NHS Horizons’ approach to team wellbeing improvement

Posted by: NHS Horizons - Posted on:

Originally published by Rosanna Hunt – 27th November 2020

The NHS and NHS England have placed a lot of emphasis on staff wellbeing through the pandemic. We in Horizons are supporting several programmes in this sphere including:

– facilitating the Wednesday afternoon NHS staff wellbeing community #Caring4NHSPeople

– supporting NHS England’s Health and Wellbeing Transformation Programme

– facilitating the #ProjectM community which gets together for discussions on Twitter

Whilst we support National initiatives, we are also passionate about team wellbeing and have our own approach to team wellbeing improvement, which we share here.

Horizons’ approach to team wellbeing improvement

We developed our approach in 2016 in response to rising sickness levels related to stress, but even after we achieved that initial goal (sickness rates went down from 15% to 3% in 8 months between May and December 2016) we decided that we needed to continue developing our approach. We now have five years’ worth of impact data as we use the 7-item version of the Warwick Short Edinburgh Wellbeing Survey at the end of each week to measure our team’s wellbeing. Our approach was well established before Covid-19 and continues to facilitate our team’s adaptation to the changes we are all experiencing during this unprecedented time.

Here are the key features of our approach:

Agree action for improvement as a team

Teams of up to 17 or so can usually agree between them, an action everyone can try to take to improve team wellbeing, but that discussion should be facilitated. For us, as a team of 25, it is most effective when those discussions are facilitated within smaller groups who are experiencing negative wellbeing due to work-related issues and behaviours. They then identify an action the whole team can take to improve experience.

Undertake 30-60-90 day improvement sprints

Usually, we identify an action that is simple and that everyone in the team can commit to do. For example, taking breaks, integrating soft deadlines into our project plans and random acts of kindness. Recently, since working remotely during the pandemic, we have been working on more complex improvements such as managing work-home boundaries and developing ways to work asynchronously together (where we each provide input to a project on a shared virtual platform at times that suit us individually, as opposed to in real-time). The willingness to come together as a team to benefit the whole team can take time to build up. The action should be done in work-time and it’s important to just get started with taking action and reviewing it at the end of the 30 day cycle. If it hasn’t worked, that’s okay! It gives you a lot of intelligence on what is really needed. A team conversation about why the improvement cycle failed, then gives us ideas to implement a new 30-60 or 90 day improvement cycle. Read more about how this approach maintains team agility here.

Trust Partners

Team wellbeing is different to individual wellbeing, but sometimes we need a confidential space for the individual to express their experience. To enable that, we have four Trust Partners within our team of 25, who are available for confidential conversations where the objective is to help individuals achieve the wellbeing improvement they want. These Trust Partners have attended a coaching workshop and practiced the art of helping others to identify their goal and take the required action they need to do to progress towards it.

Measure wellbeing

Our weekly Warwick-Short Edinburgh wellbeing data is also a very useful starting point from which to initiate a wellbeing discussion. If our wellbeing score is below the National Average, we delve a little deeper, to start to identify the things that need to change.

Put wellbeing at the top of the agenda

Wellbeing is always at the top of the agenda at our Monday morning team “Huddle”, which is held virtually, on Zoom. This helps to reduce barriers between people and builds trust in the team. We use this space to look at the previous week’s wellbeing data and discuss any improvements we want to make. We often divide the team into Zoom break-out groups to dig a little deeper into experiences and issues that need resolving.

Use the evidence

There is a lot of evidence already out there on how to improve wellbeing at work – from supporting each other to take daily breaks, to being explicit about what exactly it is that we appreciate about our colleagues – we shared some of this evidence in this slidedeck and new knowledge about what works well is now being shared by the #ProjectM community.

Looking over our past 5 years’ worth of data, we have noticed that any intervention that facilitates more appreciation of our colleagues is a winner for team wellbeing. Compassion and thinking of others seem to be magic ingredients for teams.

Why is this important?

Work can be a source of mental ill-health as well as a source of satisfaction. The camaraderie that keeps so many people in the NHS thriving at work and striding on through adversity is worth its weight in gold. A team-focussed approach (as distinct from an organisation-wide or individual intervention) allows us work with context and harness camaraderie. By responding to our changing circumstances in an agile way as a group, we can sustain ourselves and each other through good times and bad.

Join these communities to share your own views and learn from others.

#Caring4NHSPeople – The next session will be Wednesday 9 December at 4pm. More information available here.

#ProjectM – The next tweet chat will take place on 2nd December 2020 7pm to 8pm

Not taken part in a Tweetchat before? Check out this post from Leigh Kendall, our social influence lead.

“its all about togetherness right now, support each other as best we can”