Blue Flower

In this short animation Deputy Chief Constable Andy Rhodes from Lancashire Constabulary explains what Wellbeing involves for the Police Service. Creating the right environment is key to allowing people to lead a meaningful and purposeful working life. He explains how good leadership and personal resilience also play critical roles. What is the role of the line manager? Do they discuss issues that are bothering them? Is there trust between colleagues and supervisors? How are our people handling the recent cutbacks and changes to working conditions? How do we know people have problems in their home life? How are supervisors dealing with all these issues on top of the work coming in from the public? Is there a culture in Policing that prevents these conversations, and what do we do about them? A scenario is presented in this short piece that illustrates the benefits a focus on wellbeing can bring...

 

 

I am often asked to outline the business case for Well-being. Although you would think this is relatively straightforward I would liken the task to describing Culture or Identity. It means so many things to so many different people. Of late I have described two arguments, one for the heart and one for the head. This is to make it clear to a range of people who may think very differently about the subject area.

Heart - By this I mean business people who focus very much on their people as the face of their company, with whom customers have a relationship, and with whom that relationship is vital for business success. In this case it is vital that they enjoy their work, draw great meaning and purpose from it, and talk fondly and with compassion about their employment; and employers.

Head - On the other hand, and without criticism, we have people who are concerned predominantly with the bottom line; how much is it all costing? One of the great features of Well-being is that it draws on both arguments, and combinations of such.

If we talk about the argument for the heart I would say that Well-being is not simply the absence of ill health, it is so much more. I would describe the common notion, physical health, sleeping well, eating the right things, plenty of exercise, no smoking and alcohol in moderation. I struggle to describe abstinence here! But also societal health is important, good friendship circles, relationships, confidence and ambition. I would associate this with psychological health, a good outlook on life and so on. It would be remiss not to mention financial wellbeing in the current climate also, which can really get us down, and although many commentators would argue it is not all about wealth, when we struggle financially it can bring everything else to bear so vividly.

If asked to describe the head, or fiscal business case, there are stark figures published on a regular basis that remind us of the cost of getting this wrong. According to the Office for National Statistics 131 million days were lost due to sickness absences in the UK in 2013. Mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety contributed to a significant number of days of work lost in 2013, at 15.2 million days. The CIPD reported that in 2013 the average level of sickness was 7.6 days per employee per year, and in the public services sector it was 8.7 days per employee per year. In terms of management 16% said they feel under excessive pressure every day and just under a quarter (23%) experience this pressure once or twice a week. The main reason for feeling under excessive pressure was reported to be workload, followed by pressure to meet targets, management style and poorly managed change/ restructuring. 67% of employees said they personally have gone into work in the past 12 months when they were genuinely ill rather than take the day off sick, so called Presenteeism. I have also wrote about a further phenomenon of employees taking annual leave or flexi time off when they have been too poorly to attend work, in order to avoid adverse feelings towards them or negative commentary on their absence records, so called Leaveism.

 

 

I would say that in terms of both the head and the heart, the case for Well-being is made out clearly.

I would suggest 3 main factors impact on workplace wellbeing:

1. Creating the right Environment

2. Good Leadership

3. Personal Resilience

Organisations that consciously address these areas are sure to benefit from their approach. A simple business case for Well-being.

IMG 0762

Sleep patterns, working around the clock, different types of light, and our personality type all impact on our sleeping habits; and Well-being.

Cartoon Cop1The time of day when a person functions at their best, or their 'Chronotype,' has been a subject scientists have a burgeoning interest in. We explore the extent to which this can impact on the Police, and in particular to those who work 24/7.  Broadly split into 'Larks' and 'Owls', knowing your own type (or ‘circadian preference’) can assist you to lead a healthier lifestyle. It seems our 'Circadian Rhythm' is born out of our instinct to feed, 'early bird catches the worm' and all that. The rhythm is set by our reaction to day and night (light), our 'body clock', with some of us reacting [to daylight] slowly (Owls); and some more quickly (Larks)! 

It appears Owls work better, harder and more creatively later in the day, Larks are better in the morning. If you are somewhere in the middle you may be the perfect response officer! However, it seems our type may alter with age. Broadly speaking, the very young and the elderly take on a morning preference. Teenagers are usually the opposite, an explanation for you mums and dads; so do not despair!

Over-riding your clock, for example to go to work at unsociable hours, can make us feel unwell, and may result in unhealthy outcomes such as sleep deprivation. This in turn can expose us to more serious health issues if continued over long periods (years). Problems such as cardio vascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers have been recorded.  

Cartoon Cop3There is well-documented evidence detailing the difficulties in sleeping that those involved in Policing around the clock experience. They are regularly faced with levels of violence, distress and emotional upset that would be unimaginable to the majority of the populace. On top of this are a number of government and organisational challenges that are being brought about as a result of the comprehensive spending review; and cause additional stressors within the service.

To combat sleep deprivation astronauts have used 'blue light' to wake and 'red light' to sleep. Seemingly these types of light encourage the brain to react accordingly, hence looking at TV, computers or tablets (we're talking Samsung and iPad here, not a packet of Paracetamols!) is not particularly helpful if you're trying to nod off. Blue light inhibits the production of the hormone melatonin, which is released by the brain as daylight fades, inducing that drowsy feeling necessary for a good night’s kip. So checking our phone or answering emails before we want to nod off should definitely be avoided. Don't worry though, scientists are busy working on technologies for us down here on earth too!

The news for shift workers, getting to some relevance here (eventually!), is that there is ongoing research in to what shift patterns fit best with various Chronotypes; including optimum number of nights, recovery days and so on. For now it appears getting enough hours sleep is the key, whichever timespan within the 24hr clock this happens for you. If you can't afford a 'Star Trek' sleeping pod (we're not sure these exist actually), Mindfulness practices may be the answer. 

Mindfulness is unavoidable at the moment. It pops up on TV and radio, in the daily broadsheets, popular magazines, and in 1000’s of books on the subject. It is being heralded as a remedy for insomnia, an aid to focus and concentration, a technique to improve engagement, work satisfaction, and productivity. It is also used to reduce stress and combat depression and anxiety by relaxing the mind and body and in turn increasing emotional resilience.

So what is mindfulness? It is a calm and clear state of mind, the result of letting go of anxieties by simply bringing our undivided attention into the present moment. It is an open and unbiased attitude that is able to take in the bigger picture, which of course, iuseful in a professional and personal capacity as it results in more effective communication and better relationships, which in turn impact upon our health and wellbeing.

 

Mindfulness is the ability to pay full attention to what is happening ‘now’, with an open and curious mind. It’s a skills set that is learnt using a simple technique that helps us to shift our focus from what we have been doing, or will be doing, to what we are doing now. And that is a particularly useful skill if you want to get to sleep!

Mindfulness practices are proven scientifically to improve sleep, as they help us to develop greater focus and concentration, reduce stress and improve resilience. They actually alter the structure and the function of the brain, which it turns out, has a ‘plastic’ quality (known as ‘neuroplasticity’). This is great news because it means we can train the brain – you really can ‘teach an old dog new tricks.' No medication, alcohol or other suppressants involved; so why not give it a try?

Alarm raise

 Data and trends from the ONS and CIPD on sickness absence...

ONS – SICKNESS ABSENCE (ONS, 2014)

• 131 million days were lost due to sickness absences in the UK in 2013

• Minor illnesses were the most common reason given for sickness absence but more days were lost to back, neck and muscle pain than any other cause

• Mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety contributed to a significant number of days of work lost in 2013, at 15.2 million days

• These mental health problems exclude things such as manic depression and schizophrenia which are grouped as serious mental health problems and accounted for just 1% of the reasons given for sickness

• Sickness absence rates have fallen for both men and women since 1993 with men consistently having a lower sickness absence rate than women

• Women were 42% more likely to have time off work through sickness than males

• As people get older they are more likely to develop health problems and sickness absence rates tend to increase with age, around 2.0% and 2.8% of hours were lost to sickness for those workers aged 35 to 49 and 50 to 64, respectively

• Sickness absence has fallen for all age groups since 1993, but has fallen least for those aged 65

• Sickness absence is lowest for Managers, Directors and Senior Officials

CIPD – ABSENCE MANAGEMENT SURVEY (CIPD, 2013a)

• In 2013 the average level of sickness was 7.6 days per employee per year

• In the public services sector it was 8.7 days per employee per year

• Overall, two-thirds of working time lost to absence is accounted for by short-term absences of up
to seven days

• Just under half of absence in the public sector is short term, compared with over three-quarters in the private sector

• The annual median cost of absence per employee was £595

• The public sector is more likely than the private to rank stress, mental ill-health and musculoskeletal injuries among their top five causes of short- and long-term absence

• Two-fifths report that stress- related absence has increased over the past year for the workforce as a whole

• One-fifth report it has increased for managers and one in eight that it has increased for senior managers

• Public sector organisations were most likely to report that stress-related absence has increased

• Workload was ranked the most common 
cause of stress followed by management style

• Two-fifths of organisations have noticed an increase in reported mental health problems among employees 
in the past 12 months

• The public sector is particularly likely to report an increase

CIPD – EMPLOYEE OUTLOOK (CIPD, 2013b)

• Half of employees said they have noticed an increase in workloads in their organisation over the last 12 months

• This figure increases to 63% in the public sector

• Just under half of employees said they have seen an increase in stress over the past year, which is again more common in the public sector (60%)

• People working longer hours, and an increase in pressure to meet targets were reported by 35%

• 16% said they feel under excessive pressure every day

• Just under a quarter (23%) experience this pressure once or twice a week

• The main reason for feeling under excessive pressure was reported to be workload, followed by pressure to meet targets, management style and poorly managed change/ restructuring

• 67% of employees said they personally have gone into work in the past 12 months when they were genuinely ill rather than take the day off sick

• Just under half (48%) said being under too much pressure at least once a month makes them feel anxious or depressed

REFERENCES

CIPD 2013a. Absence Management Annual Survey Report 2013. Online: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) & Simply Health.

CIPD 2013b. Employee Outlook - Focus on Employee Well-Being. Online: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

ONS 2014. Sickness Absence in the Labour Market, February 2014. Online: Office for National Statistics.

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