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27 Mar 2024

Interview with Dr Farnaaz Sharief MBE: The Ss of supporting colleagues

Interview with Dr Farnaaz Sharief MBE: The Ss of supporting colleagues
We are back with the second instalment of our interview series with Dr Farnaaz Sharief MBE around her award-winning work on resilience. Today we look at the Ss of supporting colleagues and the role leadership can play in creating a positive and supportive workplace. Read below to see the Ss of supporting colleagues; Signs, Speak Up, Safe Space and Support.


Firstly, it is important to be aware of how people around us are functioning. It’s about being proactive in recognising when the people around you may be struggling. You might notice in colleagues you know; they may exhibit some kind of uncharacteristic behaviour. They may be less productive, they might look tired, they might not be eating, they might not be as motivated. Some take a lot of time off work or might not be as social as they usually are. They may even appear anxious or restless. It's about recognising that, OK, this person is different to what they usually are.

Speak Up

When you do spot the signs, the second thing to do is to speak up. ask them how they are. There’s a study that was done by Time to Change and they found that 75% of the UK population would say they're fine even if they're struggling. Ask, but ask twice. If you notice someone is struggling, ask how are you? If they say everything’s fine, ask them again. If you ask them twice, they may be more likely to share a response with you.

Safe Space

The third S is about having a safe space where you can have a confidential conversation. Let them know you're available, you're approachable, you're there for that person. They can speak to you openly, honestly. Even if there aren't these safe spaces in the working environment, it's great to be able to lead by example and create that open, compassionate culture. Talk to people about what the issues really are, be open, be honest. Raise that awareness of well-being at work.


So, it's spot the signs speak up, create the safe space and then the 4th is to provide that support, provide that support as much as possible. In the NHS there is access to counselling, we also have practitioner health, and we have some coaching opportunities. Certainly, in Kent we run the Manage Your Mind programme. This is around practical principles, breathing techniques that people can apply in the moment to change how they feel, how they think. We've had this programme independently evaluated by the University of Kent. They've shown that people feel less stressed, their emotional exhaustion drops, and wellness improves amongst, these individuals. we've had some feedback from people when they practice these kinds of very simple but powerful techniques, they feel more confident and more fulfilled.

It's access to programmes like that and they vary depending on the area that you’re in that can help people shirt their mindset when its comes to wellness.

The Role of Leadership

Leadership can play vital role in supporting employee wellbeing. Ensuring clarity and consistency in job roles can be really beneficial to employees, they know who they are, they know what their job involves, they know who to report to, they know who they work with. They know how to share the volume of work that sort of comes through, that really helps with retaining staff. It's always reassuring and nice to know your place within a team

In our working environments, having things like flexible rotas where people can sometimes work from home, if possible, that really helps in giving people the flexibility they need, but also having social connections. Working in teams allows you to get support from your peers and other staff.

These kinds of things really help enhance the experience in the workplace and people enjoy it more. So they're more likely to stay in these kinds of environments.

Then when you complement that with opportunities to train and develop it offers a real sense of purpose for those in your team. So, with pharmacists, for example, if you train them to become prescribers or with nurses, if they become prescribers or they're able to do something that adds to their skill set, it really helps to ensure colleagues are feeling valued.

When you've got that kind of inclusive culture, when we understand what matters to staff, either through conversation or through surveys or through appraisals, and we can include that in the workplace, it improves their experience at work.

It’s working out what works for you, what works for your team. And that might not necessarily be the same as the team next door or everyone else around you.

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