I had another interesting discussion with a colleague today.
She had heard about my plans to move hospitals and she wished me good luck.
‘I thought about leaving, but as I only have a few years left I am going to stick it out. I understand you have much longer… Go for it.’
This wasn’t a ringing endorsement of the organisation. Yet, it seems to be something I hear mentioned often – counting-down the days to retirement…
My brother, who is not yet 60 is scheduled to retire from his job as a GP within the next couple of years, many nurses can still leave the profession at 55 albeit with a reduced pension.
What does this say about the state of the workplace? What does this say about the future of our society and our system?
My starting point is the conception of ‘work’, which tends to be defined simply as an activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result. I suspect most people would like to attach ‘and which you get paid for’ at the end, or else, what do you have… Slavery?
If anyone has caught my One-Page Profile doing the rounds of social media recently, in relation to Wellbeing Teams, you might have noticed that it says, I ‘don’t see work as work,’ this means that when I am at work – at least, when I am doing the work I love (doctoring & innovating), I am in a state of flow* – time doesn’t matter – the effort is taken away and I am usually having fun (as are those around me).
How sad to be in a situation where instead of flow you encounter plodding, a countdown towards the end of the shift, day or career. I know that many find themselves in situations where they dislike their work, where the idea of being in the moment and recognising the overlap between your job and meaning in life is not a thing.
I have a long list of reasons for my change of situation and close to the top is the essence of first, person-centred care, and, alongside that, the way you achieve this level of clinical or therapeutic care – through working in person-centred teams inside person-centred organisations.
If I am to spend the next twenty years in a role (and it will likely be longer unless I develop a life or function-limiting illness), surely it should allow me to be me, and not just me, but all those around me. Colleagues should be recognised as people, cared-for, supported, accepted for all their foibles, worries and anxieties.
We are people with likes and dislikes, with strengths and weaknesses and the results of our labour can be phenomenal if we are supported and allowed to flourish – if the same person-centred, holistic care that is provided to patients is also central to the organisational processes you have magic.
Every year there is an NHS staff survey which asks questions to determine how happy staff are, how contented, how safe to both speak-up for patient care as for themselves – the result vary across the county.
Decades of evidence suggest that the safest organisations are those in which staff feel valued and happy, able to work in teams that provide them with the tools to do the job as well as the emotional and psychological supports when things are tough.
‘Three years to my retirement and I am counting,’ doesn’t fit within this schema.
We are not talking Utopia or Candide – everyone has good and bad days, our experiences and opinions change with time and season, yet, when you have a moment to step-back and evaluate, you should at least see an upward trend – flat-line or a fall aren’t the conditions for fun and growth.
The NHS is limping through the second decade of this millennium. The Tories are smothering one of the greatest systems in human history, and yes, that will make times tough, it will even encourage bad behaviour – bullying and pressurising. It is however a truism – evidence based, if you like, that those organisations or departments that live and die by the sword of care (and love) are the most able to innovate their way out of the choke-hold of austerity, cost improvement programmes and cut-backs.
Presenteeism is the scourge of doing better, of caring more, of effectiveness and diligence. It is usually a failure of leadership.
Come now. If you are lucky enough to have a role in whatever organisation where you are well paid or in a position of authority, don’t just mark-off the days until you can move to Australia or the Costa del Sol, stand-up for those around you who aren’t so fortunate. Take a stance! Down your tools and accept nothing less for yourself and your colleagues to be treated with respect, dignity and care, encouraged to fulfil their potential, acknowledging who they are and what they want to be.
*Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who has one of the best surnames in the world has also written a book about this experience, which is funnily enough, called ‘Flow’.
Please share/comment/let me know what you think!