How much time do you spend in work? We full timers spend about 225 of our 365 days a year at work, spending about 1687 hours (well those we’re paid for!) in the company of the people we work with and patients we care for – but how well do we know them?
When you consider that we probably spend more time with these people than we do with those we choose to spend our lives with, think again, how well do you know them, what’s important to them and what are their (and our) little idiosyncrasies that can make or break a relationship!
What’s that old saying? – you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family? Well unless you’re the recruiting person and you’re starting to recruit a new team from scratch then co-workers fall in to the family category! As for patients and their families, then even more so, they are tied to us and we to them, for the duration of their healthcare experience, like it or not.
In my opinion, it is really hard to maintain good relationships unless you work at them (I include spouses and significant others in that!). Yet do we invest in this critical interpersonal activity? I suspect many of us don’t in our personal lives and perhaps even less in work.
That’s why I was so intrigued with something that emerged from the Scottish Borders as part of their work on the @EYCollaborative where we are working across multi agency partnerships to make Scotland the #bestplacetogrowup.
They appreciated that in order to work effectively across a multi-agency team they needed to get to know each other better, to understand the different professional backgrounds that were coming together to work on service improvements with and for the children and families in their care.
The Scottish Borders @BordersEYC has a rich history of song and they decided to form a choir to use the power of song to join them together as a community. We have followed their lead in the Scottish Government and used improvement methods to improve our performance with an aim to sing to our 800 person learning session at the end of October (#terrified).
The medium for getting together is academic – what I am suggesting here is that perhaps we need to do something out of the ordinary to connect or reconnect with the people we work with, to get to know them better in a different context that will then make it easier to understand any issues they or we may have in a work situation.
Better understanding and closer relationships may lead to a better outcome – is my theory!
And what if it doesn’t? Then you’ve had a nicer time at work – win win!
So how do we do that, and how do we learn from other ‘Great Organisations’ that do this well?
Our American colleagues would promote this as ‘Joy at work’ and there is a lot written on how to achieve this nirvana, such as that in Dennis W. Bakke’s book of the same name:
“Imagine a company where people love coming to work and are highly productive on a daily basis. Imagine a company whose top executives, in a quest to create the most “fun” workplace ever, obliterate labor-management divisions and push decision-making responsibility down to the plant floor. Could such a company compete in today’s bottom-line corporate world? Could it even turn a profit?”
Now I am not suggesting that the NHS and other public sector agencies across the country are quite ready for this level of intervention, but I think there are things we could do.
Let’s start with a simple intervention described by a physician/patient @GrangerKate who as a patient became very aware that people often came along and didn’t introduce themselves. How hard can that be? And if we do, how do we do it? “Hello I am Professor Dame Rosamund Gray and you are honoured that I have spared the time to talk to you today” – joking (and aspirational – the Professor Dame bit that is not the totally up myself bit!) but I’m sure you can relate to the sentiment. We’re all busy, busy but taking the time to better connect with colleagues, patients and families in this way can reap great rewards.
If you were to take the mood temperature in your work place right now what would it feel like?
Many authors (such as Jo Manion here) note that a ‘positive mood has been directly linked to a range of different performance-related behaviours, including greater helping behaviour, enhanced creativity, integrative thinking, inductive reasoning, more efficient decision making, greater cooperation, and the use of more successful negotiation strategies’.
So is this something to test and celebrate – or improve – in your area? If you were to do one thing, what would it be?
Remember how much time you spend in that work place – make it the #bestplacetowork and people will flock to be there with you!
Ros Gray works for the Scottish Government and leads the Early Years Collaborative (@EYCollaborative) which aims to improve the lives of all children, aged 0-5, in Scotland.