How Occupational Therapy Practices can be Applied to Your Workplace Culture

In this month’s blog, I wanted to share with you about the personal reflection moments I experience every time I am asked, “tell me Jacqui, what do you do?”

When I explain that I am an Occupational Therapist and Workplace Culture Coach and trainer I am sometimes met with a look of confusion. This can usually mean ‘what is an Occupational Therapist’ and ‘what on earth is a Paediatric Occupational Therapist doing coaching and training in the world of adults and workplace culture’?

The best way to explain this is to explore how my Occupational Therapy experience brings a fresh and unique perspective and is a key enabler for improving your workplace culture.

Focus on meaningful participation for all

One way I describe the role of an Occupational Therapist is that we focus on anything that ‘occupies’ a person throughout their day. By assisting people to build their confidence and competence in a whole range of skills we enable them to participate, achieve good outcomes and contribute meaningfully in whatever aspect of their lives they want for themselves. This includes our physical, social and emotional parts of our being.

Keep perspective whilst focusing on specifics

Occupational Therapists are holistic. They see many facets to a person and are trained to switch between seeing the whole picture and drilling down into the component parts. This skill, otherwise known as divergence and convergence, is like putting together a puzzle. To be successful you need to keep switching your focus from broad to narrow, from looking at the whole puzzle picture to see where the piece might fit, then narrowing your focus to fit the individual piece into the puzzle.

This is a powerful and sustainable way to co-create a culture because it acknowledges the role of the individual, addressing the issues at hand, while simultaneously helping people appreciate the broader perspective.

Be open to influence when sharing ideas

Another key enabler is the multidisciplinary approach of Occupational Therapists. This means incorporating the perspectives and opinions of others in their thinking and acknowledging and considering the input from other professionals. Being open to influence and actively listening to different focus areas provides a different and useful understanding of the issues at hand. This brings a richness and accountability to the process and inevitably results in better outcomes.

Similar to working in a multidisciplinary team, in the workplace setting, we are best able to solve problems effectively, when we are open to being influenced by others.

When we open ourselves up with the intent to listen, connect and learn, we unleash the power of collective thinking.  Including staff in your meetings, who are working at the coalface and who have practical insights and knowledge, will enable you to capture valuable information for your business advantage.

One size does not fit all

Being an Occupational Therapist has taught me to be flexible in my approach, to take ideas from a number of sources and to have more than one way of working. Much of our work is about trial and error. No two human beings are exactly the same. Each individual sees the world through many different filters, which means you can never be sure that any specific strategy will work until you try it. Just like siblings in a family, some kids need lots of structure and others thrive on less.

If you implement the same strategies for all employees, some will love it and some will resent it. By being open to feedback and willing to adapt, we will achieve better outcomes.

I hope this gives you just a small glimpse into what 30 years of working as an Occupational Therapist can bring to your workplace. Whether it’s about bringing courage, caring and candour to improving customer experience, or turning it around and using the same principles in working more effectively alongside your peers, it all comes down to the same common denominator.

We are all human.

Families are mini communities and workplaces are simply bigger communities. We all want to feel safe, to belong, to feel valued, to be heard and to contribute.

I am passionate about building co-creative communities that include all of these.

Are you part of a workplace community such as this?

Hi there! I’m Jacqui Snider and I’m here to help you and your business grow and flourish.

As an Occupational Therapist and Workplace Culture Coach and Trainer, I am passionate about helping individuals and organisations develop better home and workplace practices that everyone enjoys being part of. With more than 35 years of coaching experience, I have personally coached and trained in excess of 350 leaders, bringing about transformational change in both individuals and teams.

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