Restorative Practice at Work

Six habits for improving relationships in healthcare settings

By: Lesley Parkinson


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PublishedJanuary 2024
Size234 x 156mm

Written by Lesley Parkinson, Restorative Practice at Work: Six habits for improving relationships in healthcare settings demonstrates how anyone working in healthcare can draw on restorative practice to develop six habits that improve relationships and help to foster compassionate and inclusive workplace cultures.

Restorative practice is emerging in healthcare settings and systems as a highly effective means of improving relationships and enabling positive change. It consists of a set of theories, principles, skills and processes that shape our thinking around the way we interact with others. When restorative practice is adopted consistently within and between teams, it becomes ‘the way we do things round here’, a set of restorative practice ‘habits’ that we all recognise, use and refer to.  

Restorative Practice at Work identifies a set of six complementary habits which will help to change and improve everyday communications, conversations and accountability in healthcare. These habits demonstrate how restorative practice can help to improve day-to-day communications, in the form of behaviour, language and conversations, ease some of the daily challenges faced in healthcare and foster more effective working relationships, potentially leading to improvements in patient care and patient safety. They are:

  1.      Navigating the Mountain: Looking beyond challenging behaviour
  2.      Recognising Needs: Noticing, and responding to, needs and unmet needs
  3.      Engaging Brains and Behaviours: Informing our responses to outward behaviours
  4.      Remembering the Relational Window: Solving problems together
  5.      Running Circle Meetings: An alternative meeting process
  6.      Drawing on Restorative Enquiry: Processing incidents and problems

Lesley firmly believes that restorative practice habits can ease the current pressures on the health service by enabling better relationships, improved communication and a focus on positive mental health. It can also be part of key solutions: staff engagement and retention, team cohesion, patient safety and care, culture change and improvement.

The book offers practical and engaging takeaways to help you get started with restorative practice and includes reflective learning opportunities and transferrable lessons supported by evidence from case studies and contributions from experienced healthcare professionals.

The aim of Restorative Practice at Work is to make a notable, positive difference to your daily workplace experience, whether you are a public-facing receptionist, member of a clinical team, administrator, manager, senior leader, cleaner or consultant, or, indeed if you have any other role in healthcare. This book will challenge and support your knowledge, understanding and thinking around restorative practice as a workplace philosophy in healthcare.

Suitable for NHS leaders, managers, clinicians and staff and those in other healthcare settings such as researchers, academics, HR professionals and educators.

Picture for author Lesley Parkinson

Lesley Parkinson

As Executive Director at Restorative Thinking, Lesley Parkinson supports a restorative education for all (including pupils, children, parents and carers, workforce professionals, young and adult offenders), promoting key life skills in restorative practice via training programmes and consultation.


  1. Restorative Practice at Work, written by Lesley Parkinson is an easy-to-read paperback book on an important but perhaps less well-known area of work practice. Having not been familiar with this concept, I read the book twice with much interest. It is divided into two main parts- background and six restorative practice habits. These are presented in ten easy-to-read chapters over 150 pages.

    I found the six habits fascinating. I particularly liked Chapter 7 on engaging brains and behaviour and the relevance of amygdala (basal ganglia) hijack. This is one of the most common reasons for colleagues shouting out at others, where our primitive brains 'hijack' higher brain functions.  The remaining chapters cover the other 5 habits proposed. All chapters were easy to read and follow.

    In summary, this is a really useful book to help colleagues understand more about behaviour, how we interact with others and what we can do to make professional work and relationships better. It overlaps with many of the human factor’s concepts taught in healthcare to improve both patient safety and teamwork. I thoroughly recommend this book to staff across healthcare, particularly those involved in complex teams and decision-making. It has certainly changed and improved my own practice, and I am sure it will do the same for everyone who reads it. Bravo!

  2. This book provides its readers with practical and realistic tools which have been carefully designed to enable restorative practice to develop and thrive within healthcare settings.

  3. This book is a refreshing and important addition to the field of restorative practice because it has been written with a clear understanding that restorative practice does not exist on the page or in a training room but in the real-life context of professionals, practitioners, young people and families.

    Many books do not make that transition possible and the result is individuals, having been inspired by what they have read, cannot then put the theory into practice. The metaphor of habits (here, six restorative habits) offers a scaffolding to explore theory and, more importantly, apply it to the individual’s context.

    Alongside the theoretical inputs, there are activities within each section of the book that will enable the reader to not only self-reflect, but also reflect about self within the organisation in which they might work. The use of supportive anecdotes, provided by a wide range of health staff, will also enable readers to get a feel for what developing and living with these habits is like.

    Parkinson says, ‘I want this book to make a notable, positive difference to your daily workplace experience … [regardless of your] role in healthcare.’ I think this book can and will do that for those who read and apply its six restorative habits to their daily personal and professional lives.

  4. I was delighted to read this book. I think it is particularly apt that this practice has been shared within our trust, and especially now, when we have all recently had the most isolation, mentally and physically, from family and colleagues that many of us have ever experienced, due to the pandemic.

    The six habits are set out succinctly and clearly, and compassionately assess situations that may occur – with a clear aim for supportive resolution and improved healthcare.

    The circle meetings are a very welcome initiative after the necessity of endless TEAM meetings – a very practical way to break down barriers and work towards a psychologically safe and good culture.

    Here is a reference guide that any team member, whatever their role, would be glad to have nearby, and one that they can dip into for reminders and guidance.

    I think this publication is particularly relevant to the work we do as Freedom to Speak Up Guardians, where we can be faced with difficult and highly emotionally charged conversations that will benefit from a measured structure of restorative enquiry to ensure the psychological safety that is needed to make speaking up everyday practice.

  5. This is an excellent read. It documents really well the improvement journeys and real experiences of the colleagues who have taken part and benefitted from the restorative practice pathway.

  6. Organisational leaders seeking better performance outcomes are increasingly paying attention to the social and relational aspects of change. Put simply, relationships matter. Lesley Parkinson’s Restorative Practice at Work offers a timely and accessible guide to the why and how of developing better work-based relationships via six habits of restorative practice that ultimately foster better performance outcomes. Essential reading for anyone interested in leadership, culture, innovation and improvement.

  7. Those who work in the broad fields of restorative practice know that its applicability is limited only by our imaginations and opportunities. Lesley Parkinson has written a compelling, practical, easily digestible book about the application of restorative practice in healthcare. This book reflects her deep understanding of issues like voice, psychological safety and trust in workplace relationships, and implementation and support of this philosophy across teams. She has done the careful research needed to support her arguments, and offers the gift of naming, describing and using the six restorative habits (with examples from the field) so they can be embedded into unconscious competence, used daily in both professional and personal settings – moving the explicit into the implicit – to become ‘how we do things around here’. The themes in this book have much greater application and would be helpful for anyone in any workplace.

  8. I applaud Lesley Parkinson for wanting to help teams and individuals find a positive way to face the future. It can sometimes be a difficult task to inspire a jaded and overworked team to try something different. Working in a team, there is nothing more dispiriting or disheartening than when presenting an idea or concern, it is not then followed up or is treated with distain.

    The book provides great background research which proves that putting the work into providing the tools to restorative practice is worth the effort. Once a team has gelled together, sharing the same motivations and responsibilities, they will work better and look out for each other more. l like the moments set aside to think and add personal insights into the narrative.

    The mountain illustration gives a helpful insight, cleverly highlighting that if you are feeling good or bad, you act differently towards the people you are in contact with at any time – and them with you. This in turn defines how your interactions and relationships can be good or bad.

    The relational window makes each person think about the way they deal with everyday things with a better perspective, which helps managers work with the team better and makes the team members more amenable to assisting each other with any issues.

    In my opinion, the improvements that could be made by following these six habits – in a workplace setting and taken outside work into a personal setting – mean that this book is well worth your time.

  9. As always, and as I have found out over many years of local government work, building and nurturing meaningful and sound relationships is the key to success and productivity – breaking down those behavioural barriers that colleagues build up at all levels of the organisation, through knowledge and the skilful application of sound restorative approaches. Sounds easy, but it takes some time to understand your own barriers, impact upon self of the work you undertake and how that impacts on others.

    This book, written in simple plain language for what is a vast psychological and behavioural minefield at times, helps the reader understand what a restorative approach is and how it can be applied to everyday occurrences and events, including in the workplace. Lesley deals mainly with NHS scenarios in this book, but this approach can be used in all workplace settings, at all levels, including working with children. When used and applied, the restorative principles (or habits) do change mindsets, reduce stressful and potentially harmful situations, and make working in a team or organisation happier and healthier for all – as well as ensure the best outcomes for a child and their family. It’s seeing the behaviour or response and not applying it to the person as being wrong or deceitful, and always looking for the solution, that really counts – and works, as time has shown us!

    In local authorities, most will have a practice model that is strengths-based and family focused, as well as using a trauma-informed approach when working with children and their families – a restorative practice approach fits well with these models and applying the restorative principles creatively only enhances what are already tried, tested and research-rich ways of working.

  10. A much-needed insight into restorative practice in the world of healthcare, and how interactions in our teams every day make a tangible difference to the care and safety of patients. The tried-and-tested practical focus of this workbook will give readers the power to enact change themselves, and start to create real, lasting psychological safety with diverse teams, in every sense of the word.

    In a post-COVID-19 world where healthcare staff are experiencing high pressure and chronic burnout, Lesley’s people-centred approach could revolutionise the way that we approach patient safety in the NHS. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and have no doubt that it will deliver huge impact to teams across the healthcare sector.

  11. Restorative Practice at Work is a thoughtful, reflective and highly practical guide to facilitating contentedness and effectiveness in the workplace. Drawing on insights from a range of theories and ideas, Lesley Parkinson provides an evidence-based set of six practices to be explored by individuals and teams. Complete with tools and real-life examples, the practices facilitate working through the nature of problems at work (for example, exploring thoughts, feelings and relationships), and finding solutions of benefit all round. The book will be of particular interest to those working in health and social care, but the foundations apply to all workplace settings.

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