HR Excellence Awards 2009: Health & Wellbeing - Metropolitan Police Service

It doesn't require a huge leap of the imagination to understand the stresses and strains police officers come under. You only have to read the newspapers or watch the news on television to see this for real. So it is little surprise that in the Metropolitan Police Service, stress is the most common cause of long-term sick leave.

Over the past three to five years the Met has adopted a two-pronged approach to stress management - one reactive initiative and three proactive - to combat the problem. A DVD called 'Shrinking Clouds' was just one of the initiatives launched. It was designed by the Met's occupational health unit to provide police officers and police staff with practical tools and techniques for dealing with stress both proactively and reactively.

Delivered to groups of Met staff in the form of an interactive presentation, the DVD uses six professionally acted typical stress scenarios at work and outside it. The characters use effective strategies such as breathing exercises, prioritising tasks, positive self-talk and stepping back from difficult situations to retain perspective. It also provides information on the value of exercise, a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition.

The results of the Shrinking Clouds initiative speak for themselves. Since its introduction a year ago, absence among officers due to stress-related illness has fallen by 14.3%, resulting in a cost saving of more than £1.3 million. It is also credited with helping reduce annual sick leave generally from 10.2 days per officer in 2003 to 7.2 days today.

Judges' comments

What particularly impressed the judges was how much thought had gone into creating a package that recognised and addressed the macho culture of the police force where stress was stigmatised and largely seen as an admission of failure. "Care was taken to ensure the tone of the campaign was non-threatening and non-judgemental," said one judge.

FINALIST - East Sussex County Council