It’s important to consider the wellbeing of employees at any business, preventing excessive stress and creating a positive environment where people can thrive and engage with their roles.
Improving staff wellbeing in schools is not a one-off event, it needs to become part of everyday business. It can lead to increased resilience, better employee engagement and higher productivity.
What Does Staff Wellbeing Mean?
By the wellbeing of your staff at work, we mean the positive health of your workforce. The most common approach is holistic, taking care of both mental and physical health, regardless of the industry that you are working in.
Although in schools the mental health of staff working with children would be considered the more likely to see strain, even a role that is heavily desk-based creates desk job related ailments and injuries.
Staff in more physical roles (e.g. physical education teachers) will need a higher consideration for their physical health, as there is a higher risk of physical injury and that would impact their personal and work life negatively.
Staff Wellbeing in Schools During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on most industries, many adjusting to working from home or hybrid offices, but schools have suffered more heavily. From remote teaching struggles to attempting to impose new restrictions around schools, it’s been a complicated few years.
As an employer, it is vital to protect employees from the risk of infection, but it is also vital to ensure that the children you are responsible for are getting an education at these critical stages in their development.
A delicate balance of precautions and educational priorities have been decided by the government based on the data at the time and handed down to schools to follow. But what impact have these changing working conditions had on your employees?
How Can You Improve Your Staff Wellbeing?
There are usually staff protection and wellbeing procedures in place at any school, alongside a line manager who is in charge of the welfare of those they oversee. Here are some non-standard things to consider when looking at your staff wellbeing in school.
Make Wellbeing Everyone’s Responsibility
Everyone working in your school is responsible for their wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around them, having a hard-working HR department is no use if those they are trying to support are not doing their best for themselves or supporting those they have daily contact with.
As an employer it’s important that you make everyone aware of the healthy workplace you are trying to achieve, the policies in place to promote it and the failsafe’s for those who are struggling. By protecting your staff’s wellbeing with practical support you are ensuring they are, in turn, able to support their pupils.
Clarity and Fairness
Your policies and procedures for staff wellbeing need to be clear for everyone and apply to all of your staff across the board. Staff should be encouraged to think about their wellbeing and how it can be improved, and have the confidence to speak to their line manager about these ideas.
No one would expect to achieve all of their requests, but an open and honest dialogue about their ideas is the best way to find a compromise or alternative solution so all parties are satisfied. Without the opportunity to raise the issues it’s very unlikely to see any resolution.
Wellbeing Outside of Work
Avoid thinking of things outside of work as unrelated, they will directly impact the wellbeing of those staff members once they’re in your work environment.
For example, you could encourage healthy eating not just in your canteen, but perhaps seek out a group discount on a healthy recipe box subscription for your staff. This could not only improve their diet and expand their cooking repertoire, but it will also give the group something to discuss and bond over at work.
Employees benefit from having social connections with their colleagues. Humans are social creatures and we spend a large portion of our lives at work, engaging with those around us is important to our mental health.
Encourage positive relationships across different departments in your school. So often we get siloed into groups and struggle to break free of them, which can be isolating if the people in your team have little in common with you.
Any after school clubs or charity endeavours, try to pair employees who may not have interacted before to give them the chance to forge friendships across these invisible boundaries.
Working With Covid
Where possible it is advisable to offer solutions tailored to individual circumstances such as vulnerability to COVID, how vital physical presence is to perform their role and a counselling programme for those who need it.
Where members of staff are away from work it’s important to keep an eye on the workload on the shoulders of those left behind and offer support.
Increased importance should be placed on line managers to support their teams and assess risk, having sensitive conversations with staff to signpost where additional support, adjustments and counselling are needed.
Benefits of Ensuring Staff Wellbeing
Not only is it your responsibility to look after the wellbeing of those working for you, it’s also going to benefit your school if you do so.
Absence and Turnover
Staff absence creates issues like covering workload with current staff or arranging cover, inconsistencies in the work and additional admin organising sick pay and return to work interviews.
High staff turnover is costly, from interviewing to training a never-ending stream of new staff and inconsistencies in teaching and support which can be especially unsettling for the pupils.
Improving the wellbeing of your staff will reduce the absence and staff turnover, so when it comes to investing in your staff think of the money you will save in the long run without these future costs.
Happiness is Infectious
Research from Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego suggests that happiness can spread through a network of people quickly and easily. “Everyday interactions we have with other people are definitely contagious, in terms of happiness,” says Nicholas Christakis, a professor at Harvard Medical School and an author of the study.
Any school environment will certainly benefit by achieving a more positive environment for the staff and the pupils to achieve the most that they can from their time at the school.
Anyone who has managed staff is aware that happy staff are more motivated to do their work than indifferent or unhappy staff, as well as more pleasant to work with.
It’s important to consider the wellbeing of employees at any business, preventing excessive stress and making a positive environment where people can thrive and engage with their roles.
After a tough few years, it’s important to reflect on what has happened and focus on what improvements can be made in your individual, team and whole school approaches to wellbeing.