The elements of a good working environment

Posted on October 31, 2019 by Gudrun Ravetz

Experiences and the environment at work significantly shape our career progression and determine our engagement, enjoyment, and satisfaction with our job. Unsurprisingly, this all has an effect on retention in a job, something that the veterinary profession is challenged by. But what are the elements of a good working environment? Does diversity training work? What do we mean by fair and equal pay? How does John Lewis manage an inclusive and rewarding benefits scheme? Why is a culture of psychological safety so important in the workplace? What does a career pathway look like? These are a tiny proportion of the questions that the Good Workplace Working Group has been asking itself and the many presenters that have given evidence to the group. All with the aim of bringing together not just the problems, that we know through evidence and anecdote affect veterinary workplaces, but the themes that underly these problems. 

And the themes matter, as that gives us a structure to look for credible evidence-based solutions. While evidence has been gathered from all aspects of the veterinary sector and a myriad of different types of veterinary workplaces, including groups supporting veterinary professionals, we have also sought evidence from other industries and industry accreditation bodies.

Key themes

Themes that have emerged include:

  1. A working environment which develops, establishes, and tracks good physical and mental wellbeing and is supportive of all team members’ needs.
  2. Fair and equal pay and benefits for all members of the vet-led team, relevant to their respective roles.
  3. Equality and diversity in the workplace, including fair and equal treatment of all members of the vet-led team, with no tolerance of prejudice, discrimination, bullying, or harassment.
  4. Clear career pathways that are an attractive, accessible, and attainable professional route for those positioned across all socio-economic demographics.
  5. Personal and professional development (both clinical and non-clinical) that is aligned with the business and is recognised and rewarded.
  6. Appropriate recruitment and retention of skilled team members, who receive regular mentoring and appraisal throughout their career.
  7. Employers and employees are aware of what is expected of them and share responsibility to fulfil expectations.
  8. Acknowledgement of the importance of a positive working culture and an understanding of the organisation’s own culture and values.
  9. A working environment which supports and facilitates veterinary professionals in upholding their respective oaths.

What is most exciting is all of the information that comes with these themes. The working group has been collating and discussing this supplementary information and is now working on a report and guide for the profession. So, watch this space as an interesting list of themes turns into a solution-based report to help the modern veterinary working environment thrive and the veterinary professionals working in them fulfil their potential and be engaged and satisfied at work.

Opportunities to get involved

We still want to hear from more members of the veterinary team about what they consider a positive working environment, and there will be lots of opportunities to join the #BigConversation at the London Vet Show this year. BVA and Simplyhealth Professionals are teaming up at the Members’ Wellness Lounge where we’ll be bringing the working group’s vision to life, looking to talk to our members about what they think makes a difference to wellness at work. The lounge will kick off an exciting new partnership between BVA and Simplyhealth in 2020. We will be working together to promote the findings of the Good Workplace Working Group and encourage the sharing of positive and rewarding practice between veterinary workplaces. 

There will also be two opportunities to join the #BigConversation at BVA Congress at London Vet Show. I’ll be one of the speakers at the ‘Veterinary Workplaces: the good, the bad and the ugly’ session (11:10-12:30, Thursday 14 November), where we’ll lift the lid on what’s happening in veterinary workplaces with a unique insight from locums and update delegates on the Good Workplace Working Group’s work.

I’m also looking forward to the session on The value of difference: Why we should all care about diversity and inclusion in the workplace (14:20-15:20, Friday 15 November), where we’ll discuss the findings from BVA’s recent discrimination report and hear from leading diversity expert and senior psychologist Laura Haycock, from leading business-psychology consultancy Pearn Kandola, who will be sharing her insights on the value of attracting and retaining diverse teams.

Gudrun Ravetz

Written by Gudrun Ravetz

BVA past President

Gudrun Ravetz is Head Veterinary Officer at Simplyhealth and is a Past President of the British Veterinary Association and Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons.  She is also Chair of the BVAs Good Workplace Working Group. Follow @RavetzGudrun on Twitter.