Wednesday 14 November 2018
Marie Gabriel: financial problems are the biggest cause of stress for staff.
Marie Gabriel, the chair of East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT), led a Management Life workshop on promoting staff health and wellbeing at the MiP Members’ Summit on 6 November. The trust, which provides mental health and community services to some of the capital’s most deprived communities, has won widespread acclaim for its innovative approach to staff engagement and employee wellbeing.
Gabriel, who has held senior posts in the NHS and not-for-profit organisations for more than 20 years, explained how her trust had adopted a system-wide improvement approach, which involved identifying and tackling factors that undermined staff wellbeing, working to reduce violence against staff, and launching a proactive “Joy at Work” programme.
The ELFT carried out a survey into the incidence and causes of stress and depression, using the HSE definition of stress: “an adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them”. The survey took account of the fact that stress affects people differently, and that factors like skills and experience, age or disability can all affect how employees cope with workplace pressures.
The survey, which concluded in February 2018, found that over a twelve month period staff suffered an average of five episodes of stress or depression that were work-related, but a “staggering” 362 episodes that were not related to work, Gabriel said.
ELFT then invited 300 staff who had been absent due to stress to an externally-facilitated stress work-shop lead by staff from the mental health charity MIND.
The key workplace stressors identified by the group were:
- staff shortages
- the behaviour of managers
- the trust’s sickness absence procedure
- workplace systems and facilities
- lack of communication within the trust
- inadequate support from HR
- the management of organisational change
- health and safety issues
- personal security
But the research revealed that by far the biggest cause of stress for employees were financial problems outside the workplace, Gabriel explained.
ELFT has introduced a raft of changes to try and reduce the physical, mental and financial causes of workplace stress, anxiety and depression, Gabriel said. These include “Be Well Thursdays”, health MOTs for staff, and health improvement sessions. The trust also adopted a more “family friendly” HR policy and introduced an employee assistance programme delivered by the leading staff wellbeing consultancy, CiC.
Gabriel said it was also important for the trust to respond to the financial concerns raised by staff, and it now provides access to interest-free loans and credit unions, childcare vouchers and holiday play schemes.
Finally, delegates heard about the trust’s “Joy at Work” programme – a four step process designed to ensure that every employee at ELFT enjoyed their work and felt valued in their job. Staff were asked first asked what mattered to them most, and then the individual impediments to staff wellbeing were identified and plans drawn up to tackle them. Further stages in the programme involved making sure that staff at all levels were fully committed to the scheme, and the use of improvement science techniques to build on wellbeing achievements.