CPD is more crucial than ever, but how can you set the best speed for the treadmill of work, study, repeat?
In a world profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the role of OSH professionals pushed centre stage, continuing professional development (CPD) is essential. As Vanessa Harwood-Whitcher, IOSH director of professional services, says: ‘If professionals don’t stay up to speed with changes in legislation or trends in OSH, it means the advice and support they are offering their colleagues could be out of date or, worse, put life in danger. Setting aside a little time every week to carry out professional development is a great way of not allowing yourself to be complacent by relying on knowledge gained in the past.’
However, managing both work and CPD at the same time can be daunting – and it might have become even more difficult in the last few months for those professionals who must work longer hours and deal with more stressful situations.
Many resources are available on LinkedIn or on the IOSH website to make people’s CPD journey easier. Courses are available, but so also are books and resources aligned with the new competency framework launched in 2020 to cover the skills, knowledge and behaviours that OSH professionals currently need. The IOSH Career Hub (iosh.com/my-iosh/careerhub) is a good place to gain new knowledge and business skills.
It’s important to decide where we draw a line and decide when our day of work is finished. We need a daily cut-off point
A tool such as Blueprint 2.0, which will launch this year, is also useful for professionals to reflect on their practice. Accessing a large amount of materials, doing the exercises and reading the content available on this system will auto-populate into professionals’ CPD records.
Finding the right balance While these resources are useful to save time and access high-quality content and learning, successfully completing your CPD and getting the right balance between working and studying also requires organisation, as well as consistency in your learning and honesty with yourself about the gaps in your knowledge.
‘You need to make time, even if it’s just a short amount each month,’ says Keith Sillitoe, senior consultant at the British Safety Council. ‘I keep a simple Word document to explain what I have done and benefited from, including refreshed OSH training and education. It’s best to keep it simple and not too formalised. The best approach is to have a clear documented record of what I’ve learnt and the tasks I have completed that are linked to my occupation and continual improvement.’
As the pandemic increases the workload for OSH professionals, finding even this small amount of time in your schedule may be challenging.
‘The trick is to plan what you want to develop and then set achievable goals for each week,’ says Vanessa. ‘This may be as short as reading an online article or as long as gaining a qualification. It has to be right for you, your career journey and how much time you have to spend keeping yourself up to date. By setting small goals, you get a sense of achievement when you reach them and this can really help with motivation.’
CPD should not be neglected by professionals who might have been furloughed or lost their jobs. Learning and joining training courses can restore a sense of purpose as well as demonstrate to employers that the time out of work has been used productively to gain new skills or achieve qualifications.
‘In the last few months, IOSH has seen an increase in the number of members working on their initial professional development [IPD] to become Chartered. Far more people are coming through the process during the pandemic,’ Vanessa says.
With the rise of home-working, the past year has been characterised by increasingly blurred boundaries between private and professional life. The anxiety and stress of adapting to new ways of working has led to a higher risk of burnout. However, practical tips can be implemented to help manage your time in a more efficient way, allowing for a good balance between work and CPD, while setting up clear boundaries and reducing the potential for stressful situations (see Clear minds below).
Philip Lancashire, a member of IOSH’s Future Leaders Steering Group, concludes: ‘It’s important to decide where we draw a line and decide when our day of work is finished. We need a daily cut-off point to say the working day is done. We can then do professional development tasks on our time.’
Practical advice from Dr Angela Carter, occupational psychologist at Just Development
- Professional development is about taking time out and evaluating where you are, where you want to be, and making appropriate changes to gain control in stressful overwork situations. But CPD is not all about courses and qualifications – it is also about extracting learning from the working day and using that to make the subsequent activities more effective.
- To avoid feeling stressed and overwhelmed, make a clear distinction between working, studying and enjoying your own time.
- Incorporate one learning activity into each day – and enjoy it. You can also combine this activity with day-to-day work.
- Take time to think about what you are doing and learning. Evaluating outcomes will show how you have used your abilities and that you have a ‘valued role’.
- Separate activities into different spaces if possible – sit in an armchair with a book, or use a pen not a computer.
- Plan your time carefully to learn when you are not tired – for example after lunch or first thing in the morning. Don’t try to learn when you are tired, or on a Friday.
- Set your own pace.
- Take frequent rests, and eat and sleep well. Use exercise to work out difficult problems – just let the thoughts float around your head while exercising (or sleeping) and you may find what comes out of it is interesting.