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Survey raw responses: pressing challenges

Unedited responses from APPA’s survey on Grounds/Landscaping, conducted April 2020.

What are the most pressing challenges that your grounds/landscaping unit is currently trying to solve?

Maintaining recommended safety practices, handling project work scope usually done by landscape support vendors who are not being used under present circumstances.
Incidental COVID-19 contraction from asymptomatic persons inside and outside of work. Family conditions that change and must be accommodated. To some extent supplies.
Understanding that the children being at home more often will increase personal calls while the employee is at work.
Recruiting temporary employees for the summer workload as we have done in years past. This is proving difficult as much of that workforce was pulled from students, of which 70% have left campus.
To keep up with mowing and with seasonal lawn/field care practices.
Ensuring work staff are practicing social distancing.
Our in-house unit is fairly small. With staff alternating days, keeping a level of service as high as it should be brings some challenges, overall we have been able to implement new safety practices easily while keeping the campus clean.
Scheduling for recovery.
Uncertainty including future of campus enrollment, events, on-campus classes. Ongoing work and pay.  PPE availability.
Predicting the future. Keeping everyone apart and focused on the work at hand.
How to keep things in good enough shape that it isn’t too costly/time consuming to bring them back when we return.  Finding that fine line of too much/too little.
Trying to keep campus as respectable looking/as well maintained as we can with only 50 percent of our work force on campus each week while protecting the health of all.  We are maintaining a 400 acre campus with a staff of 7 full time employees and a couple of student employees. The rotational schedule will be a significant challenge moving forward into this year.
The lack of personal equip, empty means that they must constantly disinfect equipment before and after each use.
Getting face masks.
Ice and snow.
Keeping up with spring growth.
Family life.
Trying to keep the campus attractively groomed with greatly reduced staff.
Concerns about pending mowing.  However with the winter weather continuing (2-5″ snow predicted 4/17) the lawns are slow growing.  Concerns about athletic fields – weed and pest control.
We don’t plan to hire any seasonal laborers and will do the work with existing-redeployed staff, or caretakers around their buildings. We are wondering if we can reduce our overall planting purchase that is already ordered, as we may have challenges planting all the flowers, shrubs, and may have limited occupants on campus. Campus beautification, staff involvement in planting is cancelled, as is convocation.
Mowing with 25% of the crew.
Potential of significant budget reductions in the near future.
Not much at this point; we’ve hit our new normal so major adjustments are behind us. Challenge will be keeping people motivated through the summer.
Lack of student labor.  The loss of student labor (most went home) has crimped our ability to service the campus during the “spring” which is when we are starting our irrigation system and installing new plantings.
Keeping things clean and sanitized.
Going into the growing season on a reduced staff.  We just received 5″ of rain and once it warms we’ll be slammed with plant growth to maintain.
The timing of this shutdown will cause the unit to reduce their standards for beautification of the campus (plantings, mulching, etc.) this year.
The need to address full community trash cans, trying to keep grass at a manageable level without trimming. Dealing with utility emergencies as they arise.
Keeping up with basic maintenance.
Keeping socially distant in the office areas when doing office work. Limited access for so many staff in a small space
Snow and ice mitigation, aeration, fertilization.
Fear that people will succumb to the COVID-19 virus.
Mowing turf, and prepping beds for spring color.
Keeping up with the amount of work.
Understaffed, not planting summer seasonal color this year.
The effects of not being able to work the grounds is effecting the visual aspect of our campus.  It will reflect poorly to our prospective students and current students!
Weed control.
Staggering start time to limit staff getting together.
Planning for essential only services. This will mean no beautification only mowing, weeding and maintenance.  We hope to get more long term work out of the way as it is allowed under the restrictions.
Whether we’ll be allowed to have student workers brought back for summer.  And if not, how will the work normally performed by them get done.
Physical distancing while at work in shop areas.
Lack of dust mask and the training associated with the diversion of medical supplies away from “essential employees”.
How to handle a snow storm if needed in the next few weeks.
Dealing with the virtual learning for staff’s children at home and sharing the responsibilities with their spouses.
Trying to update training in fall protection. Classes are all closed.
Trying to maintain a positive outlook even though we may face layoffs in the near future.
Morale is difficult; all staff has fear of exposure and bringing home to family; staff is not getting hazard pay and knows that salaried staff continue to get standard pay to work from home and they know that they cannot be 100% effective from home.
Keeping the campus turf mowed and controlling weeds in shrub and mulch beds, walkways, and hardscapes.
Weed and pest control are becoming a problem.
Vehicle usage / scheduling so that there is only one individual in cab.
How long the stay at home order will be in effect.
Adjusted schedules and the challenge of not having enough time to complete tasks.
Landscaping is still allowed under our state shelter in place order so with a full staff of employees it is just enforcing the 6 foot social distancing rule.  Getting them to the site in their own cars is problematic where we used to meet centrally and go to sites in full truckloads of people.
Balancing work load with staffing.
Budget is very tight right now due to uncertainty.
Trying to encourage everyone that we will get through this and to continue to social distance.  Staffing at growing season levels will not happen and to use the current staff as efficiently as possible.
Full time and full scale operations are suspended, we are mostly in a “damage mitigation” mode.
As the growing season is approaching us weed control and operations of irrigation systems for limiting foliar growth of campus landscapes.
Strategizing reduced services and where to apply now in the midst of the growing season and for the rest of spring/summer.
A date when full services can resume.
Uncertain future campus events and programming.
No clear idea when we can return and what obstacles will be put in our way. Lots of speculation! We are trying to plan for what we do know: supplies have been given away for health care and we are trying to figure out how to replenish.
Getting all weeds pulled on campus. Having short staff each week.
Being able to hire / bring back our student crew to supplement our work force.  Without a robust student crew, many of our services will be reduced over the summer months.
Approval from county to allow mowing of grass to not interfere with irrigation sprinklers.
The campus has become a “public park” for individuals practicing social distancing in the town to exercise and walk.  We’re balancing the expectations of the grounds care standard with the reality of a reduced on site work force.
Equipment maintenance with limited staffing, mowing the turf and keeping up with herbicide application needs.
Mowing campus with 25% staff
Having enough staff to complete basic services. Trying not to confuse staff as the guidelines and directives change from the state and federal governments.
Defining what core work is necessary and what work is nice to have given a reduced daily workforce.  Operating on a reduced operating budget.
Recruiting summer help.
How to make it through the summer without any part time help.
Transporting employees and maintaining social distance.
Elimination of student labor force. Many manual labor jobs performed by student labor, now we have to shift to career staff.
Keeping 6 ft. apart while trying to do job.
Acquisition of some parts and supplies. Keeping safe while away from campus.
The pressure of the future with respect to budget. It appears that student positions will be eliminated because of the budget crisis – this will have an impact on the overall quality of the functions that the Landscape Services team is able to consistently deliver.
Keeping up with the Spring growth flush; morale/uncertainty about budget and staffing impacts in the longer term.
Continuously pulled from normal duties to respond to a special request for COVID-19 protected area, such as drive though screening tents.
Keep up with trimming and pruning.
Public perception that we are not following rules during the crisis.  We need to maintain the investments for when this is over to the extent possible.
University has implemented hiring freeze and elimination of seasonal temps.  We will have to decide, at some point, what services we’ll have to reduce or eliminate.
How to provide the required emergency work, the regular maintenance work and the extensive seasonal horticultural care needed to maintain the long term safety and viability of a healthy landscape within the limited scope of allowed work while keeping staffers healthy mentally and physically.
Limited man hours
We are finding out that our temporary/ seasonal workforce that is normally full right away is not getting any applicants at this time.
Deciding which areas to “let go” in the name of reducing staff is a little tough.  Keeping morale high is challenging.
Staff refusing to work.
1. Grass pollen is high right now and the allergy symptoms mimic COVID-19 symptoms.  It can be confusing for staff and management trying to keep enough staff to get the campus mowed. 2. Having enough staff to keep the campus looking presentable.
Keeping up with the Spring growth in terms of cutting the lawn and trimming shrubs.
It’s still a bit early in the season here, and we were fortunate to have had a head start on some things due to a mild winter, but the crew are eager to do more tasks than just mowing.  We’ve limited mowing to once/week for most of campus and twice/week on sports fields that were previously fertilized.  At some point, we will likely need to ramp up more.
Keeping up with daily responsibilities with less than 25% the work force.
Prioritizing work now that only 1/2 the team works each day.
How to bring our staff to completeness.
Lost time on spring cleanup and preparation. My staff is eager to return to work, but are unable due to current restrictions. Staff remains on call for snow removal and similar essential services.
As work grows with spring while maintaining a limited on-site footprint is the greatest challenge.
Trash collection from Residence Halls where quarantined people are staying.
Social distancing in morning.
Maintaining the current level of maintenance with a reduced workforce.
WEEDS! Struggling to have the manpower necessary to eradicate all the weeds that will soon be popping up in addition to our other maintenance tasks.
Reduced daily manpower, but I have a “Shift turnover log” to keep track of what was and was not completed so we don’t go over the same places. I also have the campus broken into zones.
Softscape maintenance. With no staff to accomplish this task the green-space is beginning to show signs of neglect.
We are a unionized workforce with a labor contract.  The labor contract was written for campus closures with snow events in mind, not prolonged pandemics.  This has required discussion with the union as to how to allow staff to return to work to maintain our grounds without the university paying triple time.
Vendors are closing down due to low needs, and that limits our capabilities.
Maintaining physical separation.
The scope of work requirements do not always lend themselves to social distancing. What was a team support approach standard has to individually be discussed prior to multiple staff interactions.
Although our grounds on site staff are operating at about 25 percent on site per day, having an empty campus, there is much less trash and we have the freedom to move around easily and more efficiently.
Spring clean up.
Administrative work with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and planning for catch up work when staff return.
We need full staff to report or we are going to fall behind and OT is not an option.
Large areas to cover with fewer personnel.
Maintaining staffing levels with contractors.
Maintaining current high levels of ground maintenance, seasonal plantings & renewals, special projects allowable by reduced demand on grounds.
Internally is keeping morale up.
Staffing for the summer, potential reduced staffing of full time employees. Accepting a reduced standard of maintenance.
Keeping weeds under control.
Turf growth is about to ramp up significantly so mowing will be impossible with one day per week.   How to manage and prioritize.
Response to major storms with a reduced staff on campus.
When the job calls for two or more, how do we stay safe?
Coordinating work that requires more than one staff member to accomplish such as tree removal.
At home training and technology challenges. What happens when emergency pay is taken away?
Team effort missions are currently the more challenging where two or more persons are required to perform a task.
Dealing with employee concerns of the virus.
Rationalizing what is essential.
With the growing season kicking off trying to keep up with the basic service of mowing and trash pickup with a very limited crew that report.  Not providing any other services until everyone is back to work.  Early annual flowers are still be held by the grower, usually planted in early April.  Lawn repairs due to winter damage on hold as well as weed control, mulching perennial beds and tree/shrub/perennial plantings.
Constant need to clean touch points of tools, equipment, and vehicles.
Grounds work is typical for this time of year, with the exception that the students are gone, so litter/trash pick-up is minimal to non-existent.
Normally, we hire 4 students fulltime for the summer, however we will not be doing that this year. This will reduce our ability to mulch and care for planting beds.
We need to hire students who make up a vast majority of our summer crew but with state restrictions, we are not able to do so yet.
Coming up with a way to close the gap of certain tasks that were skipped over at the beginning of the pandemic when the campus closed for a week.
Campus is greening and needs mowing
Keeping a positive attitude!  We’ve been able to maintain primary areas, but some other locations are going to need to be addressed sooner than later.
Staffing levels.  We have operated on a bare bones staff and are missing a few key personnel due to the hiring freeze.  It is making everyone work a little harder in order to keep up with the grueling schedule that spring throws at us.  Weeds, grass and beds continue to be an issue while having a small staff.
Boredom when they are not working.
Nothing until things start growing.
Trying to keep on assigned tasks rather than working only in his/her specialty, such as irrigation, turf, tree pruning, and project installation. Currently are doing only routine maintenance.
Homeless camps on a campus with limited operations, yet conserve the PPE we have available.
Staying healthy.
I’m concerned we’ll be way behind on campus cleaning/mulch/ trimming and especially mowing, although it’s snowing here today!
Morale 15% budget cut.  Managing expectations of customers.
How to keep the campus looking as great as it did before the COVID-19 with less employees.  Small detail work is becoming almost impossible to do.
Not enough staff to keep on top of the increasing needs.
Lack of adequate staff to perform project work, budget reductions.
Convince Administration that it is essential we complete grounds maintenance starting no later than May 1.
How to eliminate fears about coming back to work.
Keeping up with routine maintenance is a challenge when less than 25% of the staff report to work each week.
Biggest challenge is managing their anxiety.
When to start normal activities so campus is ready for full return.  ex: mulch, pruning, planting annuals, etc.
Manpower has been cut by 50% on all days. The inability to move personnel and be able to work together making some tasks impossible for single individuals.
Adjusting our level of service.
Morale. It a balance to help them understand they are essential and keeping them working while they see others on campus staying at home to work.
Keeping up with Spring growth.
Lack of student employees; lack of student employee pool to be hiring from right now for summer work.  (all classes are online, student moved off campus)  Trying to figure out when we can hire temp employees to mow given that we are only working half days.
Hand weeding is falling behind the curve in established landscape beds and hedges.
Firing up irrigation.  We are currently under a hiring “chill.”  Our irrigation team is very understaffed and we can’t hire to fill the vacancies.
Keeping campus mowed, weeds pulled, and maintaining overall campus grounds quality.
Maintaining the same area but with less Human Resources.
Getting behind on our maintenance with less time on campus.
When we all can come back to work- we will be pressed to have the campus looking its best. A lot of catch up needed (pruning, edging, tree trimming, landscaping renovations back on track).
Post winter cleanup. Ours is usually done by students, that aren’t here.  Botanical gardens still need work performed.
Communication.  Short staffing doing the best we can to cover all main areas to keep top level.  Created more non-mow areas.
Trying to keep the campus at an acceptable level until full staffing can return.
Try to keep up with the work.
Keeping up with mowing and trying to comply with not being there more than absolutely necessary.
Maintaining 1400 acres with half of the team.  Separating gossip/rumor from fact.
In the next couple of weeks keeping up with the grass mowing.
What will happen if a staff member tests positive?
Wanting to get so much work done!
How to stop the grass from growing 🙂
Our budget is a moving target, the University is asking everyone to decrease spending. The University instituted a policy that only Presidents, VP’s and Associate VP’s could only buy supplies. This would have made things very difficult if it was not for our VP giving us approval to spend what we need to accomplish our goals. We have found that we are taking on more tasks typically done by contracts to save the University money.
The grass is growing faster than our reduced manpower can maintain it. String trimming hours are very low.
Keeping social distance during beginning/ end of shift and lunch.
Enough people to do the tasks following the COVID-19 outbreak with social distancing.
Deferring spring maintenance and seasonal bedding plant change outs.  Staff may not be back in time to plant summer displays.  Weeds are starting to proliferate.  Some staff are feeling that they aren’t able to contribute because they have to remain at home.
Keeping up with mowing and suppressing weeds since we are not mulching or planting annual flowers this year.
Just keeping the grass cut between rain days.
Determining what is skipped on a weekly basis and re-evaluating the cultural practices (i.e., aerification) that will need to be modified.  We are already 6 positions short and have a hiring freeze so doing even the minimum is a challenge.
Trying to maintain the look of our campus as best we can with reduced daily manning.   The Univ of Alabama standards have been high for so long that it is hard for us to back off those high standards.   It is also a big challenge to make sure we keep all of our personnel safe from the virus.
General maintenance, winter season left over debris, leaves clogging yard drains, lack of herbicide and pre-emergent turf treatment, snow still falling, etc.
Return to full capacity date…waiting on direction from federal and state government.
Hard to keep up.
Performing the required amount of work due to the unavoidable influx of spring growth with 1/3 of the labor on hand each week.
Dealing with weather.
Budget for supplies because they went to housekeeping for COVID-19 supplies.
Gaining permissions to do minimal maintenance now that turf and plants are out of dormancy.
Lack of student workers and filling that gap. Eliminated the number of flower garden plots to reduce manual upkeep. Reducing number of times flowers are replaced. Only Summer flowers this Spring and not until mid-May since no Commencement.
Safety practices due to the virus.
Concern for team members’ mental health and financial realities as they go into unpaid statuses. Maintaining the campus aesthetic that our students, staff, faculty, and visitors have come to expect during the growing season with minimal staff. Ensuring we can start up again in short order once we get the green light if the ground/landscaping staff is furloughed?
Keeping up with the growing season.
Just keeping up with the mowing, with reduced staff.
Reduction in services: which areas to reduce APPA grounds standards due to lower staffing level, communication between teams that have no overlap.
What’s next? Budgets moving forward…
While we still provide all of our normal services it is obviously at a decreased level due to limited staffing. Prioritization of work has really been the key to maintaining the appearance of campus grounds during this time.
Being undermanned.
More work than they can do, especially given that it is spring.
The grass is growing in our tropical climate, but there’s a lack of staff to keep up with it. Feral animals including pigs, cats, rats and chickens are feared to be spreading the virus, so people want these animals harshly eliminated. There’s a general sense that folks can spiral off into hysterics at any moment due to disinformation spread on social media or at the presidential press conferences.
Staffing – We have positions to fill but with unemployment bonuses, it’s been difficult to get good applicants.  Many are opting to be at home with the unemployment bonus for now.
How to get all areas mowed and serviced properly.
Fear of the invisible menace.  Concern traveling to and from work.  Lack of available PPE.  No additional pay for employees still reporting to work.
Short staff due to resignations, retirements, time off, longer lead time to hire new personnel.
Maintaining a growing landscape with less than 20% staff.
We have outsourced most of our grounds work, so my % reported is based on the number of tasks that we have taken on internally vs those normally done by the contractor.  It’s being done as a money-saving measure, since our cash flow has been interrupted.
Putting together maintenance plans and then having to change them due to state, federal, and university changes due to COVID-19.
This is the worst possible time of year in South Mississippi to apply less resources to landscaping. All of our turf needs to be fertilized and sprayed and mowed weekly but the issue we are having is weed growth in beds and vines on shrubs.
When to safely return to work.
Shift from winter to summer.
Spring: rain, sun & heat – lots of new growth!
Current hiring freeze and many of our student and temporary staff have left.  Prioritizing work load.  Budget cuts have already began and will continue through next fiscal year.  Fear of sickness and uncertain about continuing to have a job.
Development of safe work procedures as applied to a task that would normally require two or more individuals working in close proximity.
Keeping up with irrigation startups and mowing with a reduced crew size.
We’ve recently had a significant amount of rain and now the sun is shining.  Lawns have really started to grow.  Mowing every other week is challenging and messy.  In addition to grass growing so are the weeds! One week of mowing and the next week is weed control.
Our unit (which is just landscaping around University apartments and residence halls) will not be hiring any part-time labor. Previously, the entire crew was made up of part-timers lead but a fulltime staff member.  Instead, we will be using full-time staff from the Residence Life and Dining Services department to do all landscaping – this will help keep these individuals from losing their jobs.
Nothing has been brought to my attention.
Anticipated reduction in budgets has cut remaining funds for the year by 50%.
Maintaining the bio-wall; ensuring rodent population is kept in check.
We are dealing with a variety of issues that have plummeted morale and seriously undermined our ability to maintain our campus landscape to the standard we have striven for.  This is what is going to cause our capability to maintain even an APPA 3 level landscape into the future.
Production. Performing spring clean-ups having 1/2 the staff on hand is very difficult. While we have not begun to mow yet, we will soon, which will add another layer of difficulty bringing our campus back to life after a long winter.
We cannot treat beds for weeds or on cracks and crevices…we will fall behind significantly within two weeks unless we can increase on-site staff or hire contractors.  Indoor pest management is becoming an issue.
Funding once we return.
Whether or not to continue capital renewal work this summer in light of needed operating budget savings.
Weighing justification to continue regular fertilizer applications, pre-emergent herbicides and growth regulators.  Developing a recovery plan for when Stay At Home restrictions are lifted. Ex 🙂 How do we bring back the full team and continue to protect our people and ability to service campus. What does that look like?
Whether or not to proceed with plantings, getting mulching done, lack of contractor and student staff support – basically just trying to keep the grass cut and trash picked up at this point.
Athletic fields maintenance given the rare absence of teams using the fields.
Weed control.
Adjusting to staggered start times and maintaining social distancing.
Making sure staff understand and respect the gravity of the pandemic and how their choices affect outcomes for everyone.  Other than that, our most pressing issues are the same ones we would be facing in normal circumstances.  Performance issues.  Daily flux in staffing.  Managers are learning to use telework resources to effectively manage and communicate.
With a limited/split staff and making the transition from tulips to summer annuals and the management of these areas on campus while still maintaining the campus as we have been pre & current COVID-19.
Spring weeds. Morale. Job security.
Spring start-up of the irrigation systems.  There is always a lot of spring repair and we’re only working part time.
They do not seeing mowing and landscaping as “essential duties”.   They have asked why we don’t let the grass grow a foot high.  What does it hurt???
Grounds workers want to work from home like other employees but it’s not in their job description.
Having time for the extra cleaning of tools and returning them to ready to use condition; the increased training; and short staffing to start with.
Dealing with the desire to fully maintain the campus with restricted schedule.
The most pressing challenge is budgets for the future. Our fiscal year ends June 30, and we will see a reduction in budget beginning July 1. We will not be filling vacancies which will likely result in lowering our APPA standards, but we have not done so yet.
Budget cuts.
Morale. Facility people are planners that create and work from schedules. This is difficult as nothing is able to be planned beyond a few days. We are capitalizing on having a closed campus but it is still winter and weather dictates much of what grounds can do.
Irrigation start up with limited personnel.
Being off work.
We have been working to remind staff about social distancing away from work is just as important if not more as while here. They understand it a little better when a part time employee was sent home when his temperature was up 2 degrees over baseline. Not allowed to come back until it was down.
Keeping production at 100% while adapting to all the new requirements.
Completion of work with available time utilizing reduced staff.
No funding to purchase mulch and plantings and trying to make the campus look good.
Transitioning from winter to spring with reduced man hours.
Not seeing everyone each day and trying to schedule while working 50% of the time.
Switching equipment from winter to spring.
Currently we’re fine, but when our secondary water gets turned on next week it will be challenging to get it started up with less working days.
Keeping distances during shift changes or breaks.
Navigating the abhorrent homeless population our campus has – no way of knowing who, if anyone, is infected by COVID-19. We still have to service areas where they are present 24/7.
Winter to spring equipment swap to also include winter turf damage repair. Spring cleanup with a reduced staff.
So much land, so few people.
How do we cut grass with reduced staffing?
Should the state of Nebraska mandate a shelter in place policy, we’re unsure if we would be deemed essential.  However, we do have plans and options in place so that, if we don’t return, for fourteen days, to maintain the turf, we don’t return to an irrecoverably damaged turf.
Maintenance of sport fields.  Letting conditions or standards decline can be a huge financial impact after the COVID-19. Weed control of landscape areas. We have also been putting down pre-emergent to help control weed growth. We are having our limited staff go through sections and hand pull large flower weeds.
Tree damage from recent high wind storms in addition to routine mowing and trimming.
Keeping up with the basic grounds duties during this time using creative work hours while maintaining the department’s overall budget.
Not having a student work force here to help; currently setting priorities while still maintaining our Grounds and Athletic fields.  We need to preserve a natural asset that would be difficult to bring back if not properly maintained.
Cleaning campus before the grass starts growing.  Good communication between crews to eliminate going over the same area twice.
Meeting expectations.  Mulch, blowing and plant material are not readily available from typical vendors at this time so it is delaying work projects.
Assuring them that if they follow the CDC guidelines, the likelihood of them being exposed to coronavirus is very low.
Keeping up with spring growth while following social distancing protocols and following a reduced schedule.
Staffing from other accounts to (outsourced operation) work projects on campus.
PPE supplies are running low.
No student labor for the foreseeable future.
How to keep up with the landscape growth while limiting staffing from coming to campus.
Keeping everything mowed and making sure weeds don’t take over.
Jobs that need more than one person in close quarters.
The hard part has been to care for the grounds and still be friendly to the community that loves to walk over to our fields and landscaped areas. Maintaining everyone safe.
Keeping up with maintenance and continuing landscape improvements and enhancements.
Rain delays and using 1/3 of regular staffing to cut all the grass on a 10 day schedule.
The homeless keep trashing the campus.
Keeping up with the growing season, weeds, moving,  planting, etc.
How to care for the hay field that will be on the campus when they return.  Will we have any beautification or just maintenance?  Will the existing equipment be ready for grass maintenance (we were having snow when we left). Will there be funding to replace worn out equipment?
Determining when will this threat end.  Trying to determine if contractor schedules will be filled and what to plan for. Going blindly in to the future where we have never been before.  How to handle personnel challenges as we anticipate the next 12-18 months. What will the university look like in the Fall? The shortened timeframe before move-in (will there be a move-in)?
Low pay, lack of a living wage and associated absenteeism and high rate of turnover, feeding into use of hourly’s/temps to cover permanent vacancies. Morale remains up and team daily show-up rates have improved under COVID-19 conditions.
Work load like plant installation, managing projects, arboretum maintenance, general landscape maintenance upkeep, plant collection maintenance, lack of volunteers, woodland maintenance, campus tours, on-campus national conferences, and team building.
Social distancing is difficult for getting staff moved around the campus and having enough space during lunch breaks.
Deciding when to start mowing grass, what level to maintain grass height, how to perform parking lot & road patching while maintaining proper social distancing.
Uncertainty with public health.
Hiring freeze instituted by our Governor.
Wanting to be ready for summer campus tours starting up.
Efficient means of social distancing, primarily in regard to transporting staff throughout the campus. Getting buy in from all staff.  Some staff are more concerned than others.
Reduced schedule results in layoff of contract employees.
Our current environment has not presented us with challenges that we can’t easily adapt to.
We are working with minimal staff. They know the work is building but the University has the responsibility for their safety. That is the primary reason to do the minimal but still stay in compliance with local code.
Everything is growing at maximum rate, and the campus is not closed.  We cannot afford to get behind with mowing and trimming, as it affects the appearance and public / recruiting perceptions of the university.  We will consider outsourcing the planting bed prep and planting to ensure this is addressed.
The weather is starting to warm creating more demand for more workers.
The lack of spring clean-up work will compound the needs when we can return.
Getting the mulching and normal spring work completed.
Some fear of public restrooms.
Synchronizing services and staff availability with State, County, City orders to stay at home. Establish priorities of services and frequencies for when restrictions lighten.
Summer employees, if any and how to plan accordingly.
In our area grass is just starting to grow for the season. With reduced working hours and no student staff we will not be able to mow and trim everything.
Unusually extreme weather patterns.
Things are starting to grow (weeds, grass, shrubs) and reduced staffing is making it more difficult to manage regular upkeep.
Winter clean-up, raking lawns and debris removal.
Maintaining team structure while continuing to social distance.
Being able to perform our seasonal work of edging/mulching and soon mowing.
Flower beds and tree trimming.
Determining a strategy to replace the irrigation system on the older part of the campus.
Trying to stay ahead of the weeds and irrigation needs.
Getting PPE supplies.
The most pressing challenge that we face is performing necessary services while keeping employees safe.
Weed abatement and mowing.
To maintain as much as we can of the current task schedule with people out and staggering schedules.  We are just not as efficient when the crew is split in half and there is not always a supervisor to monitor crew task completion.  Also, it is a difficult time and it is weighing on people’s minds.
How to get things done in 2 days during the start of the growing season.
Until grass is growing and weeding needs to be done, we are in good shape.
Convincing administration that landscapes, fields, weed control, etc. still need to continue as it will cost more to get them back in shape if we stop.  Keeping morale high as folks see their peers being furloughed.  Helping some understand why they are “essential” when campus seems like a ghost town.
Hiring seasonal help.
Switching gears to spring cleaning and planting, while Mother Nature remains fickle about temperatures and weather patterns.
Developing an operational plan. Understanding resource needs for regular, crucial, and critical services during this time while maintaining the integrity of the campus and being able to respond to emergencies that may arise.
Interpreting Executive Orders from the Governor’s office that apply to landscape companies, but don’t address residential communities (our retirement community, golf course, and park maintenance neighbors are struggling with the same).  Increased public use of campus grounds as a ‘park’ for outdoor recreation.
How to keep the turf, trees, and shrubs healthy without consistent maintenance.
Adequately keep weeds from taking over areas that can’t have the level of attention needed at this critical point in the growing season; keeping grass mowed consistently to not alter the growth horizon/stature for lasting damage.
Social distancing if we have a snow event.
We’ve been fortunate to not have any struggles, we are getting close to mowing season so we are holding our own and preparing for upcoming work load increases as the weather improves.
Transition from winter to spring.
Where to purchase PPE and disinfectant spray for when we return to work.
Not getting laid off.
Diminished staff due to shelter in place orders, promoting same standard of care with limited budget and staff.
We are looking to rental equipment to help develop smaller crews.
Cold, rain, lack of manpower.
Trying to maintain the campus with only a little over half of the staff being present each day.
Very soon we will have to bring people back to keep up with mowing.
Since our surrounding community is all staying home, we are seeing a substantial amount of trash and campus use as neighbors around the university use the campus as a park and fitness place.
Keeping people safe.  Aging staff with health concerns.
Usually, these guys work together as a unit… moving equipment, one hedging, another cutting, and anther trimming.  They also empty lager trash containers together (take more than one to pick the trash bags out of the large containers).  Now, they can’t work together.
Assisting with campus projects that require close coordination/proximity. Ex: helping with enabling moves for a large scale building renovation project.
We have been unable to perform Grounds activities, including weed spraying and winter to spring change-over, as our Governor has declared those activities as non-essential.
Lawn maintenance.
We rely on student workers to supplement our tasks.  Having to try to do the minimum and keep the campus to look nice, since the appearance will be the money maker when site visits occur.
Keeping up with mowing with limited staffing.
Warranty walk-thrust and coordinating replacement materials during the ‘planting’ window.
Breaking old habits, i.e. not taking breaks and lunch together in close proximity to one another; trying to cover the same scope of work (to the same standard) with slightly fewer people.
1) Weeds grow better than the grass when not treated. 2) Everything is growing and cannot mow it, weed wipe it etc… 3) Some staff do not want come in.
Keeping up with campus expectations using reduced staff. Trying to abide by social distancing and following essential personnel guidelines, when they change often.
Regular maintenance.
Currently not under a reduced staff directive.  Once grass begins to grow, possibly a challenge to hire temporary staff and student staff for trimming and hand mowing. Next fiscal period faced with a budget cut impacting FTE’s.
Just trying to maintain, most of the staff are in their 50’s.
The most pressing challenge is only having 50% of staff on campus; therefore limiting weekly execution of work.
What to do with seasonal plants which have been purchased, but will need ongoing labor to maintain at a level that we won’t have.
Scheduling work with fewer student resources.
Currently wondering how we are going to cope with planting all the material we order; ordinarily this is done by a small army of volunteers in one day.
Using time to PM equipment and organize shop.
Hiring freeze and potential lack of seasonal workers.
Social distancing and to be able to get from duty to duty.
Keeping going with the revised List of Essential Workplaces in the Province of Ontario. Maintenance has been defined as: maintenance, repair and property management services strictly necessary to manage and maintain the safety, security, sanitation and essential operation of institutional, commercial, industrial and residential properties and buildings.
We typically supplement our Grounds crew with a service contract.  Due to budget reduction, the contractor was paid for April only.  We had to cancel May and June’s payment.  We are doing our best to maintain the relationship so that when July 1 arrives, the contractor will return.
Inability to perform post-winter clean up, herbicide application, pruning, mowing.
What to do with the landscape if the shutdown continues through the summer.
Assisting with dorm/apt move-outs and packing of student belongings.
How to keep the look of the campus close to what all still expect while on a workforce of under 50%.  Determining how we bring the Landscape back quickly once the Campus is “Back”.
Keeping up with spring duties.
Staggered schedules. No major projects. So we aren’t progressing. Just standing still.
Removal of student move out waste.
Spring has sprung, so keeping up with the initial growth has been difficult.  The use of PGR has slowed growth of plants in some areas.  Having students away from campus has allowed us to speed up time with tasks.
Safety/personal health, child care.
We do have some reduced services since they do not need to support the various athletic sporting events.  So we have not filled some vacancies that would normally support the games and camps.
Getting behind on regular work orders due to only completing minimally required tasks.
Keeping grounds looking appropriate for recruitment.
Keeping everyone safe with the PPE and healthy!
Prepping planting beds for Spring planting season.
Spring turf maintenance, planning spring annual fowlers, storm debris cleanup.
Keeping up with mowing, weeding.  Planning to be prepared for reopening of campus when the timeline is unknown.
Social distancing and how it relates to the assigned tasks. Providing frequent updates to the team.
Weed control and keeping grass mowed.
Start of growing season and not getting behind.
Just to work safely within DC guidelines.  Staff are used to working close together and now have to stay spread out.
PMs are not getting done.
Assisting with on campus COVID-19 testing for the county.
Keeping our campus at the level we are accustomed.
Aging workforce with underlying medical conditions that cause fear and anxiety.
How we will get back to business when Michigan opens back up.
How to get everything done with a skeleton crew.
Solving the problem of knowing how to staff, what services to provide, and how to maintain morale at this time.