Regular time off might be good for your bank balance

Jim is a young farmer milking 250 cows. From time to time his retired father gives him a hand, but dad's aging body can't handle a heavy workload anymore and he is not quite up to the rigorous demands of farm life.

So Jim does almost all the work on his own and doesn't feel able to take time off. However, the business is making good money and paying plenty of tax so Jim is obviously doing well, right?

No he isn't? His workload has meant that he has had to forgo family holidays and he is often tired and scratchy - in fact, he has had a couple of accidents that probably would not have happened if he hadn't been so stressed.

Over-working is bad for business. Increasingly, I am finding through my work in the finance sector that the farmers who are not performing well – working too long and too hard without adequate time off – are the ones who eventually get into financial strife.

Typically, they say things like: 'Unless I'm working I don't feel as though I'm functioning properly'.

A farm is a great place where you can spend your whole working life and be happy doing so. However, working continuously will eventually take its toll on your physical and mental well-being.

The body and mind are not able to function constantly without a break. When you are getting up early, milking cows and finishing late at night, week in / week out, that routine impinges on your marriage and family. They start to suffer very quickly if a husband or father is seldom around, and when he is - he's grumpy. Your wife/partner is an important part of your business and your support network. She deserves better than being grumped at all the time.

Waikato psychologist Carl Dibble says that adequate time off is essential for mental well-being. In my view, minimum time off would be one milking per week and one weekend every month. This is only four milkings per month?

In Jim's case, the obvious thing would be to pay for somebody to help, even if it were only on a part-time basis. This would allow him to have some regular time off, take part in family outings and also cut down the pressure on Dad.

And you? You could employ a local person to help you out? The things is, when you do actually leave the farm for a break, it gives you time to clear your head and look at the bigger picture. You may even find that it will help you to solve problems more rapidly and effectively. In a more relaxed space you might well have a meaningful discussion with your wife/partner about how you are feeling and the difficulties that are bugging you. A problem shared is a problem halved.

I find myself wondering whether the high accident rate on farms is the result of long hours and tiredness creeping in. The industry still have some way before adequate time off is seen as an essential part of dairy farming. That's a pity because it makes such good business sense to ensure that you and your staff are happy, healthy and willing to work.

And what about your children? If they see you as over worked, tired and grumpy, are they likely to want to follow in your footsteps? I would say no! As we grow up, one thing we often remember is the meaningful time we spent with our dad, or ponder on how much time we missed out on spending with him. It is an easy trap to fall into isn't it?

Planning for adequate time off is essential. We all should have an annual planner on the wall which we adhere to. Most people put their holidays up first, do you?

In Summary

Adequate time off is essential for your mental well-being, as relentless pressure will eventually fry your brain and cause unhappiness, which can often end up in broken relationships and depression.

Plan adequate time off, and make sure you include your family in the fun and activity. Also, remember when you go on holiday, initially you may feel worse, until your mind gets used to not being under pressure all the time.


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