How do we keep morale up when it’s cold, wet and dark? Harriet Bremner asks.

It is that time of year again when the short days, arduous jobs and sometimes, miserable weather can start to get on top of us. Getting up and leaving the house in the dark is something that dairy farmers, yes, are used to but when you take away lovely warm summer evenings and throw in what can feel like endless mud, baleage wrap and more mud, it can start to feel, well, boring.

The team smashed through the Escape room challenge in 63 minutes flat – and had lots of fun doing it, and best of all, no talk of the farm.

So, how do we keep our own and our staffs’ morale and enthusiasm up during this time? We need to be mindful that working towards calving, an extremely full-on time of year, we want everyone to move towards that feeling like they have plenty in their ‘tank’ to get through.

Think about your team, what gets them excited, what interests them, who are they as people outside of work and when is the last time that you did something together that was off-farm where you didn’t only talk about work?

We hit this roadblock and I knew that we needed to go and do something fun together, being the token female in the team I knew it was me that was going to have to be the person who ‘dragged’ them off the farm – even for a little while!

What did we do? I asked everyone at the Monday morning meeting what evening suited them for dinner together. Once decided, I thought about what was something that we can do together that is random, totally distracting from real life for a few hours and what would also help us work together as a team without labeling it ‘team building’ and getting eye rolls in my direction. So, I got them to all meet us in the yard at 3:30pm and told them I had organised a surprise.

On the drive there, the buzz was great and chatter even better – it was like everyone just breathed and relaxed instantly. When we arrived in Te Anau outside Fiordland Escape the penny dropped that we were about to do an escape room and to my surprise everyone was excited. Bearing in mind that our team’s age ranges from 20 to 63 years, so it was cool to get that response.

In we go. I was the only one in the group who had done an escape room before and no one else knew what to expect. I simply said to them that for the first few minutes you’ll wonder what on earth we are doing. We had our debrief and with some nervous glances at each other entered the almighty ‘Moose Hunt’.

When you first walk in, knowing where to start can be the hardest part. For us, we stood there, looked at each other, and then it was all go! There can be some epic disagreements in these rooms when too many chiefs come to power but in our case, it just worked.

You have an hour to complete the clues, puzzles, locks and riddles and if we got stuck on something, the woman outside will give a clue. Throughout the hour, which went incredibly fast – with no mention of the word ‘farm’, we had laughs, got frustrated, took turns, saw each person’s individual strengths shine and in short – had fun.

We finished just over an hour after the clock started. When we walked out of the room we were asked:“do you guys work together because I have never seen a team work together so well and with no arguments!” This was really cool to hear.

We headed out for a few drinks and a meal after and no one mentioned work until about 7:30pm after dinner. Winning!

The longs and shorts of this experience for us were that it felt like we truly escaped our farming lives, even for a few hours and mentally it gave us a buzz. We got to see each other in a non-work sense and have some reprieve from the daily grind. We deliberately did not go far from home as we understand people also have things they like to do outside of work and didn’t want to take away too much of their spare time. Also, we, like most of you are in the grind of daily breaks so doing a whole day away is not an option at this time of year. Next time, when the days are longer we are absolutely doing a day trip.

Think of something that will suit your team, your budget, your family lives and so on. What activities can you do that aren’t too far from home, or maybe you want to do a day trip somewhere and take everyone’s families as well. The options are endless. We are certainly going to make a point of doing things like this more often. It brings people together, gives them a boost, shows appreciation and helps bring the team closer together. This is just one thing we can do to help boost that morale when it is cold, wet and dark. Get off the farm, have a laugh, have fun and don’t talk about work!

So where are we going next time? Fishing.

Have a wonderful July everyone.