Anna Harrington is a Leader in the field of Occupational Health and Safety Management. Anna talks to the Industry Leaders about why her work can influence an organisation's success and how her downtime involves competing in cycling races with people from around the world!
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
As a clinical nurse working in high and intensive care units, I was exposed to work that impacted the health and wellbeing of myself and most clinicians. I say "impact", by which I mean both enhancing and detracting. It ignited a curiosity within me about the meaning and purpose of work. I started to think about how an organisation's needs are balanced with individual employee's needs and what happens when the balance is too far on either side.
I was then lucky to be sponsored to complete a specialist health degree in Occupational Health and Safety Management, which set the foundations for exploring Occupational Health as a career. At that early stage, I totally believed - as I do now - that good work is great for employee health, wellbeing, and an organisation's success.
What kind of work does your role involve?
Every day I have conversations with employers and employees; personal conversations about individuals' health and wellbeing. My professional status invites trust, and I take that really seriously, whether it's the HR Director of an organisation or an individual employee. The most frequent critical subjects for work-based health and wellbeing are work relationships and work demands. It's a mix of volume, complexity and balancing the individual's personal needs.
What gets you excited about your industry?
The progressive understanding, both in and outside of the profession, of the real value that occupational health brings to an organisation. I argue that we, especially as nurses, understand what enables a person to be healthy and well. In doing so, we can also enable the employee to work to the best of their abilities.
Nurses recognise the essential human requirements enabling a person to work effectively are an elemental framework for biopsychosocial assessment. These are being valued more and more during Covid-19 and touch on important requirements like purpose, being valued, respect, psychological safety, fulfilment, attainment, connection, relatedness.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
"Get on with it." I can spend much time anguishing about the nuances, seeing the gaps, weaknesses, and potential errors, which can then stymie confident action.
What, or who inspires you?
Anyone who has an open mind or is willing to have their mind changed. I'm inspired by social explorers - people who feel fear and go for it anyway - and those who live life with kindness as one of their guiding principles.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
Being part of strong professional networks and volunteering for specialist professional groups such as Diversity and Inclusion taskforce for the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM).
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
The most challenging is also the most innovative and exciting - it was my first employed position after completing my specialist degree was part of a small project team. We were local and central government-funded (and later we received European funding) and were tasked with the grand objective of improving the working population's health.
This was based in an area of the UK that was high on the deprivation scales, with high ethnic diversity and an industrial background based around heavy manufacturing. It was challenging because there was so much to learn and little on which to base a project plan. Ultimately, these challenges were also the reason why I loved being a part of this project.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Assuming that Covid-19 restrictions had ended, I would take a fabulous, no-expense-spared celebratory family holiday. I guess this response totally reflects being in the middle of the 3rd lockdown!
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I am an open water and indoor club swimmer and cyclist. At the moment with lockdown, I'm not able to swim, so I'm usually found in the land of Zwift. For those sensible people who aren't familiar with Zwift, it describes itself as a multi-player on-line training programme where players (cyclists) interact from around the world in a virtual environment whilst cycling on a turbo trainer. I am part of a time-trial team. We race every Thursday evening. At the moment I Zwift usually 4-5 times per week. It's great fun, hard work and very social!
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
To have more of us! We are in really short supply.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
Smita Tharoor's podcasts - Stories of Unconscious Bias.
These fascinating stories from all sorts of people, in all areas of life, and normalise unconscious bias; framing it as a fascinating aspect of being human that we must become more knowledgeable about.
Book - Fake law. The truth about justice in an age of lies The Secret Barrister. I think it is imperative to explore why and how decisions are made, and this book reveals the details behind headline-grabbing stories that have a legal involvement.
How should people connect with you?
You can connect with me via https://www.linkedin.com/in/annawhib/ and
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