Article by the US member of InterSearch Worldwide.
Social distancing and remote work may have been a new concept for agribusiness professionals in 2020, but not for their correspondents on the production side.
In rural America, where much of today’s large-scale farming takes place, social distancing is easy; there may only be 500 people in each square-mile radius. Compare that to New York City, where the average square mile holds 30,000 people.
And working from home? Farmers have been doing that for centuries. If you think a “ping” on your laptop interrupts your work-life balance, try a coyote sneaking into your chicken farm at 3 a.m.
Remote work continues to be popular for professionals across industries, even as we mitigate the Covid-19 threat, and studies claim this model, overall, has been successful. At the very least, we believe that working from home can help professionals better understand each other across the agribusiness spectrum.
Take agriculture recruiters for example. Prior to the pandemic, it was common to invite clients to the office, meet with candidates face-to-face and schedule in-person interviews. Now, remote correspondence is far more common. On the average day, a recruiter is likely videoconferencing with their clients, calling/emailing their candidates and scheduling virtual interviews – all of which is familiar to agriculture workers who must correspond remotely with their corporate offices and supply chain network to coordinate business across the United States.
The shared experience of remote work is advantageous when bridging the gap between production and office workers, whose day-to-day experience is otherwise totally different. The phenomenon has also led agribusiness professionals who once enjoyed the given work-life balance that came with clocking in and out of their offices to have more respect for their farming counterparts who work around the clock.
Production workers, especially family farmers who live on or near their field/facilities, are usually at the beck and call of their work. If an issue arises between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 a.m., they’re the ones on call to handle it. Similarly, now that many professionals keep their work computers in the house, it can be difficult to unplug at the end of a busy day or ignore critical messages until work hours start.
Successfully managing your professional and personal schedules has always been a challenge, but remote work highlights how profoundly different this challenge can look in different roles.
One of the most important themes we’ve heard from clients seeking senior agribusiness executives is that the industry needs people who can better relate the business side to the production side. From bringing an innovative AgTech product to market to sufficiently explaining farming processes to the public and other stakeholders, empathizing and connecting with those on the production side of the house has never been more important to both business success and company morale.
Remote work itself will not bridge the gap entirely, but agribusiness professionals should think about it as a first step to understanding individuals at every level of the business – from the field to the office to the dinner table. An appreciation for the various lifts and flexibility each level demonstrates day-to-day could go a long way.