Can gardens, wild areas and other green spaces at NHS sites help combat workplace stress and improve staff wellbeing?
Staff wellbeing and the impact of stress are critical issues for the health service. In 2019, the NHS staff survey found more than four in 10 staff had experienced work-related stress in the previous year. These problems have been greatly exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, making staff wellbeing a more important priority than ever.
Substantial evidence points to the health and wellbeing benefits of natural areas. Green environments can reduce stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Contact with nature has a positive impact on heart rate and blood pressure. Greenness in residential areas and the use of natural places for recreation is linked with lower levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone. But while much research has focused on the benefits of green space where people live, there has been little investigation of its impact at work.
Research into workplace wellbeing and green space
Our research at three NHS Forest sites, supported by the Health Foundation, investigated the impact of green space on staff wellbeing at three NHS sites and put forward recommendations for good practice. You can read the conclusions of the Space to Breathe project here.
Outdoor wellbeing sessions for health staff
Following on from the research, we are working with the social enterprise Natural Academy to provide outdoor wellbeing sessions for health staff at five NHS sites around the country during 2021. At each site, further training will be offered for two staff to deliver these sessions themselves. We will be closely evaluating the sessions and their benefits for participants. The project is supported by the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, which is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency. Read more about the sessions here.