Space to Breathe: staff wellbeing research project
Research from the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare shows gardens and other green spaces at hospital sites have an important role to play in supporting staff wellbeing. Our year-long study, ‘Space to Breathe’, focused on three NHS sites that took steps to encourage staff to relax and recharge in green space.
Staff stress has long been a critical issue for the NHS, where in 2019 more than four in 10 staff reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress in the previous 12 months. These problems have been greatly exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, making staff wellbeing a greater priority now than ever. Our research shows that there is a strong appetite among health staff to take time outdoors – either for breaks or in the course of work – and points to a range of wellbeing benefits.
The study found:
- At each of the sites, 83-89% of staff said they would like to spend more time in green space at their site than they were doing. Benefits described included feeling relaxed and calm, refreshed and re-energised and positive effects on mental and physical wellbeing. A sizable proportion of staff (44-52%) said attractive green spaces were important to them in considering where to work – suggesting that the presence of such areas affects recruitment and retention.
- Staff who said they regularly spent time in their sites’ green spaces during the working day reported significantly higher levels of wellbeing than staff who did not spend time in workplace green spaces. The more ways in which staff said they spent time in green space at work, the higher was their reported wellbeing.
- The most common way in which staff spent time in green space at work was taking a walk at the site during a break. This points to strong potential for encouraging informal walking, either alone or with others, an initiative that had already proved successful at one of the sites in the study.
- While relatively few staff at each site had engaged in organised recreational activities at work, such as Qigong or gardening, those who had done so had measurably higher wellbeing scores than those who had not.
- Staff who had face-to-face contact with patients spent less time in green space than those who did not. However, contact with patients was also found to predict wellbeing. This suggests that staff spending time with patients in green space enjoy a dual wellbeing benefit.
Space to Breathe was carried out in collaboration with the University of Essex and with support from the Health Foundation, an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and healthcare for people in the UK.
The research, conducted before the Covid-19 pandemic, explored staff experience of time in green space at work, including both benefits and barriers. For more details please see the summary briefing and full report below. You can watch the recording and presentations from the launch event on 22 October 2020 here.
You can watch the Space to Breathe virtual launch event on 22 October 2020 here: