|What issue was facing your organisation?During 2011, staff from Kings Health Partners worked with 7 NHS teams to identify the factors that influenced staff wellbeing in the workplace.The result was a range of new pilot initiatives designed to improve wellbeing. These launched from October 2012, under the banner happier@work.
The teams uncovered three services which identified physical space as having a significant impact on their wellbeing: a community mental health team, a walk in centre and an older adults inpatient ward.
Four challenges were identified:
Q: What action did your organisation take?
A project, funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, was created. It offered the teams £8000 each to ‘create space for well-being’. All three worked with an artist-in-residence beforehand to explore what was possible.
The project took an action research approach to provide a safe and protected space in which staff could review their role, identity and interactions. It began with a review of previous mental wellbeing impact assessments by the artist-in-residence and preliminary visits to the sites.
A second stage involved workshops to elicit staff perceptions of the issues they faced. The initial discussions fed into the development stage, which focused on collaborative working between the artist-in-residence and staff. The ideas were then developed into an implementation plan.
Despite the teams operating in very different physical spaces they, independently, each sought to create a ‘sanctuary’ at work. The walk in centre revamped the kitchen area creating a welcoming space where staff could take a break from work, meet and eat together. The community service created a ‘chill out’ area in their open plan office where staff could stop, think and reflect. The inpatient unit, where space was extremely limited, created temporary ‘pop up’ wellbeing spaces where visiting therapists could provide staff with a range of 20 minute therapies such as shiatsu massage and aromatherapy.
The key implementation difficulty faced by the project was engagement with estates and estates processes which caused delays in completion of the work and project.
Q: What has been the impact of implementing health interventions?
All sites have reported improved quality of the working environment, increased opportunities for staff down-time and relaxation, reduced stress levels, improved communications and interaction between staff, and a sense of staff feeling more valued.
“We became the envy of other people in the building. It meant someone loved us. Other teams came to see the new look office.”
“Now staff have an area where they can eat together, they use it – they are ‘captured’ so they have to communicate more.”
“It forced staff to embrace down-time”.
“Just walking through the space, you were in a different world. You felt you were outside the hospital.”
Analysis of data from the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale showed staff felt ‘Creating Spaces for wellbeing’ had in particular made a strong contribution to improving specific aspects of their wellbeing such as their sense of cheerfulness, and feeling good about themselves.
Overall, the results suggest the project has succeeded in its desired impact of improving staff mental wellbeing through changes to the workspace. It has provided a sound evidence base to support the underlying theory that higher quality work environments will have a beneficial effect on staff wellbeing.
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