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  • Why Joy in Work is important... and how you and your team can be happier at work – a blog by Julia Wood

    Julia Wood
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    • UK
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    • Health and care staff, Patient safety leads


    In this blog for the hub, Julia Wood explains why Joy in Work is so important, how you can implement it into your team ensuring you and your colleagues are happier at work, and why a happier team will improve patient care.


    Many people roll their eyes at me when I start talking about 'Joy in Work'.

    Yes, I get it, how can you have joy in work when it’s sometimes hard to even get through a shift without your stress levels going through the roof?

    The term Joy in Work has gained traction over recent years, However, if you don’t like the term (which many people in the UK don’t), think instead about it as a way of improving patient care and reducing the stress and frustrations which you and other members of your team encounter at work on a daily basis.

    Why is Joy in Work important?

    Research tells us that staff being unhappy at work is a patient safety issue:

    • High levels of stress are associated with errors that can harm patient care; in the acute sector it is associated with higher levels of mortality.[1] 
    • Being unhappy at work reduces engagement. Trusts with more engaged staff tend to have higher patient satisfaction, with more patients reporting that they are treated with dignity and respect.[2]

    Research also tells us that there is an individual cost when we are unhappy at work:

    • Stressors at work can lead to anxiety, anger, poor decision making, chronic exhaustion and burnout.[3]
    • Chronic work stress is associated with cardiovascular disease, hypertension, heart attacks, addictions, cancer, diabetes, and more severe mental health problems including depression.[1] (The British Psychological Society, 2019).

    So, the bottom line is that Joy in Work should really matter to you, the team within which you work, and your organisation.

    How do I implement Joy in Work?

    There are two approaches which are worth a mention.

    First is the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Framework for Improving Joy in Work. This takes an organisational approach, and highlights responsibilities for the organisation, teams, and individuals. It covers nine areas, ranging from psychological safety, to camaraderie and teamwork, through to wellness and resilience.

    If you are a senior member of staff and would like to see more Joy in Work across your organisation or team then this is worth considering. Several Trusts are now implementing this Framework, including East London NHS FT, and you can view some of their poster case studies here.

    The second approach is 15 seconds 30 minutes (15s30m). This is for anyone wanting to make small changes to reduce frustrations. So, whatever role you have in the NHS you can use this model.

    This was developed by Professor Rachel Pilling (Consultant Ophthalmologist) and Dan Wadsworth (Manager) at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS FT. Their approach gained so much interest they were invited to deliver a TEDxNHS talk.

    The ethos behind this approach is that spending an extra 15 seconds on a task now can save someone else 30 minutes later on. Don’t get too hung up about the timings, just think about the small changes you can make which can save someone else time and reduce their frustration. Examples could be 1. putting your phone number on your email footer; 2. replacing photocopier paper when it has run out, or 3; checking you have logged out of a computer so the next person can quickly log in.

    I’m interested. What should I do first?

    Take a look at these resources:

    • IHI Framework for Improving Joy in Work – Read the white paper (note: you will need to register with the IHI to view the full white paper, but it is easy and free to do so).
    • 15s30m  – View the 15s30m website. This is filled with information which you can use.  

    I still have questions, what should I do?

    You are welcome to contact me and if I can I will answer any questions you have. Email: hello@juliawood.co.uk


    1. West Michael. 'It doesn't have to be that way'. British Psychological Society, 2019.
    2. Collins B. Staff engagement: Six building blocks for harnessing the creativity and enthusiasm of NHS staff. The King's Fund. 19 February 2015.
    3. Zhang C, Myers, CG, Mayer DM. To cope with stress, try learning something new. Harvard Business Review. 4 September 2018.

    About the Author

    Julia Wood provides Quality Improvement training and support to NHS organisations and teams.

    She recognised early on that if people enjoyed their work the more likely it was that implementation of improvements were successful. She was therefore delighted when in 2017 the Institute of Healthcare Improvement published their Framework for Improving Joy in Work, and she subsequently joined their first cohort of training on this topic. Her belief in the importance of Joy in Work has never wavered and she has since gone on to run the Q Community Special Interest Group on this topic, which has more than 300 members.

    Julia has worked for the NHS at a national, regional and local level, and vey much enjoys supporting individual teams making improvements. Unsurprisingly, she always makes sure that Joy in Work forms a part of any training and support she delivers.

    Julia is also a Board Member for NESCHA (North East Social Care and Health Advisors), which aims to help influence and shape the quality of NHS services by ensuring the patient voice is heard.

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