MP120111AH2_029-1I am Tom Cox: I am an organizational psychologist of some experience broadly specialising in occupational health issues relating to work, health and the sustainability of working life. One of my particular concerns is cancer survivorship and working life.

I hold Chairs at three universities. My primary affiliation is with Birkbeck University of London where I hold the Chair of Occupational Health Psychology & Management and am Director of he Centre for Sustainable Working Life (CSWL) in the School of Business, Economics & Informatics. I am also heavily involved in the METIS Collaboration as its Co Director. METIS is hosted at the University of Aberdeen by the Academic Urology Unit in the School of Medicine & Dentistry. I hold an Honorary Chair in Psychosocial Oncology at that University. Last but not least, I have an Emeritus Chair in Organizational Psychology at the University of Nottingham in the Department of Psychiatry & Applied Psychology.

This is my personal and work blog. The Blog shares news of my current research, my professional activities and opinions, my other interests and my travels. It also copies in my Twitter accounts which are focused on Economic & Political News and Occupational & Public Health News and RSS feeds in my areas of interest. The Blog incorporates some material from The OHP Review which I originally published as an online guide to Occupational Health Psychology.

images-1The blog has achieved over 14,800 hits. Recently, the main ones have been the UK and Australia, then the USA, Taiwan, Canada, Malaysia, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands and Sweden. However, the blog also seems to have some appeal in countries such as Barbados, Cote d’Ivoire, Kazakhstan, Syria, Burkino Faso, Guyana, Sao Tome and Nepal!


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The last few days of the penultimate week of a cold and blustery February were, once again, eventful and marked by two important events that together bore witness to the progress of the Centre for Sustainable Working Life. The first was an Interview Panel for a Researcher position within the Centre and the second was the first Development Meeting for the Centre’s ERSC Seminar Series project on Cancer and Employment: Social Science Perspectives. In between, to relax, Sue and I went to see The Commitments at the Palace Theatre London.

UnknownJust after the Xmas and New Year break, the Centre advertised on-line for a new position as a Researcher in Occupational Health Psychology and received over 40 applications from which, after great consideration, a short list of 5 candidates was agreed. I chaired the Short Listing Panel which was also attended by Professor Philip Dewe and Dr Juliet Hassard. The subsequent interviews were held in the College in Gordon Square, Bloomsbury. I chaired the Selection Panel which was also attended by Dr Juliet Hassard and Catherine Griffiths. All 5 candidates did well at interview and the Panel  has been faced with a difficult choice. Its decision will be announced this week (w/k beginning 23rd February).

8-2754esrc-logoThe day after the Selection Panel, the first Development Meeting of the Centre’s ESRC Seminar Series project was held in the College in Russell Square, Bloomsbury. The Meeting, co-chaired by Professor Tom Cox and Dr Sara MacLennan, was effectively a meeting of the Steering Group which will oversee, reflect on, discuss and develop the Discussion Seminars. The Steering Group is multi-disciplinary across the social and related sciences, and currently numbers some 22 members. 13 attended its first meeting with 2 more joining by teleconference. During the morning session, the meeting reviewed the current planning for the Discussion Seminars, identified and discussed key points of their management. The subsequent afternoon session was a lively discussion of the current landscape for cancer and employment stimulated by 3 short presentations covering the individual perspective (the person diagnosed with cancer) (Dr Sara MacLennan), the organisational perspective (Professor Tom Cox) and the economic and labour market perspectives (remotely by Dr Heather Brown). The meeting provided an excellent start for the Development Seminars both in terms of team building and substantive content.

Unknown-1During the evening between the Interview Panel and the ESRC Seminar Series meeting, Sue and I went to the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, to see The Commitments ~ a musical based on the book by Roddy Doyle and film by the same name. It was an excellent production and one to be recommended especially for those who love soul and rock and roll in an Irish (Dublin Southside) context. The musical merged seamlessly into a concert of roll and roll favourites which brought the audience to its feet. Purely by chance, we sat next to an Israeli Sports Journalist who had been in the UK to cover a Liverpool match and who was taking some R & R before returning to Tel Aviv: an interesting conversation during the Interlude.




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The week beginning 2nd February was an eventful week and an enjoyable and successful one.

Unknown-3On 3rd February, I joined a Panel that led an Insight Workshop run by the UK General Medical Council (GMC) for its staff. The workshop focused on “The Work Environment, Stress and Fitness to Practice“. The workshop took place in the Deansgate offices, Manchester, of the GMC with a broadcast to its London offices. About 60-70 staff attended what developed into an excellent discussion of the key issues, well informed and useful. Thanks to Tom Stocker, GMC, for organising the workshop.

Unknown-4The following day, 4th February, I had a very pleasant lunch with Andrew Buchan, Cloisters, in the Middle Temple Hall, London, and then spent much of the afternoon in Chambers discussing recent twists and turns in health and safety related cases in the Courts. We had a particular interest in the way that the application of the Management Standards approach (Health & Safety Executive) was being interpreted in those cases: time well spent from my point of view: thanks to Andrew Buchan.

images-5In the 13th century, the Inns of Court originated as hostels and schools for student lawyers. The Middle Temple is the western part of “The Temple” which was the headquarters of the Knights Templar until they were dissolved in 1312; the Temple Church still stands as a ‘peculiar’ (extra-diocesan) church of the Inner and Middle Temples. The Inns stopped being responsible for legal education in 1852, although they continue to provide training in areas such as advocacy and ethics for students, pupil barristers and newly qualified barristers. Most of the Inn is occupied by barristers’ Chambers (offices).One of the Middle Temple’s main functions now is to provide education and support for new members to the profession. The Middle Temple Hall also provides lunches for its members.

Unknown-5On the 5th February, my last PhD student registered at Nottingham, Wu Chih-Ying (George), had his PhD viva voce examination: end of an era. George was jointly supervised by Professor Amanda Griffiths and me. His thesis concerned: ” The Influence of Employees’ Parents on Work-Family Balance in Taiwan: Implications for Organisational behaviour and Wellbeing“. The Internal Examiner was Dr Shihning Chou (Nottingham) and the External was Professor Philip Dewe (Birkbeck). The viva was held in the Division of Psychiatry & Applied Psychology in the School of Medicine at Nottingham (where I hold an Emeritus Chair). Part of the Division is situated in the building (above) that once housed the now deceased Institute of Work, Health & Organisations.

George performed well in his viva voce and he was awarded his PhD with only a few minor additions. Congratulations to Wu Chih-Ying (George), a pat on the back for his supervisors particularly Professor Griffiths and thanks to his Examiners Dr Chou and Professor Dewe. Well done everybody. George has now returned to Taiwan and takes with him our best wishes for his future academic career. We now look forward to working with him to help him build that career through his publications.


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We had an excellent family Xmas with our girls, their partners, all our grandchildren and one of our daughter’s in-laws. The house was full and full of fun. To top that, Stoke City beat Everton away at Goodison Park. Our joy was complete.

DSCN1177Old Year’s Night was spent with friends and the following day ~ 1st January ~ we flew out to Tampa and on to Longboat Key on the Gulf of Mexico for a relaxing 10 days. During this time, Sue (Professor Sue Cox) flew on to an AACSB meeting in Austin, Texas, where the weather was distinctly Nordic: freezing and grey.

Unknown-2We both re-engaged with work on our return. Sue announced her retirement as Dean of the Lancaster University Management School (LUMS). She steps down at the end of the current academic year but will remain with the University as an Ambassador and will also maintain her professional roles. She is standing down after guiding LUMS to triple accreditation (again) and maintaining its place (again), through the REF, as (arguably) the UK’s leading Management School.

On 29th January, Sara MacLennan and I met with Janice Preston, Macmillan in Scotland, to brief on progress on the SCOT-PAIS project and discuss the next steps. The meeting, held in Macmillan’s offices in Edinburgh, were both friendly and constructive.

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flagBy 22.00 hr on Thursday 18th November, the result of the Scottish Referendum on Independence from the UK was known and published.

The referendum sparked much debate and stirred passions across Scotland some of which remain unsettled. It was an impressive exercise in democracy with over 3.6 million people voting representing a turn out of 84.6% the like of which is unprecedented in recent times.

UnknownThe YES voted was recorded as 1,617,989 while the NO vote was recorded as 2,001,926 and held the day. The NO Campaign won the day. While the YES Campaign came close to achieving its objective, the final gap between the two campaigns was slightly bigger than forecast.

The YES vote was concentrated in the industrial heartlands of Scotland in the middle belt around Glasgow and in the NE around Dundee. YES majorities were recorded in Dundee, Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanark: the latter by a ‘hair’s breadth’. Apart from these 4 voting areas, the remainder (29) returned NO majorities.

images-1The SNP Leader, Alex Salmon subsequently stood down and his Deputy Nicola Sturgeon was elected in his place. However, Alex Salmon will lead what is likely to be a substantive SNP representation in the Westminster Parliament after the 2015 Election.

The Referendum Battle for Independence might have been won but the War has not yet been.

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Unknown-1On the 6th November, the first METIS Collaboration Away Day was held in Edinburgh at the offices of Macmillan in Scotland. Our thanks to Joanne Adamson of Macmillan. The meeting was well attended by the members of the Collaboration. The meeting was chaired by Professor Tom Cox and Dr Sara MacLennan.

8-2754esrc-logoThe day proved most useful by helping to better define the scope and objectives of the METIS programme. During the afternoon, the award of the Seminar Series funding by the ESRC was discussed and the involvement of the Collaboration fleshed out. The seminar series focuses on social science perspectives on cancer and employment. Following this initial (or Kick Off) meeting for the seminar project, a series of teleconferences were organised for the Executive Group to further develop the content of the seminars, agree the budget and finance arrangements, and the decide a provisional schedule of meetings. The Executive Group involves the lead members from Birkbeck University of London (grant holder) and the universities of Aberdeen and Newcastle.

Macmillan_picOn the 2nd December, a meeting of the Steering Group for the SCOT-PAIS project was held. This project is a major research and development project being undertaken at Aberdeen and is funded by Macmillan in Scotland. The meeting focused on the completion on the interview survey and the 2 rounds of the subsequent Delphi consultation on the design of a new patient advice and information service for those with urological cancer sin the NW Scotland.

imagesIn November, I completed by contribution to the review of applications to NordForsk for substantive funding for research on work and wellbeing. NordForsk is an organisation established by the Nordic Council of Ministers that provides funding for Nordic research cooperation as well as advice and input on Nordic research policy.

AndreaQuailmasthead874x289-1Finally, for this period, I was invited to participate in the Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) Annual Winter Ball which was organised by the students at the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool. It was a smashing evening and great to see all those young professionals-in-the-making dressed up. Andrea Quail was voted the ‘LUMS Staff Member of the Year’ by the students. She has been with Accounting & Finance since 1997 and is part of its Undergraduate Support Team. She is pictured here receiving her reward from the Dean, Professor Sue Cox.

Finally, finally, just before the Xmas break, the members of the Centre for Sustainable Working Life held their Xmas lunch at Carluccios in Brunswick Square Bloomsbury. It was a very pleasant way of rounding off a good year.

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IMG_1843-1Sadly, I have been distracted from my Blog and Twitter accounts for nearly three months which is far too long. Much has happened in that time and, as a result, passed without comment.

This was, to an extent, unavoidable but nevertheless to be regretted. However, I am now getting back to normal in terms of the management of my time and my priorities. I shall return to the Blog and to Twitter and try to catch up on what has been important in those contexts.

A ‘thank you’ to those who, despite my absence, have continued to look at the Blog. Hits have slowly risen across this period to just over 14,600.

A very belated Best Wishes for the New Year to all!

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imagesThe United Kingdom (UK)  is made up of four nations: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and is a member of the European Union. Its Parliament, one of the oldest democratic institutions in the world, sits in Westminster, London, and is elected by the peoples of all four constituent nations. It has a Queen, Elizabeth II, who resides in Buckingham Palace, London, but with much used properties in both Scotland and the English regions. She is popular across all four constituent nations.

The UK is emerging from a major financial crisis and a recession and its recovery is one of the strongest in the West and certainly in Europe. This recovery has been hard won and is involving a rethinking of the relationship between the Individual and the State. Furthermore, it faces a serious threat at home from Islamic terrorism, is involved in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and is concerned about the civil war in the Ukraine (Europe) and a returning threat from Russia.

This is clearly a time for unity, good sense and resolve.

Unknown-6With the advance of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and UKIP, the current political situation threatens both the integrity of the UK and its membership and role in Europe . The SNP’s relative success in the Scottish Referendum and UKIP’s successes in recent by-elections bear witness to their recent progress. There is no suggestion here that these two parties are, in any way, working together. They are diametrically opposed on a number of key issues. It is their different influences and their aims that, put side by side, pose the threat within the current political situation.

The SNP was founded in 1934 from the merger of the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party. As of early 2014, it is now the largest political party in Scotland and among the largest parties in the UK with about 100,000 members.

images-6UKIP was founded in 1993 by members of the Anti-Federalist League. It is now arguably the fourth largest party in England & Wales with a membership of over 40,000. I am sure that these figures can be contested and are in need of updating. I am simply using them to make the point that both the SNP and UKIP are substantive players in the UK political game and cannot be dismissed.

The recent and marked rise of UKIP has been explained in terms of peoples’ growing dissatisfaction both with the main political parties (as were), Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrat, and with the European Union (EU). It also marks the rise in the electoral power of the ‘Ordinary Folk on the High Street‘ who are shedding previous political allegiances. UKIP accuses the main parties (as were) of living in the ‘Westminster Bubble’ and not understanding or particularly caring about the situation and concerns of Ordinary Folk. Interestingly, the SNP also accuses the main political parties (as was) of living in the Westminster Bubble and not understanding or particularly caring about the people of Scotland. These accusations represent a major issue and challenge to the main parties (as were) and one that they are failing to address effectively.

The notion of Ordinary Folk (as above) should not be confused with that of The Man on the Clapham Omnibus which, in English law, is that of a reasonably educated and intelligent but nondescript person against whom one’s behaviour can be judged. The phrase was first put to legal use in a reported judgment by Sir Richard Henn Collins in the 1903 English Court of Appeal libel case, McQuire v Western Morning News. 

images-1The 2015 General Election is the Cross Roads. One extreme outcome could well be the exit from the EU of the UK followed by a SNP Scottish Government unilaterally declaring independence to remain in the EU and doing so with the European Commission’s support. How then would Northern Ireland and Wales stand? Less dramatic outcomes are, arguably, more possible but it is clear that the political situation will be more fraught than ever with issues such as immigration, Europe and Scottish independence capturing centre stage at a possible cost to the economic challenges that we will still face and those of our collective security. Whichever way one looks at it, the decision fast becomes Little England vs The United Kingdom.

The notion of  ‘Little England‘ (and of a ‘Little Englander’) derives from the late 1900s when it indicated, among other things, opposition to the Second Boer War (1899-1902) and to Free Trade and internationalism. The term later came to mark out those who were against the British Empire and for  an ‘England’ extending no further than the borders of the UK.

Unknown-2The three main political parties (as were) urgently need to address this question of Little England vs The United Kingdom but I am concerned that they do not really understand the challenge that faces them before the 2015 General Election.

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60b7d52d99a4fee073_l_7eebdMary Stergiou-Kita, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto, and her colleagues have published an interesting review of qualitative studies of cancer survivors’ experiences and the development of strategies to facilitate return to work in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship. The journal has a 2013 impact factor of 3.2927.

The authors conducted a systematic search of five databases to identify relevant qualitative studies published between January 2000 and July 2013. In total, 39 studies met their inclusion and quality criteria.

11764The synthesis of these studies is reported to have demonstrated that cancer diagnosis and treatment represent a major change in individuals’ lives and often result in them having to leave full-time work while undergoing treatment or participating in rehabilitation. Many survivors wanted to return to some form of gainful or paid employment. However, there was also evidence that the meaning of paid employment could change following cancer.

Return to work was found to be a continuous process that involved planning and decision-making with respect to work readiness and symptom management throughout the process. Nine key factors were identified as relevant to work success. These include four related to the person (i.e., symptoms, work abilities, coping, motivation), three related to environmental supports (i.e., family, workplace, professionals), and two related to the occupation (i.e., type of work/demands, job flexibility). Finally, issues related to disclosure of one’s cancer status and cancer-related impairments were also found to be relevant to survivors’ return to work experiences.

The authors concluded that cancer survivors need integrated support from health and vocational professionals (e.g., assistance with defining work goals, determining work readiness, determining how symptoms may impact work performance, suggesting workplace supports, and accommodations) to maintain and return to work after cancer diagnosis and treatment. These supports need to be provided throughout the recovery and rehabilitation process.

These findings reported in this review paper are important and resonate with those emerging from the (empirical)  SCOT-PAIS project being conducted through The METIS Collaboration by Sara MacLennan, Sarah Murdoch and Tom Cox funded by Macmillan Cancer Support in Scotland.


Stergiou-Kita, M., Grigorovich, A., Tseung, V., Milosevic, E., Hebert, D., Phan, S., and Jones, J. (2014) Qualitative meta-synthesis of survivors’ work experiences and the development of strategies to facilitate return to work. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 8, 657-670.

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A Fellowship of the College is one of the oldest and highest honours that Birkbeck University of London can bestow on one of its members. It has awarded such a Fellowship to our friend and esteemed colleague  Professor Philip Dewe. Philip also holds a Fellowship of the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology awarded last year.

imageThe College has written “Philip Dewe is Professor of Organisational Behaviour in the Department of Organizational Psychology and Deputy Director of the new Centre for Sustainable Working Life. Having joined the College from Massey University in his native New Zealand in 2000, for 11 years Professor Dewe also gave outstanding service to Birkbeck as Vice-Master, stepping down from the role in summer 2014. While this now allows him more time for his research interests, which include work stress and coping, emotions and human resource accounting, he continues to contribute to the College as Pro-Vice-Master for Special Projects. Among his many achievements as Vice-Master has been Professor Dewe’s work in Stratford, east London, which culminated in the opening of the University Square Stratford campus in November 2013.”

His recent publications include two very worthwhile books in occupational health psychology:

Dewe, P., O’Driscoll, M., & Cooper, C. (2010). Coping with work stress: A review and critique. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Dewe, P., & Cooper C. (2012). Well-being and work: Towards a balanced agenda. Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan.   Our congratulations to Philip.

Read more at: ________________________________________________________

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coverOur empirical paper describing a qualitative study of recently qualified doctors and their apparent lack of interest in geriatric medicine is being published in Medical Teacher. The journal has a 2013 impact factor of 2.045 and a 5-Year impact factor of 2.170.

The paper can be cited as: Samra, R., Griffiths, A., and Cox, T. (In Press) Exploring the lack of interest in geriatric medicine. Medical Teacher. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2014.970995.

The pre publication version is available online at:

Our thank to Raj Samra for persevering with this paper and seeing it through to publication.


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