Remote working, combined with an expanding service, had a negative impact on senior management team (SMT) wellbeing at Healthy Minds. It contributed to staff absences, meeting ineffectiveness and missed deadlines. We created a 30 minute slot during weekly (remote) SMT meetings to collaboratively identify and address causes. This helped increase SMT engagement in wellbeing conversations, renewed individual optimism about working in IAPT, led to some streamlined processes and improved team focus.
Staff wellbeing issue
SMT worked incredibly hard on their clinical work, remotely during the pandemic, growing management responsibilities and dealing with excessive amounts of email and virtual meetings. This resulted in work-overload and stress leading to SMT absences. These effects may have been exacerbated because most SMT members were new leaders, everyone was supporting a significant number of trainees and new starters who had joined remotely, there was pressure to meet IAPT expansion targets and there were some key SMT vacancies.
A weekly protected 30 minute slot within SMT meetings, often at the start, sought to identify and address issues affecting SMT wellbeing. This intentionally prioritised the wellbeing agenda within SMT. We wanted the time to be reflective and action-oriented, making a real difference to working-life in the service. It was agreed it was a shared responsibility for progressing this work.
We made early progress with every SMT member documenting their workload. This revealed the disproportionate amount of time spent in meetings and in managing staff remotely. It then enabled each team member to identify what tasks should be retained, postponed or redistributed. A large number of tasks were then moved from clinical to operational staff.
We also held two practical workshops on managing meetings and effective email communication – where SMT collaboratively shared their top tips for managing meetings and improving email communication. This resulted in an updated electronic communication Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the whole service.
During another wellbeing slot we started our process of exploring, identifying and agreeing a valued-based service-vision, that could in future help us anchor our service activities on those furthering our vision and enabling us to become more focused. This exercise was grounded in our personal values and what matters most to SMT members. The exercise will be further expanded to the whole service shortly.
We know that cultivating good wellbeing in the SMT team is something to be continued into the long-term. However, even after only a few wellbeing slots all members of the SMT anecdotally reported feeling more positive about their wellbeing and working life. They also expressed how trust and psychological safety was growing amongst SMT – we believe this was from the collaborative and interactive activities used in the wellbeing slot.
We believe our approaches are gradually reducing the number of unnecessary meetings and emails in the service, and we have a stronger sense of our emerging shared vision which is motivational.
We have also observed that although we ‘lost’ 30 minutes of our standard SMT meeting to wellbeing matters, we have been fully able to complete other business in the remaining time without need to extend the meeting overall. This demonstrates how motivational and energising our focus on wellbeing has been and how better focused we have become as an SMT.
The wellbeing slot is now permanently on the weekly SMT agenda. We will continue to spend time getting to know each other to increase trust and psychological safety and complete our vision and values exercise with the whole service. We will also continue to identify and learn about other areas for service development, that also benefit staff wellbeing, including improving SMT recruitment and retention, and embedding a compassionate leadership approach.