ABP Student Award 2015

We are proud to announce that in 2015 we launched a student award for the first time, which is open to all students doing Masters courses at the universities accredited by the ABP.  The aim of this award is to recognise excellence and to help provide students with more opportunities to showcase their work and receive recognition for their contribution to research in our profession. The student finalists are drawn from universities whose business psychology courses are accredited by the ABP and are nominated for the award by their course leader.

The award recognizes excellence in theory, research and the value of the project’s potential application in the industry of business psychology and consultancy.  Not only do the students gain recognition for their work but the awards enable them to showcase their potential and draw the attention of prospective employers.  The nominated winner from each course receives a certificate indicating they were one of the shortlisted winners.  Each shortlisted student receives a £200 cheque.  The winners are also offered the chance write an article for our newsletter and they are invited to speak at our annual conference.  They will be presented with their award at our ABP annual awards event and they also receive a slot at the following year’s conference to present their work and findings.

One of the student winners of the ABP prize for 2015 is Rebecca Milner of City University, whose piece of research was undertaken towards her MSc dissertation in Organisational Psychology. Her dissertation was nominated as the best in her cohort. The Programme Director, Dr Ruth Sealy, nominated Rebecca’s work for the prize for its quality, insight and contribution to knowledge.

Rebecca, whose research topic was: "Fire-fighters working shifts: Is it time to focus on well-being?", made the following comment, ‘I felt honoured to have been recognised by the ABP for the hard work and commitment I put into my dissertation. I stretched myself with a vision to complete an international project with a client, and to deliver a project of the highest standard, which I’m thrilled has paid off. The award has enthused me around the value and applicability of my research findings, and prompted me to share these through various forums – in the workplace, at conferences and particularly with potential clients.’

Other Student Finalists for 2015 were:

Fjolla Hoxha, from Coventry University, selected by Dr Christine Grant -”An exploration of the antecedents and consequences to stress associated with different job roles types: A literature review.”

Kim Feldwicke, from Kingston University selected by Dr Joanna Yarker - “Exploring discourse used by leaders about workplace role related pro-environmental behaviour and environmental sustainability practices.”

David Walter, from the University of Westminster selected by Professor Stephen Benton - “How can organisations engage older workers? An Exploration of Identity Motives through Lived Experience.”

Anette Morris who works for IBM, from the University of Gloucestershire selected by Dr David Biggs  “What makes a satisfied mobile teleworker, extraversion or introversion?”  Submitted to the DOP.

Leonie Nicks, from King’s College selected by Dr Gillian Wiscarson - “You are competent, but I don't want to follow you: Implicit bias against female business leaders”.

One of the student award winners, Rebecca Milner, is a Business Psychology Consultant at Arup. She prides herself in being a scientific practitioner, utilising cutting edge psychological research to benefit clients. She has experience working in aviation, transport, and healthcare, across the spectrum of Business Psychology including assessment and selection, leadership, and change management. Rebecca has a strong focus on undertaking vigorous research and applying the implications of this to business settings. The following is a summary and discussion of her findings, including implications for practice.

Fire fighters working shifts – Is it time to focus on wellbeing?
Shift Working

We all know someone who has to work shifts, and many of us have personally endured the 3am low, trying to continue working with heavy eyelids. Shift working is and has been a challenge in the emergency services, healthcare, transport and energy industries for decades. Now, within the 24 hour society that we operate, there are an increasing number of people having to override their natural sleep patterns and work shifts, particularly in service sectors such as hotels, restaurants, banking and finance providers as we demand round-the-clock service. This fuels the need to bring the risks of shift working to the attention of the public, policy makers, and businesses.

Working shifts results in a range of stressors including disturbed sleep, impaired physical and psychological health, as well as putting strains on ones relationships. Yet, despite research clearly demonstrating such challenges, we have failed to establish a shift pattern that consistently counteracts these challenges across organisations, job roles, and individuals.

The question therefore arises – what can we as business psychologists do to support those employees who operate 24 hours a day?  Kantermann et al. (2010) propose that tolerance and successful coping strategies at an individual-level are vital moving forwards. However, first we must convince organisations of the importance of supporting shift workers in relation to their wellbeing.

The Research

I chose to take an active role in driving this message, through exploring the relationship between shift work, wellbeing and performance in rotating shift workers. This research project was approved and supported by two fire departments, whom are advocates of the importance of wellbeing – yet required quantified research to sell the value of taking active steps to enhance this to their leadership team.

The results speak for themselves:
  • Sleep quality significantly predicted both burnout and engagement
  • How a fire fighter sleeps prior to their current day or night shift predicts how they feel in relation to their work during their shift.
  • Sleep quality, burnout and engagement significantly and independently predicted performance
  • Sleep quality prior to ones shift, and how a fire fighter feels in relation to work during ones shift predicted performance during both day and night shifts.
  • Finally, when integrating these results into a model, it emerged that sleep quality indirectly predicts performance through contributing to the experience of burnout and engagement. 

 

For me, such statistical findings in combination with the WGBC report’s conclusion that ‘90% of a typical businesses operating costs are comprised of salaries and staff benefits’ (2014) are a strong message for businesses, and shift workers across industries, highlighting the need to address employee wellbeing in order to drive business performance.

What does this mean for practice? 

The good news is that business psychologists have a range of tools that can support shift workers in adapting to the challenges they face.

  1. Identify - Ensuring that managers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to ensure that they are open to support staff wellbeing issues, as well as able to spot the warning signs should one of their employees be struggling to cope with shift working.
  2. Support - Taking a proactive approach, equipping employees themselves with coping strategies to facilitate their sleeping and adaption to shift schedules. This can involve 'quick win' tips and advice to ease the stress of shift working.
  3. Job Design - Reviewing the job roles of shift working employees and ensuring that this is in-line with skills and capabilities, while reviewing workload across a department so as not to cause excessive strain under the existing stress of shift working. 

If the importance of this research resonates with you, I urge you to take this message forwards to your contacts across sectors - communicating the importance of wellbeing for both moral and business reasons. While doing this, I feel it is vital to highlight that such interventions don't have to be time consuming and costly, they can be tailored to fit a specific need and budget, and any investment in this space will be welcomed by employees.

The more we research, write, and speak in this space, the more that will be done to help shift workers across industries to adapt to the difficult demands placed upon them to ensure our 24 hour society keeps ticking.