The Mass Development of Wobble Rooms for Frontline Healthcare Staff in the NHS: The Politics of Space and Communities of Coping

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Nottingham University Business School


The stressful working environment in hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic led to the development of wellbeing spaces and rooms for frontline health care workers. Such spaces are commonly termed wobble rooms and provide a place to process and cope with the stress of working during COVID-19. The use of wobble rooms plays a more significant role than many outside the hospital environment realise. The concept of a wobble room was introduced in Bradford Teaching Hospital and then adopted throughout the United Kingdom and in other countries, such as Canada. Social media and newspaper reports raised awareness of them, and the number of hospitals establishing wobble rooms grew significantly. Furthermore, the concept of wobble rooms has been included in the workforce health and wellbeing strategies outlined in the National Health Service (NHS) People Plan. Such spaces encourage informal caring networks, also termed communities of coping, to develop among staff. However, this depends on the availability of space. Additionally, political and financial issues restrict the ability of hospitals to provide the physical space for these rooms, which limits the quality of rest and wellbeing facilities for frontline workers.

Aims and Methodologies

The proposed research will investigate the experiences of staff and their role in the development of the wobble rooms in the period 2020-2021. The study will establish whether frontline staff had an opportunity to develop communities of coping. The political and financial issues concerning the development and continued provision of wobble rooms will also be explored. Structured interviews and case studies will be utilised. Key contacts from sample NHS hospitals will be interviewed in the first phase to assess the condition of wobble rooms. This phase will help determine whether the provision of wobble rooms is continued, and be integrated into existing wellbeing procedures, or discontinued. Three cases will be selected from each group for further study. In the second stage, fifteen semi-structured interviews from each case will be conducted with staff, managers of organisational wellbeing processes and relevant administrators.

Relevant to practice

This project will make an important contribution to our understanding of communities of coping, safe spaces and formal wellbeing provisions within NHS hospitals. As such, the outcomes will be particularly relevant to staff, administrators, and wellbeing practitioners in NHS hospitals.


1. Practitioner-focussed dissemination.

A training workshop on the implications of wobble rooms on staff wellbeing and the organisation of physical spaces will be developed and delivered at Bradford Teaching Hospital. Online seminars and workshops will be organised for everyone involved in campaigning for wobble rooms in hospitals nationwide. Papers will be presented at NHS practitioner-oriented conferences (e.g. Health Services Research UK, The Health Foundation and Institute for Healthcare Management). The wobble room initiative has generated considerable social media activity, and these social networks will be used to disseminate research findings.

2. Academic dissemination

The thesis will be written and the aim is to publish findings from it in high-level peer review journals such as Sociology, Health and Illness, and Human Relations.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000711/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2573345 Studentship ES/P000711/1 30/09/2021 30/03/2025 Teju Limbu