When we use systems to help us understand the busy, messy world of human activity, we are in effect drawing a boundary. We identify some things that are ‘in’ our ‘system of interest’ and that means other things are outside it i.e. not a focal part of our interest. We do this whether we realise it or not – the problem is, if we are not being explicit about our choice of boundaries then we blur them for ourselves and other people. Then we get confused and conflicted.
Take for example, the NHS planning guidance published in December 2015. The word system is used in it a lot – it is all about ‘the system’ but here are some insights into my thoughts as I read it…
As someone who likes to read into language and discourse, I’ve been thinking recently about the different ways in which the relationship between wellbeing and health on the one hand and work on the other is framed. Sadly I don’t have time to do a ‘proper’ study to see whether others are saying this or to reference back to all the sources that are leading me to these understandings, but this is where my day to day observations and reflections are leading me.
I see three different types of ‘framing’ going on…for convenience I have named them….
- wellbeing and health in order to work
- wellbeing and health at work
- wellbeing and health through work
So here are my explanations…
You only have to search Google images with the key words “dilbert open plan” to find some Dilbert strips that make you giggle – I found the strips of May 31, 2011, November 2, 2012, May 14, 2003 and October 17, 1998 particularly funny. But look down at some of the comments and it all gets a little more serious – on the most part, people don’t like working open plan.
All the Dilbert gags aside, I’ve just spent a few weeks carrying out a literature review into the health harms/benefits of different sorts of office. It led me to conclude that this isn’t a laughing matter…
The short story is – depending in part on your personality and the particular nature of your work – but on the whole…
If your office is shared, larger and/or has a density that makes it feel crowded – your health is at risk. Your health is more at risk if your own workspace in that office is further from a window, nearer to circulation areas and/or the distractions of shared facilities. If you are by the window – especially if you have a green view – you seem to be protected a little. If you have some control – over your own light, your own temperature, your own ventilation – then it helps again. It gets worse if control is removed, for example you have no input into the decor of your office or you are told no personal items on your desk. Continue reading
I’ve just been reading a book that draws on the work of Wittgenstein to state:
“He [Wittgenstein] maintained that there are two main kinds of problem: problems of ignorance (there are things existing that we do not know enough about and therefore we require more information), and problems of confusion (we have the information but we do not understand what it amounts to).”
Hart (1998, page 141)
This got me thinking…
In public health, the notion of behaviour change has been around for a while. The focus stems from the desire to reduce or eliminate ‘health risk behaviours’ like smoking or alcohol or to introduce ‘health enhancing behaviours’ like physical activity or nutritious diets. There has been plenty of research by health psychologists to explain how behaviour change happens (descriptive theories) that are now being used to design interventions (turning them into prescriptive theories but that’s another matter).
But that’s not what I want to focus on – there has been this odd creep of phrases like ‘behaviour change’ into the language of leadership and management. It seems not only do leaders and managers need to ‘change their behaviour’, they also need to know how to change that of their ‘subordinates’. I’m all for seeing how helpful ideas can be when you transfer them across disciplines but I feel very uneasy about this transfer. Continue reading
Something has really been bothering me recently about ‘workplace health’ initiatives.
We seem to have got into a real mess about the PURPOSE of this type of focus.
The employer perspective is of the importance of PRODUCTIVITY and the WASTAGE caused by people being ill or off work. As a result the initiative’s success is measured in terms of sickness absence, rather than in terms of employee wellbeing as a positive condition. The questions shifts from – what can we do to enable people’s wellbeing? (the salutogenic perspective) to – what can we do to stop people being off-sick? (the pathogenic perspective). Back to the use and abuse of measurement issue – what we get is a punitive system that performance manages levels of sick leave and game playing starts – people take annual leave or use flexi time, rather than reporting a sick day. Or presenteeism – people coming to work and pretending to work even when they are not fit to be there, perhaps passing on infections to colleagues in the process. Recorded sick leave goes down, employers herald this a success, but the wellbeing of the workforce has not improved. Public health professionals are complicit in this, they make the case for workplace health initiatives in terms of the cost of days work lost.
The other thing that bugs me is that workplace health initiatives purely see the workplace as a site of health promotion or traditional public health ‘lifestyle’ interventions. We use the workplace to tell people about the importance of eating 5-a-day but then don’t give any thought to whether or not they can get affordable healthy food during their working day. We use the workplace to train people in emotional resilience – telling them they have to be resilient to stress – this means that if they go off with stress it becomes the employees fault for not being resilient enough (nothing to do with workplace stressors at all!). So in essence we are telling people to be healthy and happy (and therefore productive and not waste employer’s resources) but give very little thought to the physical, social and economic conditions in which they are doing their work.
The bottom line is – we need to re-think workplace health. Continue reading
We’ve just been having our dining room redecorated and recarpeted to make it into a better study/office and not a dining room. This means I have had to carry all the contents of our bookshelf upstairs (two weeks ago) and back down again (today).
Now bearing in mind, this household has two OU MBAs – gained through slightly different elective routes – plus my MSc STiP. I started to realise just how many books we have with ‘managing’ or ‘management’ in the title. Continue reading
I have now been chatting about my research to enough people to start getting requests for the ‘products’ – so here is a page of downloads that I’ll probably add to over time…
(T847, Block One, Activity 1)
The quest for this activity is to identify particular ideas, concepts, theories, arguments, propositions, techniques, tools, case studies – in fact any material – that I have found particularly interesting in my studies to date. An odd question because if I did not find all of it interesting I would not have got here. Nonetheless, what is particularly engaging my interest right now?
In my last post, I touched on my emerging interest in the concept of design and touched back on the notion of the design turn that I covered in TU812 Managing systemic change. Since then I’ve been mulling this over and still have a number of browser tabs open in relation to the short diversionary inquiry I took into ‘design’. Continue reading