Wellbeing and more specifically mental health is a hot topic, even the young royals have been on Radio 1 this week to promote their support for the subject. It has been discussed and supported through the education Twitter community for quite sometime.
One of my performance management targets for this year is focused on improving Staff Wellbeing. Which with the current expectations, accountability and scrutiny that education staff work under is no easy task. It’s not an area I am experienced in and I don’t have a magic wand (oh I wish I did!).
As leaders it can often seem like we are expected to solve every problem.
But we aren’t. Our role is to provide direction and guidance.
I believe it will be more successful and make for a more pleasant working environment in the long term if staff build the resilience and skills to make small improvements, always looking ahead, learning from experience, making each day a little better than the last.
This is not a new idea, many will be aware of Maslows hierarchy of needs. At the bottom of the hierarchy pyramid are basic needs: Physiological and Safety, through to the top of self-actualisation. So, we need to get the basics right first and this has to start with ourselves.
You could start the conversation in your homes or schools, make it part of everyday discussions to talk about wellbeing strategies and what works for you, what saves you time, how you have coped through difficult times. We have all experienced difficult periods in our personal or work life and we can support ourselves and others to ensure that working in our schools is a great experience.
I know that I am a happy person, who has a settled home life and a job that I love. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have feelings at times of being under pressure and there not being enough time. I got to thinking about what would improve my wellbeing. I know that I am bothered by things being untidy or unorganised. I keep my office and work tasks tidy, but I had been letting things slip at home. If you keep doing things the same then nothing changes.
So, I’ve been working on a few small changes with my family:
- We cleared out lots of clutter from our home and garage, with trips to the recycle centre and local Severn Hospice Charity shop we can actually see the garage floor!
- I sorted through all the training notes and education related magazines in my home office. Recycled a whole box full of paper. The rest is now filed and organised using the NASBM Professesional Standard headings. Which means I can find what I am looking for easily. These are now stored in my school office and are a library of resources for me and my team.
- We have put up a chalkboard planner in our kitchen to help us stay organised.
- I am planning in something in my week, even if it’s only an hour that is just for me.
- We are thinking about employing a cleaning company to do a few hours a week, because it’s one less thing I’d need to do!
These things may seem odd or minor to some but these are the sort of things that bother me and I feel guilty about not doing them. I feel much better for having made these improvements.
Someone wisely said that work is a continual process it is never finished. I just feel better if jobs are on a list.
I am not a teacher, but I do understand the demands placed on them and what we expect of them. I am not saying I have all the answers, but I am very willing to listen to theirs and I am good at making sure that things happen.
My plan for improving staff wellbeing, will not be through me or the SLT telling staff what will improve things for them, but by starting with a structured staff voice, who implement ideas for improving and maintaining wellbeing.
Starting with concentrating on staff voice, facilitating a Wellbeing Committee, that is lead by staff for staff, only involving SLT where they would like to have support or guidance.
Putting in place a Wellbeing Charter, what are the non-negotiables, some staff will really like having a set of ‘rules’.
Allocating a small part of the training budget to set up intiatives or for purchasing resources.
Whilst researching wellbeing, I have come across a number of brilliant ideas some of which have a minimal cost…
Wellbeing Bags which are a great idea for training days, fill the bags with positive messages, treats, stationery and CPD resources. Anything you like really.
Wellbeing themed days/weeks for the whole school, include wellbeing classes for staff and students, mini health checks, yoga, sports, meditation, mindfulness. Put some healthy snacks in the staff room. Work with the catering team to put on a themed menu.
Evaluating your CPD provision, what’s on offer and how it’s done. From induction through to developing succession plans for key roles, including senior leadership positions. Things shouldn’t come to a standstill because one person is absent!
Appreciating staff with the staff star of the week, wellbeing star of the week and/or the Stars in our Schools Awards.
Provision of free tea and coffee for staff. Have a list of staff names with what they each like to drink, if someone is having a tough day you can drop in with cuppa.
Initiatives such as an appreciation or recognition of 100% attendance. I read an interesting post on Twitter recently about the idea of a credit and reward system for staff, I haven’t come across this in practice, but I really like the idea.
Investing rather than reducing the staff training budget.
Understanding and working to address the causes and triggers of low morale, stress and illness. Through auditing views of staff.
We have identified that lack of or disturbed sleep can have a detrimental effect on how we perform and feel at work. I know as a new mum for the second time, that I noticed a big difference in how well I was feeling when my youngest started to sleep through the night.
We need to enable our staff to recognise their triggers and stressors; and to implement strategies to deal with them. The smallest changes can have a big impact.
Please join me in saying yes to wellbeing and if you have any wellbeing ideas that you would like to share you are welcome to post them in the comments below.
Make sure you start with looking after yourself first.