Prime Environment are pleased to announce that Zoe Phillips has joined us as an Ecologist in the Cambridge office. Zoe brings with her a wealth of experience and has been working as an ecology consultant in Cambridgeshire for several years. Zoe has a great crested newt survey licence and is very proficient in Preliminary Ecological Appraisals and other protected species.
Zoe brings with her Skye, our new office dog. We weren’t too sure which we more excited to start; Skye certainly gets a lot of attention from our staff and visitors!
Zoe’s profile is here and he can be contacted on 0330 2233806.
I wanted to share this on our blog, as I think that working conditions for ecologists is a real issue – I hear reports of car accidents after bat surveys, instances of mental health problems and people who have left the industry because of the working conditions and I genuinely find the way that some, especially junior ecologist, are over worked in other consultancies abhorrent and dangerous. I’m all for making a profit, finding efficiencies by doubling up surveys and delivering the goods for our clients, but there shouldn’t be a human impact to that.
Ecologists work hard in spring and summer, they work long hours with odd shifts, late nights, early starts and tight deadlines. This work and dedication should be appropriately rewarded.
Hayley and I have discussed how to process TOIL (time off in lieu) or overtime, avoid summer burn-out, and what to do about the ever-elusive winter downtime that never seems to really appear.
We know that time sheets are not always 100% accurate, and can be a poor way to track or monitor work over contracted hours (so called ‘hidden overtime’). To date we have had a loose system of self-regulated time off in lieu, where employees are expected to manage their workload so that they do not accrue overtime (i.e. come in late after an evening survey or leave early on Friday after a busy week), but we don’t think that this really covers the hard work that ecologists do over the summer months nor does it necessarily account for shortened lunch breaks, staying in those extra few half hours a week to get reports out etc. that can creep in and create unaccounted overtime (i.e. time that doesn’t show up on a time sheet). Not to mention how difficult it is to maintain a work life balance when out doing bat surveys, newt surveys etc. and seeing your friends and family ease off a little to enjoy the summer.
Starting now, we are trialling the following system:
- Staff are encouraged to take holiday leave in summer (as they always have done)
- Working hours are self-regulated to avoid burning out, stress or other poor conditions
- Overtime or ‘time off in lieu’ is not accrued
- All ecology staff are rewarded with a four-day week in November, December, January and February
- The winter four-day week will mean taking Friday off each week (paid in full, with full benefits).
We also need to remain aware that we are a commercial enterprise, and that we need to continue to complete work for clients and turn a profit. I have an expectation that a four day week is a focused one! This is borne out by research. Perpetual Guardian (a New Zealand trust / wills firm) trialled a four-day work week and they also employed researchers to quantitatively assess the results. They found that
“Employees reported a 24 percent improvement in work-life balance, and came back to work energised after their days off,” and that it “motivated them to find ways of increasing their productivity while in the office.”
We are already working on our ways of increasing productivity, from our quote to invoice and everything in between project management software, flexible home working and smart report templates but I’m sure there is much more that we can do on this. Hopefully this winter will help us focus on making further gains in efficiency. After all, the value of the company is its output, not the number of hours taken to get there.
An additional benefit of the four day week is that this will have an environmental impact – fewer miles driven to the office, lights off for longer and we can set the office heater program to low on 3 days in 7 rather than 2 in 7.
Thanks for reading.
Prime Environment are recruiting an Ecologist (or Senior Ecologist) to join the Cambridge office.
Working in collaboration with the Principal Ecologist, you will deliver field work and reporting in the south east. You will be responsible for managing clients and their projects, keeping to budget and managing subcontractors, all with support from the ecology team. You will be encouraged to contribute ideas and innovation to improve the quality of our technical output and improve the efficiency of our work.
You will have at least three years’ experience in consultancy, have good technical skills (surveying, concise technical writing, tendering, communication) and experience in quoting, dealing directly with clients, planning applications and field work.
You will be a highly motivated individual, able to work at a very high standard, in a hard-working but supportive environment, where collaboration is encouraged and where having happy staff is seen as a sign of success.
To apply for the position, email your CV and covering letter here.
We are delighted to announce that Hayley Farnell is now Principal Ecologist. Hayley has worked very hard developing our Cambridge office for some time now and has excelled leading the team here. Our client base in Cambridge is growing year on year and we continue to attract interesting projects for high profile clients.
Hayley manages ecology input for EIA schemes across the south east and is a skilled field surveyor specialising in bats. Hayley also volunteers as a bat carer in her spare time.
If you have an ecology project in the south east of England, Hayley can be contacted on 0330 2233825.
Prime Environment is really pleased to welcome their newest recruit – Emma Thomas.
Emma joins the Cambridge office as an Assistant Ecologist to support our work in the South East.
Emma has returned to consulting after a few years contributing to academic research on the front lines of conservation biology. Her previous experience working as an assistant consultant saw Emma work on both small and large-scale projects including for the Yorkshire and Humber CCS cross country pipeline and Dover Castle.
We are currently interviewing for a graduate or assistant ecologist to join our Cambridge office. Click here for more details.
Summer has been an exciting time for us here at Prime Environment – we’ve been very busy with newt, badger, bat, reptile and bird surveys along with being onsite helping our clients with licenced work, and taking care of bats while roof works are completed.
Every season brings new challenges to our clients and a change to the services that we can provide. If you have a proposed development or planning application coming up, consider whether you will need any of these surveys over autumn and winter:
• Preliminary Ecological Assessment / Phase 1 Habitat Survey
• Bat Building Inspections (bats do not need to be present for an initial assessment)
• Tree Inspections for Bats (roosting features are easier to find when leaves have dropped)
• Badger Sett Surveys (finding burrows can be easier once summer vegetation has died)
• Bat Box Checks and Maintenance
• Winter Bird Surveys
• Bat Data Analysis
Reflection on the Summer
Looking back at the year so far, we have welcomed Jon Moore, Senior Ecologist to our Midlands and North team, moved our head office from Belper to Cromford, and implemented new project management software across the company. We have also opened a second office in Cambridge, leaving us confident that we can expand our base in East Anglia, the South East and London.
The projects we work on are often in the early stages of the planning process meaning that most of our work remains confidential until complete. We can however reveal that we have been working on an exciting woodland and pasture project on the south coast. We have been helping with detailed bat surveys and managing radio tracking of Bechstein’s bats (one of our rarest species of bat) for two years now. This project has been great, as most of the masterplan has been ecology-led, and the final plan will include a lot of habitat creation measures to maintain bat flightpaths, as well as mitigation for reptiles and dormice.
As well as this, we have also been involved in initial surveys to inform Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) for a major sport stadium redevelopment, along with many other projects.
Could you be our next tree expert?
We’ve grown a great deal over the summer and we’re now looking for a Senior Arboriculture Consultant to join our team.We are looking for someone with a passion for trees and ecology with excellent report writing skills to drive and develop this aspect of our business. Click Here
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At Prime Environment, we take great pride in being a part of your team. Our friendly consultants are trusted by architects, engineers, and project managers. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help.
To contact us, click here.
We are really proud to announce that our second office is now open in Cambridge. It has been a long time coming, especially for our until-now homeworking senior ecologist Hayley Farmell.
We’ve got a lovely site in a rural location just west of Cambridge (in Knapwell), with nice easy access to the A14 and M1 to service our clients across the south east, London and east anglia.
This is just a quick update to announce that our Central office has moved from Belper to Cromford in Derbyshire.
Although we didn’t want to leave Belper (three of us live there, and two could walk to work), we outgrew the office and it wasn’t really fit for purpose for an ecology consultancy – lugging great crested newt traps up two flights of stairs for each survey was never fun!
The new office, which is part of the Arkwright’s Mill complex, means that we are set for our future growth; we have spare desk space, a decent break out area, a private meeting room, outside and inside storage and parking (which seems to be as rare as bat eggs at the moment).
Our new address is Prime Environment, Carriage House, Mill Road, Cromford, DE4 3RQ.
We look forward to meeting you here.
What We Do
We have offices in Cambridge and Derby, and field bases in Buckinghamshire, Essex and Yorkshire, allowing us to work across the UK.
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