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Team Wellbeing Week - A summary by Dr Sarah-Jane Lennie

Monday 10th October was World Mental Health Day (as designated by the World Health Organisation) and this year I wanted to do something that highlighted the role of work and the organisation in individual mental health.

In my ‘day job’ in the OU’s Policing Organisation and Practice (POP) team, I am a researcher into police organisational culture and leadership, and mental health outcomes for officers and staff.  Most of my time I deliver inputs to police organisations, but this year I wanted to focus on the team I have around me, recognising both the work they do but also the role of the organisation in supporting good mental health.

Too often mental health is seen as an individual responsibility and something within that person’s control, but it is the organisation, through culture and the operating model, that either hinders or helps a person’s overall wellbeing.

I wanted to understand what it was that my colleagues felt would help support their wellbeing during their working week.  I first canvassed thoughts on what interventions they might like to engage with.  Mindfulness and yoga came up, and with the support of our Head of Department at Policing Organisation and Practice, we were able to fund an input on mindfulness and an evening yoga session which also welcomed families and furry friends.

During the week I gave an input on mental health, stress and the brain – and why engaging the parasympathetic nervous system is so important to our daily physiology, and also our long-term physical health. Later during the week our Head of Department, Jennifer Norman, delivered a session on being a healthy desk worker, and bravely told her own story of the impact of home working on her own physical and mental wellbeing. 

To conclude the week, we held a reflective practice session with the team, and we discussed what wellbeing meant to us, and what prevented us from practicing self-care and what the organisation (locally and more widely) could do to support us.  The good news that came out of this was a real recognition that the flexibility of the organisation allowed people to take the time to engage in activities that for them helped their wellbeing and stress levels.  The downside was that this wasn’t always possible due to the high number of meetings individuals had to attend.  Many ideas were discussed from walking phone calls (getting in movement and connection with nature) from an email or meeting free day.

This work on wellbeing is ongoing, as it is for us as individuals.  We now have a MS Teams wellbeing group for the sharing of information and informal chat, connecting the team at a social level.  Hopefully in the future we will find ways to further support our team’s individual wellbeing but for now this is just a beginning.

Dr Sarah-Jane Lennie

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