Essential ingredients to support someone with a mental health issue.

Jayne Carrington, Director for wellbeing and engagement – Cordell Health

Time to Talk Day (about Mental Health) this year is on 7th February and the theme is ingredients…

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When I see the word ‘ingredients’ it makes me think about a recipe; getting myself organised and excited. The trouble comes with the weighing, the mixing, the baking. But it’s worth the effort.

So, what are the ingredients for supporting someone with mental health issues, and how can we bring them together? It's important. We used to think that “mental health” was a “taboo”, and something relatively few people “suffered” and where effective treatment was behind locked doors in a daunting asylum. Now we have come to realise that with one in four of us likely to have mental health issues at some time in our lives. It’s an everyday occurrence, and one where so very often simply bringing together the ingredients of friendship, support and a listening ear can be so effective.

I would start by creating an opportunity to talk - not in any sense a counselling coach or clinic room, but a quiet, relaxed, private space which feels comfortable, warm, secure and supportive. For me, that could be a country walk in the early spring sunshine or coffee and biscuits by a warm fire on a cold day. For others, it could be driving along in the car, or sitting quietly by the seafront. Choose carefully, and think about what would really work best.

The second crucial ingredient is time, plenty of it. Often time seems to be rationed, or simply unavailable as an ingredient, but you really do need it. Think of the difference when saying to someone “I haven’t much time, so what is it you wanted to say?” compared to “Let’s talk, I have all the time in the world…” How often all of us long for that time. Such a wonderful ingredient to bring to the mix.

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The third ingredient is a large dollop of “generous listening”. The very power of listening is enormous, and to be “generous” means to listen so intently and with such fulsome and genuine interest. Not as a “duty” or a “task”, but in an open, friendly and connected way. Generous listening is often scarce so you will need to look around the shops for enough of this ingredient, but it’s essential.

At the same time, find an ingredient which binds your own teeth and lips together for large periods of time! Something sticky, a large chunk of chewy toffee perhaps, anything which stops you from talking, from commenting on everything that is being said, and ensures that you simply listen. Remember that phrase “I am all ears”. Seriously, we so often minimize how important that is. So just a “pinch” (and no more) of your own comments or experience.

In fact, be careful with your ingredients that you do not change the mixture with “judgement” or even “advice”. They seem harmless in their little jars, but they can totally ruin your “Time to Talk cake”.

And there you have it - sometimes the best cakes are made from a few carefully selected ingredients – and it is as much about what you leave out as you add to the mix. Don’t over-mix, don’t over-cook. Simply bring the ingredients of “space, time, generous listening, and sticky toffees together”.

So, enjoy the day, bring those ingredients together and remember that any day can be a “Time to Talk” day.

An Actionable Plan for Alcohol, Health and the Workplace.

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For many, Dry January has become an annual challenge: a chance to kick start the year with a detox after the heavy festive period and to help out a depleted, sorry looking, bank balance. In an ideal world it needs to be more than just a one-off, one-month avoidance of alcohol. If we look at the evidence, there’s no getting away from the fact that alcohol has a serious impact on our health and our work:  

  • Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15-49 year olds in the UK, and the fifth biggest risk factor across all ages [Source].

  • Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including: mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast cancers; high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver; and depression [Source].

  • In England in 2016/17, there were an estimated 1.13 million hospital admissions related to alcohol consumption (7% of all hospital admissions, 67% higher than ten years previously). In the same period there were 337,000 admissions for conditions directly caused by alcohol, 17% higher than ten years previously [Source].

  • Lost productivity due to alcohol use costs the UK economy more than £7 billion annually. An estimated 167,000 working years are lost to alcohol every year [Source]. 

  • Between 3% and 5% of all work absence is caused by alcohol consumption [Source].

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Research has confirmed that workplace stress can make employees want to drink more. [Source: You Gov (2012) Workers more stressed now]. Just as in certain industries drinking is the norm and for some, the inherent culture encourages drinking to be the focus of social events, or an informal way to let off steam with colleagues. Does this sound familiar to your organisation? What can you do? You are likely to already have an alcohol policy and provide EAP (Employee Awareness Programme) support but perhaps some of the following ideas could spark some healthy changes:

Conduct an employee survey to understand the embedded culture and current attitudes to alcohol in your workplace – find out what you have to contend with

Encourage employees to explore their personal drinking habits, NHS, Alcohol Change UK and Drinkaware all offer free apps and tips for you to share

Do you offer health checks for anyone concerned about their drinking? Speak to your occupational health provider to arrange onsite clinics

Organise a series of social events that don’t centre on alcohol: yoga or mindfulness workshops, sponsored runs/hikes/bike rides, tough mudder, cookery classes, team treasure hunt, laughter workshop - get creative!

Congratulate and recognise anyone who has completed Dry January. It is an achievement to celebrate. Encourage them to share the many benefits to ditching the booze - improved sleep, more energy, weight loss and money in the bank! Let’s hope they have enjoyed the improvements to their health and wellbeing and continue their new habits for the long-term. 

Sirona Awards for Excellence 2018

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The most important asset of any organisation is its people. Happy, healthy staff are more motivated, productive and loyal as research frequently proves. Having a company strategy to keep staff happy and healthy is vital, as is putting into practice policy and procedures where employee health and wellbeing are concerned. Managers in the front line, often face mental health or physical health conditions in their day to day responsibilities with their fellow team members or direct reports.

The people looking after people within an organisation are key to success. They deserve recognition for the support they offer and for helping others do their jobs when dealing with a health-related obstacle.  

In the spirit of recognition, Cordell Health was delighted to be asked to sponsor the Health and Wellbeing Award at the recent annual Sirona Awards for Excellence 2018Cordell Health have recently been appointed by Sirona care & health* to provide a tailored occupational health support service to their highly dedicated team. 

The Health and Wellbeing Award, a new addition to 2018 event, was created to recognise an employee for their support of others within Sirona. 

The criteria for the award specified an employee who: 

had shown leadership in supporting team members or colleagues with regard to their health at work and demonstrated their commitment to helping others with a long-term health condition or disability to overcome the barrier to remain in or return to work. 

Nikki Cordell, Managing Director of Cordell Health presented the award at the event held in October at The Bristol and Bath Science Park. Quoting extracts from the winning nomination, Nikki said:

“In her nomination, our winner was described as a ‘tireless, supportive, compassionate team leader and a highly committed professional’. She works hard to support every individual in her team and ensures that anyone returning to work after an extended absence has a properly supported and organised plan.

She will meet regularly with anyone off work, or needing her support and will selflessly take on a heavier workload to ensure that other staff are protected and safe at work. Her efforts are met with the full support of her team who really value and respect her commitment and would like nothing more than for her to win this award tonight.”

The Health and Wellbeing Award 2018 was won by district nurse Claire Eccles, Team Leader for Leap Valley District Nurses. Congratulations Claire! You are a fantastic workplace role model, worthy of the award for all your support of others. 

It is great to see organisations embracing and recognising health and wellbeing champions in the workplace. Do you have a Claire amongst your team? What are your plans to make sure their efforts to look after your people get the recognition they deserve? 

*Sirona care & health provide high quality, NHS specialist health and social care services across South Gloucestershire, parts of Bristol & Bath and North East Somerset. 

Giving Tuesday - Putting the heart of your business in the community!

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Imagine if money were no object, what sort of business would you run? Would you pay someone to do the jobs you hate or spend it on a big budget ad? Would you invest in the best staff benefits money could buy; duvet days, flexible working, free lunch, gym memberships, and unlimited annual leave? Imagine how easy it would be to recruit new staff…if anyone was to ever leave! 

Sounds good doesn’t it! Yet, the reality is that a business has to make the numbers work and this means a constant conflict between our heads and our hearts; what we’d like to do vs. what we can afford to do; what’s good for our staff vs. what’s good for our business!

There isn’t always an easy solution, but as Winston Churchill famously said, ‘we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give’. Therein lies a clue, and actually, a quick glance up from the ledger books to consider the bigger picture can show there is much to be gained by giving, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be at great cost. 

What we’re talking about is community. That word that binds us all together in different forms of association whether at work, home, school or in our neighbourhood.  It’s a proven fact that building a strong community at work, through giving to community outside of work, builds employee resilience, engagement and improves performance. Not only this, but there are benefits to improved brand image, improved staff retention, training opportunities and stronger internal and external relationships being built. 

A report by Accenture, on the 2020 vision for Employer Supported Volunteering (ESV), showed that engaging employees in volunteering was a huge benefit to business. 89% of people reported increased job satisfaction, 87% felt more pride in the company and 76% reported gaining core work skills such as time management, communication, influencing, decision-making and leadership. 

Clearly ESV is something we’re all going to be hearing a lot more about in the next few years. If you’d like your business to get ahead of the game here’s seven steps from Cordell Health on how to make ESV work for your business. 

  1. Support a cause that aligns with your business vision and values or consider allowing employees to vote for what they think the volunteering opportunities should be. This will ensure their engagement with the project and build connections directly with their community. 

  2. Decide how much volunteering time you will allow staff to take during working hours, make sure staff across your entire business can get involved.

  3. Lead by example and make sure senior staff are taking part. 

  4. Boost participation and celebrate stories internally and externally. Set up a team to lead the volunteering activity and act as a point of reference for anyone wanting to get involved. 

  5. Set up a number of different volunteering opportunities, each with a unique benefit to employees as part of their skills based training. 

  6. Review, refine and improve the process annually to make sure the business and staff are getting the most out of it. 

  7. Be sure to integrate your volunteering offering into your recruitment program, it’s seen as big benefit to future employees. 

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No matter what the size is of the business or the volunteering offer, there is no act too small to reap the rewards of the benefits above. Whether it is a fund raising team challenge (such as the bike ride we are shortly embarking on at Cordell Health), a long term partnership mentoring or as a charity trustee, there is only good news about a business putting its heart in the community. 

For ideas about volunteering opportunities for your business contact Volunteering Matters or for more information about how to review your employee’s wellbeing so they are healthier, happier and more engaged at work contact our team at Cordell Health. 

Sugar overload? 5 Workplace initiatives to promote healthy eating

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Keeping your workforce fit and healthy can be a challenge. Here are our suggestions on ways you can promote healthy eating in your workforce and encourage your employees to reduce their intake.

Sugar and Health

High sugar foods are high in calories. Consuming too much increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, tooth decay and gum disease. There is also a suggestion that a diet high in sugar may be linked to cancer.  Those employees who are obese will also be at risk of diabetes. Eating or drinking anything that has been processed or manufactured is likely to have added sugar. It is not just sweets, fizzy drinks, cakes or chocolate treats, there can be sugar in various different guises lurking in ready meals, sauces and popular takeaways. 

The way sugar acts inside the body has an immediate effect, it causes blood glucose levels to spike and then quickly plummet. This may result in mood swings, fatigue and headaches. High intakes of sugar can also increase the release of stress hormones causing anxiousness, irritability and making you shaky. Depression may also occur with a high sugar diet.  

12.3 million people in the UK are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.*

80% of cases of Type 2 diabetes is preventable through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle ** 

Eating a healthy well-balanced diet of vegetables, fresh fruit and whole grains can make positive changes to health and daily living. It is advice we have all heard before, but how as an employer, can you help or influence your employees to make lifestyle changes?  

Workplace Initiatives to Promote Healthy Eating

  1. If you have an onsite restaurant or vending machines improve your visibility and offering of healthy choices. Reduce high sugary choices, and have water readily available rather than sugary drinks. Review healthy swap suggestions to help plan changes. 

  2. Provide healthier options at meetings and events. Leading by example is simple but effective!

  3. Have fresh fruit at strategic points in the workplace, although fruit does contain sugar it also contains a lot of other important nutrients. There is therefore still plenty of value in the old school ‘an apple a day’ approach helping everyone achieve their 5 a day quota. 

  4. Enable access to cooking and healthy eating courses. Time or money constraints can often be reasons why people don’t cook from scratch, therefore providing access to a selection of healthy recipes that are quick to make that don’t break the bank. 

  5. Use Occupational Health services to deliver health and wellbeing days to advise individuals who may be at high risk or have expressed an interest in improving their eating habits. These health professionals can undertake blood glucose screening where appropriate and advise on diet plans. 

For many, consuming sugar has become a part of everyday life and changing perceptions and habits is just as important in the workplace as it is at home. Action is needed to reduce the statistics mentioned above. Has your organisation run any initiatives that have reduced sugar consumption in your employees? 

Why not download our resource ‘10 steps to eat your way to better health’ and share it with your colleagues or display in your workplace. 

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* Diabetes UK

**International Diabetes Federation

The bitter-sweet tech savvy workplace.

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It’s ironic isn’t it, that the very things we’ve developed to make our lives easier, have made them harder, in ways we could never have predicted as technology has evolved. It’s easy to feel like we’re drowning in a sea of connectivity and the pressure to keep up socially and professionally is relentless. 

It’s no surprise, that the theme of this year’s Stress Awareness Week is related to  ‘Workplace stress and automation’. Taking a deeper look at the effects of technology on our working lives, a survey by the International Stress Management Association showed that nearly all of us feel panic when we can’t locate our mobile phones, a frightening number of us check messages and social media in the night, and whilst we’re aware of the additional stress, we find it hard to put our technology away. 

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Yet, we mustn’t be ‘bitter’, the ‘sweetness’ that tech brings to our lives, the doors it opens, the ideas, news and views that it enlightens us with, have propelled our lives and businesses forward at a pace we could never have experienced otherwise. Harnessing that power in the workplace is just as beneficial to business as encouraging staff to switch off and put it away. 

For all the pro’s and cons, the fact remains that we are on a journey, and we need to learn to manage and deal with the stress caused by connectivity. 

In the workplace, the duty falls to managers and HR professionals to openly promote a stress free working environment with very clear work/ life boundaries and support for employees in place. Managers must lead by example and make sure that teams are able to talk openly about stress (a survey by ISMA in 2017 revealed that 94% of people experience work-related stress yet only 32% feel they can speak to their line manager or HR department about it. Read more). 

Here’s our top 3 ways to look after your team’s stress and few tech savvy apps to help them on their way!  

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  1. Get a wellbeing policy in place. A workplace wellbeing policy is important to remind staff that you take their health, wellbeing and happiness seriously. Encouraging staff to take regular breaks, get enough sleep, eat healthily, and exercise are great ways to endorse it (My Fitness Pal, Sleep Score).

  2. Lead by example. It’s OK to turn it off! As management, YOU need to take proper breaks and turn your phone and email off too. If an employee is working, emailing or calling out of hours, why? Make yourself accessible and keep the lines of communication with your team open. Is their stress coming from tech related distractions? (Trello, OFFTIME).

  3. Get social (off line). In and out of work. Downtime with friends and family is key protective factor to mental health and wellbeing, and is proven to reduce stress. Workplace social events or team activities can support this. Encourage mindfulness as it’s proven to increase productivity and emotional wellbeing. (Headspace).

 What policies have you put in place to deal with technology related stress in your workplace? 

Return to work interview: 5 strategies to improve your empathy skills

Continuing our focus on the return to work interview, this blog will look at the topic of empathy, how it is different to sympathy and why it is so important in the workplace.

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Empathy and sympathy intertwine constantly in our day-to-day lives, yet they each have a very different outcome. The dictionary definition of empathy is‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’. Sympathy is defined as‘feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune’. Sympathy tends to be the default emotional reaction, to show you are sorry for how somebody is feeling. Empathy requires more thought and a deeper understanding of exactly what the other person has gone through. It puts you in their shoes and shows that you have ‘heard’ them and that you are supportive of them. 

Health and wellbeing professionals often use empathy as a tool to open up difficult or sensitive conversations. It empowers the person as they realise you are ‘walking alongside’ them, not just pitying them. An employee returning to work after a period of long-term sickness absence will need a positive and constructive return to work interview.  If, as a manager, you can use empathy to show that you understand what they have been through and that you understand their concerns about returning to work, you will have a more positive outcome in supporting and integrating that employee back into the workplace.

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Referring your employee to an Occupational Health provider will have been the first step to getting an understanding of how the employee’s health will affect them back at work. Following that, and in preparation for the return to work interview, here are our 5 tips to improve your empathy skills:

  1. Do your homework. As with all return to work interviews preparation is paramount. This will demonstrate you are fully focussed on supporting the employee. Use your occupational health report, familiarise yourself with the history of the sickness absence and recommendations. What is the long-term impact for the employee? Do you understand fully the implications of any adjustments required? Is there a plan in place to get the adjustments implemented? Have you researched all the guidance that has been suggested by your occupational health report?

    Does the employee’s case qualify for Access To Work support?

  2. Walk in their shoes. Showing empathy means taking someone’s feelings into consideration and understanding their journey, even if you disagree with the route / treatment / approach they have taken. Before the interview, put yourself in their shoes and think about what changes/challenges they are facing. Imagine how it must be for them. 

  3. Practise makes perfect. Be aware through your day-to-day life, of how you use empathy and sympathy and notice the different responses to each.

    Here are some examples of empathy: 

    It is hard, you must be worried / exhausted / frustrated.

    Sometimes these things don’t really make sense.

    I can hear in your voice that _________ has been really difficult for you.

    I would be asking the same questions if I were in your situation.

    This kind of thing is never easy.

    I am on your side / I will be with you through this.

    That must be infuriating / so frustrating for you.

  4. Listen carefully. Find a private, quiet space without any distractions. If it’s more comfortable this could be away from the office. Put phones and laptops away. Listen with your whole body: be still, smile and nod reassuringly, maintain eye contact and be aware of your hand movements and gestures. Keep the range of your movements to a minimum so the full focus of your attention is on them. Ask open questions and listen carefully to their responses, use the 2 ears – 1 mouth rule: repeat back key information and use empathy in your responses. 

  5. Take notes. Make sure the employee is happy for you to take notes at the beginning of the meeting and offer to send them a copy. Write down what needs actioning, reviewing or researching and follow-up the action points taking any worries or concerns into consideration. 

    Do you have any other advice or tips to share? How have you used your empathy skills to support and welcome an employee back after a period of long-term sickness absence?

World Mental Health Day 2018 - The importance of resilience in the workplace

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This week has seen mental health awareness back in the headlines, with the unveiling of World Mental Health Day 2018. The focus has been on young people and their mental health in our changing world, and the messages will have no doubt struck a cord through every headline and media channel worldwide.

Ironically, as I’m sat with my head down, embedded in my social media and ‘catching up’ on the lives of my friends and family, I have been struck by the breadth of the conversation about mental health, from young to old. It’s true, it IS vitally important that we get in early and coach young people to handle the pressures that will inevitably come. But what about those of us for whom ‘early’ intervention is too late… we are already adults, and according to MIND, 1 in 4 of us is likely to suffer a mental health issue every year.

Furthermore, we spend at least 1/3 of our life at work, it stands to reason that the work environment has a huge part to play in our mental well-being. Interestingly, no matter how old you are the story is the same, it’s about resilience, the magical ability to get knocked down and pick yourself up. The ability to survive or even thrive under pressure, to change course, to remain positive and take failure as an incentive to try and try again. 

As a manager or HR in charge of the health and wellbeing of employees, this is an area that can easily be overlooked. It can feel like there is not enough money for the ‘essentials’ let alone the icing on the cake! Yet it is never ‘too little too late’, the environment you cultivate can have an immediate effect on employee wellbeing, keep them mentally safe AND have an immediate effect on the bottom line.  

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It could be as simple as signposting to occupational health or other relevant services or taking steps to assure employees that vulnerability may feel like a weakness but to others, it looks like courage and is a brave step to make. 

As we move boldly (and less blindly) into a new era, it’s becoming clear that resiliency is a tool for survival, rather than just for success. Through our many clients at Cordell Health the same 5 resiliency factors come up time and time again…none of them are big budget and they all deliver the end result of a happier, more empowered, healthier and more productive workforce. You are, after all, only as good as your employees at the end of the day! 

Foster a sense of community

People thrive on friendships and good social interaction. People who have positive relationships in the workplace are more likely to enjoy coming to work and be productive when they get there.  

Get moving

Physical health is fundamental to our mental health, and creating a pleasant working environment and promoting healthy behaviour can bring many benefits.

Build a psychologically healthy environment

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Make the workplace a pleasant and happy environment through recognition, reward, job security and a management style and culture that promotes mutual trust and respect. If a manager has a positive mindset and a positive attitude to work it will rub off on others. 

Promote learning and development 

Developing new skills enhances a person’s capabilities and is empowering and helps their sense of wellbeing too.

Seek help 

Sometimes people require specialist support with physical or mental health issues and may need to be referred on for more support. It could also be that your business needs support tackling some of the issues it faces. For example from

  • Occupational Health

  • Employee Assistance Programs

  • Human resources

  • Counselling

  • Physiotherapy

  • Ask employees to come forward and seek support if they feel they need it

How does your business go about boosting employee resilience and have you noticed an uplift since putting strategies in place?

Managing the return to work interview after an employee’s mental health illness.

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Following on in our series about the return to work interview, we focus this week on strategies to manage the process, following the absence of an employee with mental health illness. 

In many ways, this can be more of a challenge to management and HR than any other return to work interview. The improved attitude to mental health care over the last few years has certainly helped bring these issues to the table, yet there is still work to be done to reduce the stigma about mental health and keep up the communication at all levels. Source. This can create a challenging in encouraging an employee open up about what help they need and should be handled with sensitivity and care. 

The aim of the return to work interview in this instance is to create an honest and open dialogue that will lead to a system of support and understanding between employers and employees. The first step is often the hardest, but by reaching out to the employee on a regular basis during their time off, it should be a natural progression to discuss how the business might facilitate a return to work that ‘works’ for them. 

When they are ready, you might hold the return to work interview in an informal yet private location or they may be happy to come into the workplace. 

The first thing to discuss is confidentiality, this is one of the biggest concerns employees have about disclosure during and after a mental health illness. How it is handled is entirely at the discretion of the employee, they may like colleagues to be informed on their behalf, they might prefer totally confidentiality or be happy to share the story themselves. There is no right or wrong and the WRAP is the perfect tool to assess this…. 

This brings us neatly on to what is arguably the most important tool in a managers’ return to work kit, the WRAP ‘Wellness, Recovery, Action Plan’. This positive collaborative management tool is an informal contract between the employee and employer that details the support the employee needs to enable them to recover and stay in work and what the employer will do to facilitate that. 

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No two experiences of mental health illness are the same and the WRAP enables a person centred approach. This not only opens up the conversation but also gives the person control over their recovery and helps them feel confident that they will receive the support they need.  It might include questions such as ‘Can you describe any of your triggers for mental ill health and early warning signs that we might notice’, or ‘If your health deteriorates, or we feel we have noticed early warning signs of distress, what should we do? Who can we contact?’.

There might be points on the WRAP that a manager will consequently need to monitor, such as that the person isn’t working too many long hours, that they are taking their lunch break or supporting with a flexible approach to hours and workload. This will be an evolving process and used as a basis for ongoing discussion, the WRAP can be continually amended as the employee settles back into work and wellbeing. 

There is a good template on page 25 of the guide: ‘Managing and supporting mental health at work: disclosure tools for managers’ on the cipd website.

The final important point that a line manager handling a return to work interview should be aware of, is their ‘frame of reference’. This is the unique set of values and judgements that we all hold that affect the way we see the world and the people in it.  It affects every decision we make. For a return to work interview, a manager should leave their own ‘frame of reference’ at the door and try and see the situation from the employees perspective. This will enable them to truly listen and respond to the needs of the person in the room, without any preconceived outcome or solution in mind. 

For further information https://mhfaengland.org or https://www.mind.org.uk

Do you use WRAP in your workplace?  How have you found it as a management tool in terms of your employees’ responsiveness to it, after a period of absence with mental ill health? 

10 tips for managing the return to work interview after an employee has been off with stress.

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According to the Health and Safety Executive, in 2016, 37% of all cases of work-related ill health were due to stress (and related issues of anxiety or depression). Each case resulted in an average 24 working days lost, the implication of which can have a huge effect on any business, large or small. 

High staff turnover is expensive, so it makes business sense to reduce the chances of employees leaving as a result of work-related stress.  The key to preventing an employee leaving is often good communication and understanding their issues and frustration. 

Our last blog discussed the importance of considering issues from different perspectives and this can really help in these situations.  A return to work interview handled with particular care and thought is essential if you want to retain such employees.   

Here are our top ten tips at Cordell Health for managing the return to work interview with an employee who has been off with stress. 

1. Consider the interview an opportunity to ensure the employee’s issues are fully explored.

2. Be open and supportive; make the conversation as informal as possible. 

3. Be objective and leave your own feelings and opinions outside the room. Listen carefully and show an interest in what they have to say, even if you feel that the employee is being unfair. 

4. Try to fully understand the cause of their stress from their perspective, so you can work with them to reduce possible triggers and barriers to returning to work where possible. 

5. Using the HSE management standards for work-related stress as a framework for discussion is useful:

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  • Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment
  • Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work
  • Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues
  • Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  • Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles
  • Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation

The HSE has published a detailed questionnaire that has some really good return to work discussion points, ideal for a period of absence with stress. 

6. Discuss any medical advice given by a GP or occupational health professional and be honest about the changes that can be made by the business and the reasons for the recommendations that can’t be accommodated.  

7. It is important not to create unrealistic expectations or to fail to deliver on promises that might further increase the employees’ stress.

8. Use the interview to reinforce the employees’ importance to the business and let them know all about what has been going on in their absence. 

9. Agree how their progress back at work will be monitored, and set achievable goals that consider areas such as workload, regular breaks and impact on work-life balance.

10. Follow up the meeting with regular communication; frequent informal chats work well and may lead your employee to feel more likely to open up and share areas of concern or problems that arise. 

For more advice on supporting an employee with stress Fit For Work and the HSE have some really good strategies and tips. 

Have you had to manage an employee’s return to work interview after a period of absence with stress? Were there any strategies you used to help them feel at ease and support them in the road to recovery and keep them in employment?

Return to work perspectives

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It is good practice for organisations to conduct a return to work interview following a period of long-term sickness absence. Keeping the interview objective, based on facts and not influenced by personal feelings or opinions is easily achievable with the right planning and preparation. 

Be organised, brainstorm from each perspective of the parties involved as detailed below, before you conduct the return to work interview. This will then provide you with a solid framework for discussion that is going to ensure you remain focused and fair. Using your judgement of the facts relevant to each of the 3 perspectives is going to eliminate emotion and keep you on track to staying objective. 

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Schedule a face to face informal return to work interview once you know when the employee will be back at work. Communication is vital for success, plan for reviews during the initial return period and these will vary depending upon whether a phased return is in place. Explain and discuss any changes to their work role or responsibilities. Where appropriate set and agree new objectives for the future, short-term and longer-term, use these as the basis in your agreed return to work review plan. This approach will enable you to support the individual and facilitate discussion should any further changes need to be made.

Prepare yourself for the interview thinking about each of the following different perspectives: your own, the employee and the 3rd person.

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  • Your perspective: be positive, supportive and welcoming. You don’t need to become a medic and fully understand the individual’s illness, it is more important to be a good manager. Be sensitive, understanding and aware of the situation. Support any recommended adjustments that you consider reasonable and ensure they are in place prior to the employee’s return to work where practicable (or at least ensure they are in hand). Make sure you comply with the Equality Act 2010  Duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for their staff. Eliminate any emotion and focus on facts to help inform your decision-making, remember happy staff are proven to be more productive!
  • The employee’s perspective: they will benefit from a sense of normality. It is important for their rehabilitation to regain financial independence, this will impact and improve their self-esteem and self-respect. The benefits to them of getting back in the workplace will have a positive impact on their health. Helping to keep their first few weeks back at work as low stress as possible is key. In your preparation think about how to avoid triggers for stress.
  • The 3rd perspective: think about how the individual’s return to work will affect the rest of your team, other employees in the business/organisation or possibly external clients/customers. If appropriate, how will you communicate any changes to make the return to work as seamless as possible for the individual and the 3rd parties involved? Thinking and planning around the bigger picture is going to help set the scene for how the individual can integrate back into their role successfully.

At the end of the day, everyone’s goal is to get back to business as usual or to create a new positive ‘usual’ – for all involved that you can move forward with. 

Have you used any other techniques to help stay objective in a return to work interview?

Employee Spotlight OH advisor - Sue Bedford

What is your role at Cordell Health? 

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I am the Occupational Health Nurse Manager, in charge of a rapidly expanding nursing team that supports our clients and their staff both on and off-site. This not only means managing my team and their needs but keeping us all fully up to date on clinical matters such as law relating to mental health and workplace health promotion and clinical governance (i.e. maintaining standards, quality and audit etc). 

I also act as an account manager and clinical lead for clients. This means I act as their first point of call for any clinical issues and support them wherever I am needed.  

One of my favourite parts of the job is being the lead on all of our wellbeing offerings, especially mental health and emotional resilience training, advice for clients and managers either on a case by case basis or general training.

What was your first job?  

My first ever job was at the age of 13 when I worked in a greengrocer on a Saturday.  That might give you some insight into my age, as you could work at 13 then!  It was a really old-fashioned grocers shop.  Although there was a till it didn't work and was used purely as a cash repository, computers were still a way off!  We had to weigh the products and mentally add up the bill as we went. My maths has never been so good!


What has been your favourite project at Cordell Health so far?  

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My favourite project has been the successful implementation of a wellbeing clinic for one of our clients.  The benefits of early intervention are well-known, particularly when it comes to stress-related ill-health and emotional resilience.  We provide an onsite service that offers a confidential ear and tailored signposting for people to get support and information before it gets to the stage where they might need sickness absence.  I'm calling it 'A Return to Tea & Sympathy' and it's been very successful so far with great feedback from the employees and the organisation.  We are looking forward to implementing the service with other clients.


If you could swap jobs with someone... who would it be and why?  

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Any of the Springwatch team, so I could spend my days watching wildlife and getting paid for it!  Plus I would be surrounded by experts who could answer all my daft wildlife questions so I wouldn't have to spend ages on Google.  
Or Colin Firth's personal assistant...


What does a typical day look like for you?  

There's no such thing!  My role is varied where I can be on a client site one day and running training the next.


What is your guilty pleasure? 

Chocolate.  Lots and lots of chocolate.  


What are you most scared of….?  

I don't really have any physical fears, although as I've got older, I've got a little more 'wobbly' at height.  This may put my plan to wing-walk when I'm 80 out of the window.


If you had to write a self-help book what would you call it? 

How to Care Less.  As a society, we put so much pressure on ourselves to be the best, have the most and do everything perfectly.  I see so many people who are struggling as they try and juggle all the demands of the 21st century both in their working and personal lives.   Putting ourselves first makes us happier which in turns means we perform at life better - I've seen results with my own eyes.  Yet people still think if I just work a bit harder, it'll get better - if I just work a few more hours I'll get it all done. Actually, the evidence tells us the opposite is true. 


What’s your biggest achievement in life so far? 

Personally, my sons - they are my constant source of inspiration and pride. 

Professionally, achieving 2 fast-tracked degrees with high marks whilst dealing with difficult life circumstances! It was a good lesson in perseverance and that anything is possible.


What advice would you give someone taking up a career in occupational health? 

It’s a great career and a role I have always loved. You will be well supported within the community and the work is varied, interesting and rewarding. It’s an exciting time to become an occupational health advisor too, as the face of the profession is changing as it adapts to the demands of the modern workforce and the way we live.

Why you need to manage your employee’s stress.

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We are getting used to hearing friends, family, colleagues and even children say ‘I’m stressed’ on daily basis. These two little words have become such a part of our culture that the true enormity of what they mean can often pass us by. 

As you probably saw all over the news last week, stress was the focus of Mental Health Awareness WeekThe Mental Health Foundation has highlighted the dangers with a report revealing the prevalence and implications of our stress levels in the UK, and offering guidelines to how we can manage and reduce our stress as well as calling on the Government to create a ‘stress-free UK’. 

Stress, by which we mean the sense of pressure and subsequent anxiety as experienced by an individual person will have a number of contributing factors. 

Of course, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We all need a degree of pressure to perform, and it has been recognised for many years that as pressure increases, our performance increases too. The adrenaline surge that follows is the biological basis of the sense of excitement and heightened alertness that can make us deliver beyond what we might normally expect. 

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Sadly, there comes a point, when we reach the top of this so-called “stress-performance curve”, where increasing pressure leads to worsening performance. A downward spiral eventually leads to the state of anxiety that we term the "fight or flight” reaction.  This time instead of excitement, we experience fear.

The point at which we meet our maximum capacity depends on factors such as knowledge and experience of the role, but also our own resilience, which can be affected by factors at home or work.  Ill health, whether due to mental health or physical health problems or both, will also have an impact on resilience.

Whether or not the factors affecting resilience come from our own health, family life or the workplace, the fact remains that it is often employers that hold the key to unlocking that person’s ability to deal with the stress they are under. It makes good management and good business sense, as success, in any sector, is delivered through people. Being alert and sensitive to stress amongst those people, no matter what the cause, will enhance the sense of support they feel and thereby their motivation and productivity. The benefit is far-reaching for employers and employees too.

Business in the Community (BITC), in partnership with Public Health England, has recently published a Mental Health Toolkit for employers. The toolkit sets out the scale of the problem for employers, with mental health issues in the workforce costing UK employers up to £42 billion a year.

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They revealed that 91% of managers agree that what they do affects the well-being of their staff, yet only 58% of employees believed their line manager was actually concerned about their well-being.

Further to this, a report was released this week by the mental health charity Mind, it revealed that in a survey of almost 44,000 employees 48% had experienced poor mental health (including stress, low mood and anxiety) and of those, only half felt able to tell their employer about their difficulties. There is clearly still a lot of work to be done to open up the lines of communication and empower and equip employers with the tools to support staff with their mental wellbeing. 

The BITC mental health toolkit lists eight actions for employers for good mental health in the workplace. By following these, employers will also be putting into practice the recommendations of the Stevenson-Farmer report, Thriving At Work.

  1. Make a commitment to mental health, with senior level “buy-in’.
  2. Build your approach, including co-production of a plan with employees.
  3. Create a positive culture; supporting and valuing employees.
  4. Provide support and training, including recognition of the importance of line managers and providing line manager training and development.
  5. Manage mental health, including the use of the Health and Safety Executive Management Standards
  6. Provide the right support, including training for managers to be confident with sensitive conversations, and being ready to make reasonable adjustments.
  7. Help people to recover, including through adjustments and support.
  8. Go further, evaluating your approach and sharing best practice.

How do you feel you cope with the mental health wellbeing of employees in your workplace?  Do you feel equipped to know what to say or how to talk to an employee who you think might have a problem? 

For more information on supporting mental health in the workplace please read our blog on 'How to care for the mental health of a colleague' or call us on 0118 207 6190 Cordell Health

The lasting value of effective leadership in occupational health.

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We are often asked by clients to justify the cost of our services in terms of return on investment or a tangible growth from the bottom line. Some aspects of occupational health allow for this, with analysis before and after the occupational health intervention. But many aspects don’t, because you are dealing with people, and business and no two are ever the same. There is no one set magic formula that will deliver on the task in hand.  Each case has its own value of what success looks like, and our role in occupational health is to help identify and deliver on that.

But value, to us as a profession, runs far deeper than that.  We wrote last week about the ways in which a business, such as occupational health, that has no set ‘product’, needs to consider that its value (to clients, individuals, to itself and the wider society) comes from its people. This is why recruitment and training in addition to the right leadership and management are SO important in our sector. We need a motivated workforce, with the right level of knowledge and skills, as well as the right set of values. 

The Oxford Dictionary defines values as, “ Principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is important in life”.

The organisation needs a culture that centres around and hopefully shares the same ‘values’ as its employees.  What is it that is important in life? For us in Cordell Health, and hopefully many in the wider occupational health workforce, it doesn’t always have to come from financial reward, but from BEING valued, the sense of which comes through being treated with dignity and respect. It is this self-perceived value that will drive and sustain motivation and results and success. 

Dignity and respect come from good leadership, described by Jim Collins in his 2001 book, Good to Great, as being a  “Level 5 Leader” characterised by: 

  • Personal humility; gives credit to others for success (“we have a great team”), and takes personal responsibility for failure
  • Professional will; having integrity, and resolve to do what is best for the organisation - getting the “right people on the bus, and the wrong ones off
  • Influences culture not by edict, but by example (so developing trust)

So it is, that the impact of the value we deliver in occupational health services can spread far and wide. Starting at the top, with a good choice of leaders and a good team:

  1. Managers promote the values of dignity and respect through good leadership. 
  2. A motivated team is built, with a shared value (working towards the common goal) and an understanding of their own value within the business.
  3. The value is passed on to clients and leveraged in the respectful treatment of employees and the skills and advice given on individual cases, such as those with health conditions or disabilities. ALL employees feel valued. All employees are motivated. 
  4. Society at large benefits from a culture where people are valued and consequentially there is a happier and healthier workforce. People are more productive, business is better, the cost of ill health is down and profits are up. 
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Through engagement with HR, managers and the senior leadership, we can add value to their organisations, and society in general, by encouraging cultures where all feel valued. The overall effect is positive for the bottom line and has a lasting effect running far deeper than the office walls. 

A Manager’s guide to supporting those with hearing loss in the workplace.

Hearing Loss

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What is it?  One in six people in the UK have hearing loss or are deaf.  Hearing impairment is a partial or total inability to hear. This may range from mild hearing loss in one ear to profound loss in both. Individuals may be born with hearing loss for genetic reasons or due to infections when their mother was pregnant (Rubella/ German Measles was a major cause before the Rubella vaccination and the MMR was introduced), conditions such as Meniere’s disease, and importantly in the workplace - exposure to noise.  

Many of us will have impaired hearing as we get older, and this is the most common cause of deafness.  This is important as more of us work to an older age.

Strengths: A hearing-impaired person will often have heightened visual awareness and so will be good at reading body language.  In common with others in the workplace with a disability, those with hearing loss are likely to be highly diligent, have a strong work ethic, and have strong loyalty to organisations that support them well - so become long-serving employees with a high level of corporate knowledge and skills.

Challenges: Hearing impairment is an invisible disability that can lead to barriers and miscommunication. Even relatively mild hearing loss can make some sounds hard to pick up, especially in noisy environments.  Not being able to communicate effectively is stressful and can lead to the individual feeling undervalued and isolated.   We recommend viewing the Oscar-winning short film, The Silent Child, which illustrates this well.  This film is available through a number of sources including BBC iPlayer at The Silent Child

Solutions: Action on Hearing Loss provides a useful guide to employers. Adjustments are recommended to “level the playing field” to take account of impairments and allow the individual to make maximum use of their abilities.  We suggest considering the following to support those with hearing loss, depending on the specific needs of each individual: 

  • All being aware these colleagues have this impairment – ensure you look at them, and if hearing loss is only on one side, speak with them on their better side.
  • Ensure meeting rooms have good lighting to aid lip-reading
  • To work in an office with good acoustics and low distraction
  • To provide flexibility to attend audiology appointments
  • Communication support such as speech to text reporters
  • Provide a portable hearing loop or other listening devices

The Government may provide funding for adaptations through the Access To Work scheme.

For further information on support or advice on integrating a person with a disability into your team, get in touch with us at Cordell Health

Delivering value in occupational health practice through effective leadership

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Dr Robin Cordell MBA FRCP FFOM

The value of what a business can deliver is important in every sector. It affects how much you can charge and vitally, how much you can make in return. For some sectors, it’s a monetary equation where costs of supply and demand are linked with a return on investment. For other sectors, the value is not always tangible, there isn’t a ‘product’ to buy and sell. These sectors, of which occupational health is one, are governed by the perspective of the people the services are delivered to, and the value of what they receive in return. 

At Cordell Health, we work hard to deliver ‘value’ to our clients, the individual employers that we see, the owners of our business and also importantly, the wider society that we can support.

For our clients, we offer value by understanding their needs with a timely communication of facts, which are not only evidence-based but also contextually relevant for the business. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and it’s not just about delivering assessments and reports to agreed performance indicators. We provide evidence-based advice that can make a visible difference to the ‘bottom line’ when dealing with the issues resulting from the impact of ‘work on health’ or ‘health on work’. 

For employees the value comes from a conversation, treating individuals fairly, impartially and courteously. We set a structured and efficient framework so we can ensure they are listened to and that those difficult issues or potential “elephants in the room”, can explore them through an honest conversation. We can then provide advice on how they may be able to improve their health.

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Our owners see value through profit, sought through careful consideration of all the elements of the value chain (first described by Michael Porter in his 1985 book on competitive advantage).  Having efficient processes, the right resources and a product of the required quality and price drives the profit.

In our business model, this allows us to reinvest in our own social enterprise and create a framework to support those businesses and employees who couldn’t otherwise afford access to our expertise. The more we grow, the more we can give and the value chain means we can we can fulfil our social mission and deliver value more broadly in society too. 

Our ‘product’ is people; they are the ones who deliver value to clients, their employees and our owners. Undoubtedly, they are our most important asset and it is essential that we recruit people with the right skills. These can be honed through training to best meet the needs of the paying client, and retained by motivating them to stay. 

This is where effective leadership skills at a management level are critical. Without those, no business can truly deliver value. We insist our leaders understand the industry within which we operate, its competitive forces, business processes and have effective management skills. Only then can they provide the high-level communications we require to support our staff, our clients and the right business decisions being made.

Through leveraging efficient management and effective leadership we are able to engage with our clients at any level, from HR to senior leadership teams. This feeds down to the skills of our people and the value they provide to our client's organisations, and society in general, by encouraging cultures where all feel valued, including those with health conditions and disabilities. 

We’d be interested to hear how you feel occupational health adds value to your business and how you measure its success if it’s not through ROI? 

Join our team ... Cordell Health is recruiting

About the role

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We are looking for a part-time Occupational Health Advisor (OHA) to join our team and are keen to hear from anyone who shares our values. The role would suit someone based around Oxford and who is willing to travel within the Thames Valley area.  We are keen to hear from those still in or about to start their training to be an OHA or those who are newly qualified and are looking for their first role.

About Cordell Health

Cordell Health is an occupational health consultancy set up as a social enterprise, specialising in providing early intervention and specialist support to employees, HR and managers on health and wellbeing at work. We are based at our main office near Reading and provide clinics and support to workplaces across the Thames Valley/M4 corridor from London to Bristol.

Our founders and directors are both FFOM qualified specialist occupational physicians with a genuine passion to develop the field of occupational health, including the education and development of our people. We pride ourselves on our innovative and tailored approach to service delivery and our close working relationships with our clients. 

How to apply

In the first instance, please send your CV and a covering email to our Occupational Health Nurse Manager Sue Bedford at sue@cordellhealth.co.uk. The closing date for applications is 15th June 2018.

A Manager’s guide to understanding Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and ADHD in the workplace.

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Having a diverse workforce has numerous benefits.  Many companies and managers see these benefits and are recruiting people from all walks of life.  But for some, there is a fear of the unknown and a lack of awareness of the impact or changes that would need to be made in the workplace in order to bring a person with a mental or physical difference into the team. 

In this week’s blog, we explore the four most common conditions, referred to in the context of neurodiversity, and suggest adjustments employers might consider to support these employees and maximise their contribution to the organisation. The aim is to mobilise the benefits those who have neurodiverse conditions can bring to work safely, without disadvantage compared to other employees.  Adjustments may cost little or nothing; having an open mind and a desire for innovation and positive change are the key to realising the business opportunities neurodiversity can bring.

Autism

What is it? Autism is a developmental disability characterised by rigid thinking, challenges with social interaction and communication, as well as restrictive and repetitive behaviours.

Strengths: Problem solving, analytical thinking, logical, sustained focus and capacity for lengthy periods of concentration. Can have great technical ability and attention to detail for in-depth tasks. Punctual, reliable, dedicated and loyal.

Challenges: The level of challenge is different for each person, but the need for strict rigidity in routines and tasks, as well as the avoidance of change, often needs managing. Obsessive behaviours and poor social skills can cause friction with colleagues who don’t understand the disability. 

Solutions: An agreed detailed training plan, as well as a structure to the working day, will assist.  Access to a mentor to provide support through the social and self-esteem challenges those with autism commonly face.  Education for other members of staff in how to work with those with autism will help.  Consider redesigning a job to play to their strengths.

Dyslexia

What is it? Dyslexia is defined by the British Dyslexic Association (BDA) as a lifelong specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language-related skills.  It is characterised by difficulties with processing words, rapidly naming, and working memory. A person with dyslexia’s skill in reading and writing will often not match their intelligence.

Strengths: Creative thought, insight and coming from a different perspective in problem-solving – “thinking outside of the box”.  Those with dyslexia can have an exceptional ability for pattern or trend spotting, whilst also being able “to see the big picture”. May well be “visual thinkers”, grasp opportunities, and good at problem solving and non-verbal communication. 

Challenges: Spelling and handwriting, short-term memory function, timekeeping and attention span. May have self-esteem and anxiety issues. 

Solutions: Awareness training for colleagues and managers, and training for the dyslexic employee to recognise and address areas for development. Mind-mapping software, dictation tools, and other resources to help those with dyslexia function at work and optimise their performance. Different coloured text or paper can make reading easier and a variety of communication styles (visual, audio) may help on an individual basis. 

Dyspraxia 

What is it? Dyspraxia is a developmental disorder characterised by coordination problems. This may have been first noticed as delayed or lower ability in fine or gross motor skills (for example playing sports).

Strengths: Insightful and good at creative ‘‘big picture’’ thinking, pattern-spotting and reasoning. Resourceful and determined problem solvers.

Challenges: Hand-eye co-ordination, spatial awareness, sensitivity to noise, touch, smell and taste. There can be reading, writing and speech difficulties, and short-term memory, organisation or planning challenges. 

Solutions: A positive and encouraging work environment with disability awareness training for all employees. Technology to aid memory, voice recognition software, reminders or electronic diary to aid memory. Regular work breaks. Support of a coach in work to aid their organisational abilities. 

ADHD

What is it? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder of brain function that is characterised by the person being inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive. 

Strengths: The constant desire for stimulation and information means those with ADHD often excel under pressure, can handle uncertainty and are often skilled at multitasking and taking calculated risks.  They may be insightful and good at creative thinking and problem-solving. 

Challenges: Maybe “absent-minded”, easily distracted, impatient, impulsive. May seem distracted, distressed, restless or disorganised. Time management can be a challenge and there may be social awkwardness or have problems of self-esteem, depending on the severity of ADHD.

Solutions: Helpful and empathetic management, and perhaps a mentor to support with coping strategies and to help prioritise and organise goals, priorities and “to do” lists. Clear communication and technology to aid memory.  Regular breaks and time for physical activity during the day. 

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For any individual, and especially in the context of neurodiverse conditions, it is important for managers and HR advisors to understand that there is no “one size fits all” solution.  Each person will face their own challenges and our advice is to keep an open mind, maintain an honest dialogue, and to accept people for who they are. By working with employees to find the best path for them, and to discuss and understand the coping strategies they already have in place, employers will be able to reap the rewards of a successful and productive workforce whose strength lies in its diversity.  

Advice on disability awareness training may be found at Cordell Health

Further information on supporting those with disabilities in the workplace, in order to realise the potential through their abilities, may be found on the Remploy website.

Why we need more professionals in occupational health!

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The Council for Work and Health have revealed that the occupational health sector is understaffed in their report: ‘Planning The Future: implications for occupational health, planning and delivery’. In this publication, they reveal that demographic trends and lifestyle changes have led to a greater need for more occupational health services and how the whole sector is in urgent need of recruitment. 

The report has been written for anyone from senior policymakers, to employers and managers. It supports the need for occupational health to diversify and demonstrate to business the benefits and return on investment that comes with quality occupational health support. 

Concern has arisen after the number of professionals training for careers in occupational health has fallen. It’s felt that the increasingly complex needs of the nations’ workforce, with increasing requirements for mental health care as well as the increasing prevalence of long-term chronic conditions and the particular challenges of ‘lifestyle diseases’ caused by obesity present a challenge to medical professionals. It is also recognised that the speciality of occupational health is not well known or publicised and that the rewards this career brings with it not publicly acknowledged. 

Whilst NHS resources are good, they are stretched, and therefore occupational health should become part of both mainstream healthcare and every business strategy. Calling on external providers to meet a need or keep a workforce healthy should become the norm. Every business has the power to help change the way health and wellbeing are thought about in the workplace. 

There is an absolute and urgent need to attract and train high calibre occupational health professionals by developing clear and attractive career pathways. The report demonstrates that we need an ‘occupational health workforce with a distributed range of knowledge, skills and competencies’, to cope with the changes to the nation's workforce. 

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Recruitment is an ongoing hot topic here at Cordell Health. We constantly strive to make sure our team is recruited from differing backgrounds so that each individual team member brings something new to the table. We support all of our clinicians in further specialisation in fields of their choice which will add value to our clients’ companies.

Nikki Cordell says ‘working in occupational health is one of the most rewarding careers you can have. The diversity of the role and the opportunity to work in both the public and private sector at Cordell Health means no two days are the same.  The impact you can have on an individual and their future can be life-changing. We are always looking to support training in the field of occupational health and when the right person wants to join the team, we are happy to explore job opportunities within the business. ’

If you have a background in health or health administration and are interested in discussing a potential career in occupational health in these exciting times, or just want to experience this speciality, please get in touch with the team at Cordell Health.  We would also be interested in hearing from you if you already work in occupational health and are looking to explore different and potentially challenging opportunities in a different type of occupational health business. 

Why Diversity Builds Success

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This week is National Autism Awareness Week and schools, workplaces and individuals have been baking, running and dressing up to raise money and awareness nationwide. 

Understanding autism and other differences are, of course, something we all need to embrace in life and work, and it’s really got us thinking at Cordell Health this week. We have spent a lot of time exploring neurodiversity and how we can work with our clients’ businesses to embrace it and use it to build success. There is proven evidence that the two go hand in hand if we can only remove the stereotypes and truly understand what neurodiversity is all about.

In modern thinking, neurodiversity is being used to express the belief that we should reject the social norms and stigmas that affect neurological differences such as autism, dyslexia or ADHD. They are natural human variations that cannot and should not be ‘cured’. We are ultimately ALL different and should be seeking to embrace and maximise the talents of people who think differently.

In February this year, the CIPD released a new guide to neurodiversity in the workplace. It’s a wordy but fascinating read for any conscientious HR professional with a gap in the workforce or tasked with managing a neurodivergent employee.

It is widely accepted that more than 10% of the country is likely to be neurodivergent in some way.  This means that one in ten interviewees will likely have some kind of neurodivergent condition and HR need to be aware that a person’s ‘differences’ may be regarded as a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

Considering these 10% an ‘inconvenient truth’ is not a good business strategy, they are a high performing talent pool that has high-value skills not always accessible to the nondivergent 90%.  A diverse workforce is good for everyone. The CIPD makes a brilliant analogy that when picking a football team you pick from a cross-section of the best in all areas; the fastest runner, the best kicker, the highest jumper!  Not every employee is going to be able to be a highly creative big picture (right brain) thinker and not every employee detailed and process focused (left brain) tasked.

Neurodiversity enables us to remove the stigma and barriers of employment that are associated with dyslexia, autism or ADHD etc.. so we can stop thinking about what they CAN’T do and can start thinking about what they CAN do. Their ability not their disability.  Whilst group labels are helpful for the individual, for diagnosis or understanding the neurological difference, they should not be used as ‘one size fits all’. NO two individuals are the same whether neurodivergent or not.

When overhauling a business approach to divergent thinking there is much that can be done. Senior management needs to champion the process and work with HR and line managers to make change happen. They need to be trained and equipped with the skills and ability to bring a diverse team together. To see the team as a whole, of which each member has different strengths and weaknesses and requires a different kind of support.

According to the CIPD, the interview process can unintentionally exclude neurodiverse talent. Job descriptions should be clear without jargon and with very clear lists of the core skills and experience  ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to have’.  Always include a diversity and inclusion statement that states you are ‘happy to discuss reasonable adjustments’ and that signals that you welcome candidates with different identities and thinking styles.

In the interview process, ensure interviewers are trained to be empathetic to people’s differences and able to understand that a lack of eye contact or unconventional body language is not necessarily rudeness. Consider rethinking the standard interview format, as the CIPD points out, all a traditional interview demonstrates is your social skills, not your ability or talent to complete a set task.

Make sure the ethos permeates to the core of the brand. Include diversity and recruitment statements on the website as well as links to support groups or internal case studies and information.

The rewards of integration come thick and fast. A diverse workforce, within which each member is working to their individual strengths, is motivated, loyal and highly productive. JP Morgan Chase started a pilot program in 2015 introducing employees on the autism spectrum into the workplace. They reported that ‘after three to six months working in the Mortgage Banking Technology division, autistic workers were doing the work of people who took three years to ramp up, and were even 50% more productive’.

For more information about Autism in the workplace visit the National Autistic Society or the .gov website or find out about the Disability Confident Scheme.

Have you ever thought about overhauling your recruitment process and actively encouraging a diverse workforce and the many benefits it could bring?