that’s warm and comfortable. 

“You also need to maximise work over the winter as daylight hours are shorter. That also means making sure there are plenty of recreational activities on offer for people too. Staples put on a few extra excursions over the winter and host some fun evenings – such as a Christmas Bingo. We know it’s difficult working in these conditions so we try to reward and recognise how much we appreciate their efforts during the colder months. 

“Clothing is usually wet and muddy at the end of the working day, so Staples now provide a heated locker room where workers can hang their kit. It means their accommodation doesn’t get messed up with dirty work clothes, and their items can be hung up to dry ready for the next day. Much nicer to start work in warm, dry PPE!” 

Staples’ Locker Room

Riverford Organic Farmers

Harvest Manager Martin Gainsborough 

“The important thing is to have a good balance of work – not too much and not too little. You don’t want to push people for more than eight hours in difficult conditions – especially with limited daylight and frost to deal with. 

“We try to manage the work load across the year to give people what they want in terms of the hours they want to work. You can’t control the weather but you can try to balance the work. We look after our people by being mindful of those who want lots of hours and those that want a controlled amount. 

“Our caravans are well-maintained and we also provide an annual clothing allowance so people can buy good quality waterproof gear. 

“Of course, there’s also the general good spirit of treating people well. I’m mindful in the winter not to push them and when it’s bad weather we finish early. We do what we have to do in the winter and no more!”