Helping team members overcome the stress of restructuring of adult services demands openness and support

Kent Council has just completed a major restructuring, the full consequences of which are yet to be felt, says James Lampert. The split between adult and children’s services, for us, is one of the biggest changes to contend with and it is time for our new adult services directorate to form its own, new identity.

While change is to be welcomed as providing a new opportunity, it’s also important to recognise the stresses that it can cause for everyone caught up in the journey to the brave new world.

As a manager of a front-line team, it’s important to use a range of strategies to help the team, and individuals within the team, cope with what the organisation is demanding of them, in terms of working practices and meeting new targets.

I acknowledge that stress exists by having regular team meetings, not only to share information about what’s going on, but to give opportunities for the team to openly talk about worries or concerns.

Last year, I completed a stress risk assessment with the help of the team. Everyone had an opportunity to talk about it at a team meeting and it was followed up by the opportunity to comment individually about issues causing stress. I will be repeating the exercise again over the next few weeks to measure how we’ve moved on and to look for team strategies to manage anything new that we might identify.

Team meetings can also be used as opportunities for senior managers, or others involved with instigating change, to be invited to come and discuss the reasons with, and listen to, those who will be affected. Meetings like these can encourage team members to contribute.

Good supervision is another useful tool for helping people manage stress. As well as caseload management, it’s important to find out how people are feeling about their own work commitments and their views on how effectively the organisation is helping them to do their jobs well.

It is important to remember to reward people for the work they do – and it’s not all about money. I regularly try to make a point of thanking or congratulating individuals and, indeed, the whole team for their help and successes. As a manager, it’s also much easier to get team members to engage with change if they know that they are all valued and respected for their hard work and commitment.

It is my job to create the right environment in which people can become motivated. I try to help build team morale and to support people with managing stress and organisational change. This all leads to making an effective, happy team that will be better equipped to support itself during more difficult times.

James Lampert is team leader, occupational therapy bureau, Kent Council

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