Guest Blog: Creating Joy in Work – A Tale of Elves and Superheroes Carrie Biddle

By 26th November 2018Uncategorised

At the age of six I remember eagerly waiting in line to visit Father Christmas at the school fayre and being fascinated by the elves. The Elf – the ‘can do’ joy spreading worker is something I relate to. Buddy from the movie ‘Elf’ is my real life role-model in fact. One thing that matters to me is staff health and wellbeing given the widely acknowledged links between happy staff and happy patients. Having made a choice to throw myself positively into the things at work that matter most to me I have created a role for myself as an elf for all seasons.

In January 2017 following a SCORE survey of workplace culture within the therapy department at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, I discovered a vein of dissatisfaction within the workforce. Staff expressed frustration around their inability to always achieve the quality of service they aspired to for patients and their professional selves. Some described achievement enough to survive the work day and suppress the ‘battle weary’ exhaustion of winter. Staff wanted more for them and better care for patients and were struggling with how to do this against the ‘more for less’ culture in the NHS. The currency of value through our survey results was that of time.

With this in mind I set off in pursuit of a time changing solution, alas Hermione Grainger’s time turner remains a folly of fiction. Through the connectivity of Twitter I landed upon some real-life superheroes that have created the 15second 30 minute (15s30m) social movement. Having confessed to being their biggest fan Captain Access (Dan Wadsworth) and Miss Specstacular (Rachel Pilling) responded to my fan mail and agreed to share their approach to reducing frustration and increasing joy in the workplace with us in Cornwall as part of their ‘first wave’ roll out of the 15s30m movement.
Here was my time turner and so elf into action in August 2018 I set about using the 15s30m approach at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust. I invited staff from therapies and beyond to join me in workshops.

15s30m workshops reframe the way staff can make change happen. It motivates individuals to take actions starting with them and what they experience at work. It enables frontline staff to take back control of how time is spent and test simple changes to work differently. By doing something different they open up the opportunity to shape a different outcome. Using appreciative inquiry participants identify the everyday niggles and knots of work routines and processes and together generate simple actions they could take to untangle them. No permission, no or very little cost, can do actions so simple they can start straight away and are easily transferrable to be adopted by others. The premise being a little for time spent at the start can save you or another time along the line. Our missions have focused on how we communicate, re-stock, prepare in advance and make the most of clinical opportunities and look after ourselves at work.

Over the last 4 months I have held 6 workshops, attended by 48 staff from 20 different roles across the organisation. This has generated 66 missions. Missions are actionable ideas of ways to do things differently. Once missions are complete staff become their very own 15s30m superhero. Working in an interdependent system as we do, our ability to thrive and empower staff to make change happen has a direct impact on our processes and builds capability and confidence in staff to take action to improve things. This is represented through the use of cogs in a process in workshops and staff are presented with a cog to wear with pride when they confirm they have a mission complete. Our superhero squad is 39 strong and continues to grow by the week as more individuals are inspired to join us in the RCHT Hall of Joy!

We seek renewal energy to power the NHS which will enable us to run safe, efficient sustainable care. Where is our energy? I believe it lies within our frontline staff. What is the power on which the NHS can succeed? I believe it’s in the joy that comes from staff being empowered to be the best they can be in their role/team with frontline line staff closest to and experiencing the ‘knots’ in processes with the ideas taking small actions to realise improvements. 15s30m is a simple approach available to all – QI for the non-QI trained.
If you are in an organisation grappling with staff engagement my advice would be find your elves, embrace the 15s30m approach and create your own network of superheroes. Their power will light up the workplace.

Carrie Biddle
Therapies Clinical Governance and Quality Lead (RCHT/CFT)
Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust