Big questions

 In Blog

By Cat Harrison

I went along to my first Melting Pot Lunch recently, which focused on how we can explore the notion of experiencing and helping others to experience feeling joy about their work – which is shortened to ‘Joy in Work’.

A group of 15 or so of us, from all over (policy, organisation leadership, junior doctors, consultancies, a CCG and more) talked about what it meant to us and what we felt stood in the way for staff in healthcare.

Joy in work is something we advocate for strongly in the Sign up to Safety Team. From all we’ve seen since 2014, when we started on this path, it is clear that for people to work safely, they need to be able to rely on strong relationships and connections with those they work alongside that help to foster a strong and just culture. One where people feel valued, heard, cared for. And joy is such a key part of this.

So key in fact that it has been a strategic part of how we choose to communicate and engage with our members from the very start, with our experiences and the insight we’ve gained since then only serving to convince us further of its important role in working safely.

I relished the chance to speak to others about this and the conversation was as fruitful as I’d hoped in helping me consider different perspectives. I imagine we all left with questions in our minds. Mine included the below. I don’t have the answers but I have added the key points that spring to my mind;

How can we help people to see that joy, kindness and reaching out to help people talk to each other are actually robust, effective and essential components of leadership fit for the future of health and social care?

The reality is that, as plans are increasingly being created in partnership with different parts of the system, with responsibility shared, a more collaborative leadership style is going to be downright necessary for success, and must replace the traditional command and control approach of the NHS for collaboration to be achieved. And this is just one reason why a more open and collaborative style of leadership – which is kinder – is arguably in everyone’s best interests and should not be perceived as weak.

How can we make sure that values like kindness, humility and supportiveness are rewarded and seen as essential, not dismissed?

Learning from Excellence and the joy that Appreciative Inquiry brings show that there’s a growing appetite as well as a necessity to learn from what goes right as well as what goes wrong in care. There is potential to foster this not just in the realm of safety where this is normally discussed or seen as owned (despite safety being everyone’s business), but in every department.

Conversations with these values at heart could change the relentless focus on negativity and help all levels, from senior leaders onwards, get closer to what is really happening vs work as imagined, and create the opportunity to do more of what really works.

What more can we do to give people the opportunity to connect and instil joy in work?

Joy looks different to each and every one of us, and having the conversation to connect with those around you to find out what matters where you work is a great step forward. At the lunch, some around the table talked of the tribalism that pervades as a barrier to joy. This is a big problem with no quick and easy fix. But we do know that people gain an immense amount from the simple of action of being able to talk to each other, and that people are holding kitchen tables events across England, bringing people together from different areas and backgrounds to talk about what they know and experience. It’s certainly a good place to start and there is so much scope to grow this simple idea. We have resources to help below that can help with your conversations whether they be a ‘kitchen table’ or another form of conversation. And we want to know how else can we help you? What do you need to make it happen?

Plenty of food for thought. But I left with an overwhelming feeling of hopefulness. These questions would be great conversations at a kitchen table. Please do tell us if you try them.

We’ll be continuing our focus on joy and the role it plays in creating a just culture over the coming weeks, and we hope you join the conversation (subscribe to our newsletter here). If you’d like to share your thoughts, you could feature here in our experiences section. Email in with your ideas and we’ll support you all the way. And if you want some help to talk about this where you work, get in touch with us and we may be able to support you more directly.

Resources to help you:

A Melting Pot Lunch is a way in which an organisation called Kaleidoscope Health and Care bring together diverse groups from across health and care to discuss a key issue relevant to a range of different perspectives – all over a good lunch in inspiring locations across London.

The IHI Framework for Improving Joy in Work (amongst others) provides the ample evidence that positivity, positive feedback and learning from what works well is associated with improvements in patient safety and a reduction in harm and error as well as better staff wellbeing and patient experience.

Beyond Burnout is a call to action for joy in work from Kaleidoscope Health and Care. It looks at where joy can be found in healthcare work, why it is important, how it can be cultivated by individuals and organisations, and how organisations can help their staff find the joy they need.

A kitchen table is an effective way to start a conversation around what joy looks like to those you work with, and is a way to create a warm and open environment where people feel able to speak, be listened to, heard and understood. Click here for the topics we asked people to discuss this year.

About the author;

Cat Harrison is the communications and engagement lead for the Sign up to Safety team, and has advised numerous FTSE100 companies as well as national charities and health-related organisations. Her expertise lies in the development of impactful campaigns, the importance of language and tone in connecting with people and engagement approaches that motivate and excite people to take action to make care safer. You can contact her at @catharrison4

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