As an Occupational Therapist working in the NHS I have seen many staff become burnt out or trying to attend work and “soldier on” when really they should be anywhere but at work. I’ve observed lots of things put on offer by the NHS for managing staff sickness for example counselling sessions, supervision, occupational health etc. However it’s always struck me that not a lot has been done to prevent workers getting to this point and the literature in Occupational Therapy involvement is scarce. When I saw this talk in the programme I knew I had to attend.
Miranda described in her talk how many companies offered tele-care for their staff, this was seen as a tick box measure to say that staff were offered support. This is neither effective or personal. It also does not address the issue of presenteeism – attending work when a person’s mind is not on the job and really should be on sick leave. Presenteeism leads to a decrease in productivity and becoming a burden for the team – ultimately leading to dysfunctional unhealthy teams. Companies however are very focussed on absence rates. Miranda discussed that once presenteeism was described to employers she received comments such as “ah yes I have 6 of those”. They could see that something else had to be done. This concept also had to be sold to companies using their own language – using words such as resilience resonates with companies who will commission services.
The course consists of a closed group with 6 sessions that were 2 hours long and which took place every other week. The key was that it was in the workplace, people wanting to attend snowballed from the first group through word of mouth. Feedback was that the attendees didn’t like the venue – it was in work! However other colleagues could hear and see laughter from the group sessions and were curious. Soon there was the creation of a culture to talk about balance and resilience in the office. Outstandingly there was virtually no drop out – the ones who did drop out said it was due to sessions clashing with meetings rather than choice – so therefore wasn’t a true drop out. Miranda completed measures of participants before and after to determine whether the group was having the desired effect.
Groups consisted of sessions covering sleep hygiene, self-esteem/respect, lifestyle diaries (which were colour coded) and stealthy exercise. Miranda stated that stealthy exercise is essential forf the sedentary office based worker – plus “why preach about having all your fruit and veg and 40 minutes of exercise every other day when I don’t even do this myself!?”
The results from the pre and post measures demonstrated significant changes in depression, anxiety and presenteeism scores. On top of this morale in the office was on the increase. Staff sickness absence, although already low as these were well members of staff, also dropped. Feedback from the group was resoundingly positive with every session being rated as invaluable
The difference between running this type of group in an office environment rather that offering a call centre is that Occupational Therapists can offer adaption to people’s need rather than a one size fits all.
A paper collaboration with Professor Diane Cox is currently in process and will be submitted to the BMJ. After all, our conference take home message had to be “Publish! Publish! Publish! Good luck and I look forward to reading it in print!
For more information on Miranda Thew’s work:
Follow her on Twitter: @ThewMiranda
View her Healthy Living – Breathing Techniques video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3QXDpSCr3o
Or read her book: Thew, M. and Mckenna, J. (2008) Lifestyle Management in Health and Social Care. Chichester: Blackwell.
Blog post by: Catherine Gray (@CGray_OT)