Stop digging, start floating

By 27th February 2019Uncategorised

Conversations over the last week have left us reflecting on how we can raise the profile of Joy in Work.  The urgency of workforce retention was highlighted in a recent Health Foundation  report suggesting that unfilled vacancies in the NHS reached 100 000. The toll on existing staff is evident all around us, with staff striving to provide the quality of care for patients they feel they deserve with diminishing personnel.  Staff morale begins to fall, and with it patient experience.


Yet the first steps to turning this seemingly hopeless situation around lies at our fingertips


“I realised that if I was constantly on the staff backs highlighting patient safety failures, I was only worsening staff morale.  If my staff come to work looking forward to all the good they can do, they will do a better job.

“If you take care of Joy in Work, then patient safety automatically improves”.

These were the words of a ward sister we met recently. She, along with many others working with front line teams, understands where we need to start to rebuild our workforce. Not with more guidelines, protocols and training manuals, but with the basics.


During our workshops we offer staff time to reflect upon why they work in healthcare, what makes a good day, to draw that golden thread between what they do and the impact it has. “We never do this,” said a physio team leader. “I’ve realised how we only ever talk about waiting lists, access times, service delivery….we forget how much good we do every single day.”  This is a common theme: helping someone is “just what we do” rather than being something we celebrate.  And what a privilege it is- few jobs offer daily opportunities to help in so many meaningful  ways.

Joy In Work is seen as a key component of Health Education England’s new strategy. We are stepping into a space where the approach is more than teaching; it is the health of our workforce, mentoring, coaching.  “The mental wellbeing of staff contributes positively to patient care so we must get it right.”says Health Education EnglandClinical Director Professor Simon Gregory. But how can we make this a reality on the front line? We believe 15s30m is part of the answer.

Many people feel burdened by the day to day grind: people piling more and more stuff on our head: spades of dirt which bury us under a mound from which we can’t see the sky. However as health care workers we can empower ourselves to counteract this:

Time and again through our daily work, contact with patients and their families, we do good. We help. We bring joy to others.  So why don’t we recognise that joy ourselves?  What if once a day, we reflected on one way we or a colleague have helped someone – just 15 seconds of encouragement is all it needs.

  Imagine that comment is like being given a helium balloon. It would begin to lift us out from under the pile, look up and feel pride in what we do. Reducing frustration at the daily grind, increasing joy in our work.

And giving someone a balloon would not take away from your own joy: they weigh nothing after all. Imagine how many balloons you and your team could be hanging on to at the end of the day? Enough to lift you out of the pile of dirt perhaps, to float above it.    A different perspective from the air might be just what we need to begin to make effective long term change.


Let’s stop trying to dig our way out of the pile, and help each other float above it.




15seconds 30 minutes is an internationally recognised  social movement encouraging anyone to spend an extra 15 seconds on a task now which will save someone else 30 minutes later on, reducing frustration and increasing joy.  A Quality Improvement tool anyone can use, from chief executive to porter. Follow us @15s30m, visit our website


15s30m was co-created by Dan Wadsworth @danwod and Rachel Pilling @miss_pilling from Bradford Teaching Hospitals.  Dan and Rachel were winners of the NHS Improvement Sir Peter Carr Award 2017.