A co-design approach to exploring physical activity, stress, and wellbeing in two British police forces
The aim of this research was to explore stress and wellbeing in two British police forces, to discover what factors were important for police wellbeing and how the wellbeing of police force workers might be better supported. A collaborative (co-design) approach and the Double Diamond (Design Council, 2019) framework were used to guide the research. The sample population for this research was recruited from two UK police organizations. Informed by the Demands Resources and Individual Effects model of work-related stress (Mark & Smith, 2008), Study 1 was a quantitative assessment of the factors associated with stress and wellbeing in the police forces. Work resources (perception of reward, control, support) and individual characteristics (medium and high physical activity behavior) were found to significantly moderate the relationships between work demands and perceived job stress to benefit psychological wellbeing outcomes. To gain deeper insight into physical activity as a potential driver for wellbeing, a series of qualitative enquiries were conducted in Study 2a and 2b. Focus groups were used to explore the relationship between physical activity and wellbeing in Study 2a, and individual interviews were conducted with inactive (low physical activity behavior) police force workers to establish the barriers and enablers to their physical activity behavior in Study 2b. Analysis indicated that psychological capability, social opportunity and motivation were influential in police physical activity behavior. Building on the qualitative insights, Study 3 focused on the development of a context-specific physical activity intervention, co-designed with one department within the police force. Using the Behavior Change Wheel (Michie et al., 2011), the outcome of this collaborative approach was a protocol for an ‘Exertime’ intervention. ‘Exertime’ was an e-health software program which prompted police staff to engage in short-bursts of physical activity throughout their shifts and was supported by supervisors encouraging their staffs’ participation. Holistically, the program of research has advanced knowledge on work-related stress, wellbeing, and physical activity, with practical implications for police force organizations. These include providing support for physical activity at work as a mechanism to maintain wellbeing and providing specific training for supervisors to manage favorable relationships with their staff. A series of learning points can be taken from the research to support future PhD researchers, their supervisors and the external organizations they work with in conducting ecologically valid research.