05 May 2021
Our Good workplace journey – Part 2
21 Sep 2021 | Tanya Crawley
Tanya Crawley shares the results of her workplace's improvement journey using the BVA good veterinary workplaces resources.
As I mentioned in my first blog, to begin our Good workplace journey, my team focused on the workload and flexibility section of the BVA Good workplaces voluntary code. We chose this as an easy, understandable and non-threatening place to start. It was also the perfect place to begin since the pandemic had completely changed how we worked, and we were looking for ways to relieve some of the pressures. This blog outlines some of the key achievements we’ve made so far.
Fair and rewarded hours
One of the core principles from the BVA Good workplace voluntary code was to have fair and anticipated working hours, recognising and rewarding work above contracted hours.
We introduced a clear overtime policy, to make sure anyone who stays late gets recognised and rewarded fairly. In doing so, we also found that this acts as a red flag, alerting us to problems in our working days.
If we find that team members are regularly staying late, we are able to look openly and honestly at what has been happening to lead to that. The policy has helped us to identify pinch points, and to take steps to make sure they do not continue. We absolutely want to reward overtime, but more importantly, we want to prevent it from being necessary as much as possible.
We are now trialling an app in which team members clock in and out, to help us further identify any pinch points during our working week. Using the app is entirely optional and doesn’t suit everyone, but I personally find it useful as it gives me a sense of starting and stopping a shift, like my own personal on/off switch.
Now we have got better at recognising when team members stay late, I’ve also started thinking about how best to recognise other actions that go above and beyond, especially those I may not be aware of. It’s reminded us of the importance of saying thank you, and I am always especially grateful when I get thanked as the boss. I’ll be looking at the Reward and recognition section for ideas on this soon.
Another key principle is that Good workplaces should make sure regular breaks are structured, protected, and adhered to.
This was a great example of how the BVA resources backed up what I had been saying for years, and how everyone needs to take responsibility for their own part. Our team members already had scheduled lunch breaks, but hardly ever made use of them. Once they’d got into a habit of not taking breaks, it was all too easy to fill the time with extra work.
Watching the BVA and VDS training webinar on this topic really helped my team to understand why breaks are so important, and why they are always in the diary. Now the vast majority of our team do take their breaks, which makes for much healthier and refreshed colleagues in the afternoons.
Looking ahead, we are now planning to physically change the clinic to provide a better rest area for the team and continue with the improvements we have already seen.
A key theme running through the Good workplaces work is the importance of communication.
As we have encouraged the team to speak about their workload and how we can improve, this has opened the door to discussing other difficult topics, eg presenteeism.
We recognise that, after such a difficult 18 months, we need to take extra care to make sure everyone can cope with their day to day work. We’ve always been good at checking in with team members, but now make a point of doing so every morning in team meetings. We ask everyone to tell us how “full their sink is today”, an analogy for how stressed they are feeling. If a colleagues’ sink is overflowing, we simply ask if that is due to work stress or other stress – we don’t need the details unless they choose to share. Finally, we ask what they need from us today to help – sometimes they just want to get on with their day, and other times we can provide support.
Although we started with workload and flexibility, this process has already helped to encourage team members to take personal responsibility. Everyone is now much more open about their own mental health, and better at checking in with each other. I’ve also noticed that team members are much more able to engage with me and speak up if there’s a problem, as they know I’m willing to listen.
We’ve also made progress working through the Equality, diversity and inclusion chapter of the BVA good veterinary workplaces position. This is a topic that is really important to me, and we already have a wonderful diverse team, but reading this chapter really spurred me on to learn more about how to encourage and include everyone.
Starting our Good workplace journey has already been really worthwhile, so I would thoroughly recommend you do the same. Check out the BVA Good workplaces hub, especially the How to get started webpage to begin.
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