From the time the pandemic hit, I’ve spent even more time than usual back with my family in west Wales. Most notably, this has meant helping out on my aunt and uncles’ 350-acre farm during lambing season. While being a great conversation starter, farming also undoubtedly gives you a new perspective on office life. Here’s three key things I’ve taken away.
It’s PR, not ER
Comms – and specifically, PR – is consistently voted one of the most stressful sectors to work in. With immediate decisions needed almost every hour, and with most journalists expecting everything yesterday, agency life can be extremely high pressure.
When you’re lambing, in some ways, the stress is similar. The constant re-prioritisation of which lamb or ewe is more in need of help is exhausting, and keeping a mental map of where every animal is and who’s been fed is no easy task. This can feel similar to juggling client needs and knowing what member of the team is working on what, when. But the fact that lambing is also a very physical job – without designated office hours – means you tire physically as well as mentally, and frequently have to get up in the middle of the night to do it all again.
As well as this, what you’re doing day-to-day is often the difference between life and death. If you forget to give a vulnerable lamb a bottle, even once, that can be the end. And that’s on you. When you go from dealing with decisions that can alter the life course of an animal, it reminds you to have perspective on that sell in that didn’t go so well, or the harsh client feedback that could have once ruined your day. As a wise colleague once reminded me – it’s public relations, not the emergency room.
Every day is a school day
I often joke with my cousins that I’m their lambing apprentice. I know much less than they do about the needs of animals, and it takes me a lot longer to figure out where things are and what to do next.
While I like to think I had a bit of a promotion from apprentice to intermediate-level during the last lambing season, going back to the beginning was really refreshing. I’ve learnt new skills and have knowledge that I didn’t have before, that is so unbelievably different to the knowledge I need day-to-day at work. And though I didn’t enjoy school very much, I’ve realised learning is genuinely fun. While training and personal development at work is of course important, using a different side of your brain to learn something wholly new can be really valuable.
Other peoples’ wellies
While I’ve spent a lot of my life in west Wales, I’m always surprised by how far away much of my life there seems to colleagues and friends. Especially as everything happens in a completely different language (yes, people do still speak Welsh).
But honestly, I think everyone should spend a week doing a job that’s completely different to their own – ideally a practical one if you tend to sit down all day like me. It stands to benefit us a lot in the development of empathy, and as a good reminder that the job we think is so important, and keeps us so busy, is just one of the many roles.
It gives you a real appreciation for how hard other people work, and the whole range of skills we need to make the world go round. This feels especially important at a time when cities and the countryside – and the different parts of the UK – may never have felt more polarised.