pro landscaper magazine
pro landscaper magazine


by | 30 Mar 20 | Features

Johnstone Landscapes

In our latest coronavirus update we speak with Dr Marcus Watson, managing director of Ground Control, one of the UK’s largest landscaping companies. Over the last few years, Ground Control has strategically built a balanced portfolio of work including grounds maintenance, arboriculture, landscape construction and winter maintenance amongst other services. It is also one of the most, if not the most, advanced landscape companies using technology to drive the business. 

Ground Control is currently following government advice and continues to deliver support services to its customers, who include electricity, gas, water and utilities providers, food retailers, government bodies and care services. This part of the work is currently not being affected by the COVID-19 outbreak but Marcus says he has seen huge amounts of change for other parts of the business which have been hit particularly hard, especially clients in tourism, hospitality and non-food retail, some of whom have paused Ground Control’s services.

Marcus said: “Following an excellent 2019-2020, I expect this year will be really tough, especially as the economy will need to readjust once the outbreak is under control. The immediate impact means that we are reallocating staff, for example to areas that support the UK’s infrastructure. We have seeing a reduction in staff resource due to self-isolation and sickness but not as much as feared.

“The main focus for investment has been in our people and technology. The investment in technology started 10 years ago, and this has meant that 90% of our work is delivered remotely enabled by tech. Because of the investment in technology, our office-based staff are just as effective working remotely, certainly in the short term; long term this may have an effect on the social cohesion and team morale,” which Marcus says cements the company’s culture, values and “one team” ethos.




Marcus sets out some tips on the way to successfully work from home:

  • Working from home – in this phrase the key word is ‘working’. Be prepared and go to work – you’re not at home working, you are working which happens to be at home
  • Have your routine. When you go into work you wake up, shower, put your branded uniform on and leave for the office but for home working instead of leaving you go to your dining room or study, kitchen etc.
  • You need to have the right mindset, not be slumped on your sofa watching morning TV with your laptop on your lap
  • Use technology, such as video calling. At Ground Control, we have a daily video call with all senior managers which we call ‘ADDER’
  • Making video meetings professional; set a time and agenda and act professionally. Have the same meeting etiquette you would for a face to face meeting
  • Create a separation from your work life and your private life; this is also extremely important for your mental health as well
  • Keep in touch, practice social cohesion. Ground Control has created virtual pubs so on a Friday evening all staff can drop in with a glass of prosecco, have a catch up, natter and enjoy the company of colleagues. Communication is absolute key, especially with things rapidly changing
  • Send an everyday brief to managers to share with their staff – relevant information that helps staff have confidence in making decisions, know what’s going on and helps alleviate stress
  • Once a week, post a YouTube video

With much change and uncertainty, we are all learning how to work differently and have the awareness that this could continue to change. Once the virus is under control the world will look completely different and the way we work and react will no doubt have to adapt. Whatever the situation we find ourselves in, the key for working from home is to have the right attitude. Be prepared and professional and communicate as much as possible.

Ground ControlTomorrow, we will hear from Paul Lynch of Elmtree Garden Contractors regarding his outlook on the pandemic.

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