Arborist Forum: Transitioning From Field to Office

Melissa LeVangie Ingersoll has moved, mostly, from working in the trees to working in the shop or offices at Shelter Tree, Inc./Tree Care Products. Here she works the Shelter Tree booth at TCI EXPO 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in November. TCIA staff photo.

For an arborist, transitioning from working in the field full time to working in an office is not easy. There is no guidebook to help you navigate your new challenges. Most arborists who enter this career share similar traits – they love to be active, love to be outdoors, love learning by “doing” and appreciate a good hard-day’s work.

Melissa LeVangie Ingersoll

The field brings you aches and groans from the day-to-day work and being physical. Working full time inside brings you a different set of aches and groans. You often experience the aches and groans from the lack of physical activity, commuting in a car for sales or sitting/standing at a computer workstation.

Difficult days working in the field can lead arborists to underappreciate their co-workers in the office, and have them saying things like, “They’ve got it easy, they have a desk job.” Each side of the door (out or in) has its pros and cons.

It takes a dedicated person to be good to his or her body, treating it well to maintain health and vitality. Arborists often do not allow themselves the basics of self-care: drinking plenty of water, eating well, stretching and getting enough rest. That said, we know when we’ve gotten a good night’s sleep. With enough rest, you feel invincible; without it, the next day can feel downright difficult or even overwhelming.

The field and an indoor office each can present both physical and mental challenges. More often than not, those who work in office settings got there by being identified by colleagues who saw their potential to serve a different role in the company. Or they might be healing from an injury, or they just desire another type of challenge in their career. These altered roles may find you behind a computer more than behind the foliage of your beloved trees. These changes affect us and often are not felt right away.

My personal journey found me growing up in the country, spending most of my time outdoors. My days were filled with bike riding, playing sports, tree climbing and building tree forts. As I headed off to college, I wanted to choose a career that would allow me to apply those passions, and I was able to follow my love of the outdoors by working in forestry, landscaping and tree care, which have included doing inventories, consulting, teaching, municipal arboriculture, training and gear sales. All of these had three things in common: people, trees and me.

Many arborists are attracted to the field because we are excited about making a living While working outdoors. We work “in” the business while out among the trees. When we transition to an indoor office job, we work “on” the business, whether for someone else’s company or for our own.

The following are frequent stumbling blocks we can experience during that transition:

• Communication

• Personnel dynamics

• Scheduling

• Meetings

• Delegation of tasks

• Life balance

• Exercise

• Rest

• Nutrition

• “Me time”

Melissa LeVangie Ingersoll working aloft during an Arbor Day 2017 volunteer project in Pawling, New York, on the Dover Oak on the Appalachian Trail (the largest oak on the trail). Photo courtesy of Melissa LeVangie Ingersoll.

Communication

The life journey is what you make of it. We are faced with many choices, and communication is the key to success. Communication is a skill and at times can be very difficult. Day to day, we interact with others. To me, it is amazing how small our world is, and even more so in our tree industry. The way you interact with others becomes a stamp on your character – one that precedes and follows you. Be kind to one another and treat each other with respect. This does not mean you have to like or love your co-workers. You will differ in opinions and positions. However, you always should listen to each other and treat one another with courtesy.

Working in an office, either at the company or remotely, can have its own set of challenges, including having your workflow interrupted by co-workers. Conversely, when working remotely you often can feel disconnected or invisible, with an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality.

Melissa LeVangie Ingersoll leading an OSHA Region 1 training event in Massachusetts in March 2019. Photo by Kathleen Costello.

Scheduling

Scheduling can be difficult with the need to connect with so many people. The day-to-day pace in organizations large or small can be stressful when punctuated by carving out time for necessary meetings. Meetings are instrumental functions of doing business, yet we cannot allow them to interfere with our everyday responsibilities. Scheduling is the key to successful planning. Be respectful of people’s time. Time is precious, and no one appreciates people arriving late or not showing up at a set time. If you cannot make a meeting, communicate. If you are always 10 minutes early, you are never late.

When you run or participate in a meeting, be clear and precise and keep to the point. You work with talented people, and most of us aren’t good at each other’s jobs. Recognize that the participants also have precious time that could be spent doing other important things.

Set an attainable agenda, striving not to exceed more than three distinct points. Keep to the goal and minimize extraneous sidebars and excess chatter. If it cannot be done at one time, allow your team members to continue on their own time after the meeting to complete their task. These subgroups can propel the acceleration of the agenda items and develop a quicker overall outcome.

Delegation is not easy for some of us, but delegation will build trust. Trusting to ask your co-workers for help can propel people to excel. When you delegate, be clear about the outcome you’d like and the timeframe. Set your team up for success by creating these timelines. These time goals are not meant to act like a slave driver, but instead are meant to help people stay on track despite the constant bombardment of life.

Set room for yourself to succeed by following up with your team on the delegated items and timelines you’ve set. This suggestion is not to micromanage; rather, it’s a tool to tickle busy lives, including our own. Offer help when needed, and be prepared to accept it when offered as well.

Life balance

Nowadays, technology keeps us overly plugged in, and most of us are overloaded. Personal time can be a very difficult commodity to acquire. Allow yourself time to let go and find your happy place; go for a run, read a book, spend time on your boat or rest in a hammock. Take time when you are feeling overwhelmed. A large pregnant pause with your eyes closed and 10 deliberate deep breaths can quickly restore your equilibrium. Whether pruning a tree, driving a car, returning calls, emailing clients or scheduling work, this 10-breath exercise can re-center and balance you.

Express your gratitude; the value of being appreciated is often overlooked. We all benefit from kind words of praise when being recognized. Why do many find it difficult to share? Showing appreciation doesn’t need to be a grand show; a simple thank you goes further than we sometimes realize. When the act of a thank you is delivered from a calm space and done with a conscientious action, face to face especially, it can impact a person for a lifetime.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

Don’t forget to express gratitude to yourself for a job well done. Self-care is not selfish – a mantra many of us need to repeat to ourselves. Adequate rest, eating well with nutritious food and exercise are vital to your physical and mental health, but also affect your co-workers. If you are not in a good head-space or in good health, your team will feel the effects. Pay it forward to yourself and the others around you. Respect, kindness and love will keep your mind, body and spirit successful in your new office.

Melissa LeVangie Ingersoll, CTSP, is the education director with Shelter Tree, Inc./Tree Care Products, a 23-year TCIA Associate Member company based in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.

This article was based on her presentation on the same subject at TCI EXPO 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. To listen to an audio recording of that presentation, go to this page in the digital version of this issue of TCI Magazine online, under the Publications tab at http://www.tcia.org/, and click here

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