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As a leader of a team of committed and conscientious therapists I have always felt that enjoyment in work takes care of itself. Everyone loves their job, don’t they? Yes, most of the time – but pressures inside and outside of work have increased for our staff in recent years and as our team has grown in size our informal structures of support and camaraderie have become more difficult to maintain.

I arrived at the Q Visit to East London Foundation Trust (ELFT) hoping to be given all of the answers but I came away with a renewed enthusiasm to find out the answers for myself.

After recently joining the Q Community, I was introduced to the idea of Joy in Work. I was immediately attracted to the idea that we all have an intrinsic motivation that has led us to work in the NHS, and that in order to remain compassionate and dedicated staff members, we have to value one another. I wanted to see how organisations like my own were putting these theories into practice.

I arrived at the Q Visit to East London Foundation Trust (ELFT) hoping to be given all of the answers but I came away with a renewed enthusiasm to find out the answers for myself. We were immediately thrown out of our comfort zone by some group singing which was initially met with reluctance but soon became a beautiful harmony – a metaphor perhaps of how we can move our own teams from everyday drudgery to make beautiful music!

Conversations turned to what motivates us in our daily work, and I was struck by the fact that by starting with a simple question, participants were quickly able to identify common themes – a desire for meaning and purpose, camaraderie and teamwork, many of the things that the IHI Framework for Improving Joy in Work sets out. This further emphasised to me that although knowledge and theory are important, they are most useful as a way of framing or articulating the expert knowledge that already exists within my staff and our teams.

It was inspiring to hear the honest account from ELFT of their organisational QI journey. The balance of top-down executive buy-in and bottom-up staff engagement, the value placed upon service users and the breadth of projects undertaken all gave much food for thought. As a speech and language therapist I was particularly interested in the idea that comprehensive QI training has given staff a common language with which to talk about improvement. This is reflected in my own experiences where I have been able to engage and connect with Allied Health Professionals and Medical staff from across the Trust in a more meaningful way through the language of QI.

This further emphasised to me that although knowledge and theory are important, they are most useful as a way of framing or articulating the expert knowledge that already exists within my staff and our teams.

The teams from across ELFT who came to share their individual Enjoying Work stories enabled us to put faces and examples to the thoughts and ideas that had been shared. The enthusiasm and motivation of the staff who had been involved in projects was evident – one staff member was even dressed as a penguin as a metaphor of how everyone can make a difference! It was useful to be able to ask some more practical questions: how do we engage staff in conversations, how do you manage difficult conversations, how do you support teams to find solutions, how do you sustain changes?

I feel that this Q Visit only scratched the service of the great projects that are going on at ELFT and the many ideas and tools relating to Enjoying Work. During the visit there was talk of “contagious commitment to change” and it was great to share the enthusiasm for improvement from our Q Visit hosts and the other participants. I still don’t have all the answers but I have lots of new questions and I can’t wait to get started on an Enjoying Work project of my own.

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