How seriously does your employer take staff wellbeing?
The school is paying lip service to wellbeing. It’s another tick box exercise rather than a serious attempt to support colleagues…
Regular readers will know that I have had a deep interest in teacher workload and wellbeing for a decade, unpicking the challenges and potential solutions for teachers across the country.
Throughout this year, I have had the privilege of learning from Welbee, an edtech solution for tracking staff wellbeing across an organisation – something I was firmly against ten years ago.
However, in the interest of working more efficiently, and absorbing data science and analytics from sources all around us, it is in everybody’s interest to retain the very best teachers and support staff in our schools. If we don’t use this information, school and college leaders are simply guessing in the dark.
As part of the work I do with schools, very few have a wellbeing policy for their staff. For the ones that do, there is often no budget protected to ensure wellbeing can be strengthened …
If you don’t know, you don’t know!
Earlier this week, I hosted a webinar with Mark Solomons – founder of Welbee – who shared many insightful pieces of data and commentary that resonated with me. The above quote is from this session we led with 130+ teachers on promoting staff wellbeing.
Before our session, we asked participants to complete a short survey for a ‘pretend’ @TeacherToolkit school to evaluate their wellbeing and demonstrate what the software could do. We gathered over seven pages of comments. Here is a sample …
What teachers said
- Staff wellbeing is taken more seriously by our multi-academy trust than our school. I don’t think school leaders see the links between wellbeing and staff retention.
- Teachers are on the edge, burnout is happening as we have too many plates to spin. And it’s never enough. My to-do list just gets longer even when I am completing tasks. It’s like a bottomless pit.
- Support staff aren’t being replaced when they leave. It’s like a skeleton crew on a ship!
- If the source of my poor wellbeing is workload or poor working practices, it cannot be solved by token interventions (like a one off book club or lunchtime walk). I’m still being worked into the ground.
- Generally, our staff wellbeing has been okay. This year there has been an overwhelming focus on getting Ofsted ready, which made me personally feel like what we had been doing previously wasn’t good enough.
What support staff said
- The school staffing is stretched and therefore people do not have the time to work how they would wish to. This has an impact on morale and staff retention.
- Communication from school leaders is not always as transparent as it could be and information could be shared in a more appropriate and timely manner.
- There are perceived cliques in the school with staff which can be uncomfortable for those not feeling part of them.
What school leaders said
- Clearer expectations on accountability and what it looks like for all staff. Clear roles and responsibilities with support for senior leaders.
- When asking for support and guidance from the CEO of the trust for tangible ways forward, staff are told they have not been strategic enough.
- Better support for senior leaders to stop burnout or feelings of imposter syndrome when things don’t get done or plans change.
- There is a lack of awareness for staff wellbeing. There is no understanding of the impact upon staff or the decisions made at school leadership level.
When asked why and what would help them?
- Staff wellbeing is important as long as it is considered in all aspects. Creating a wellbeing framework collaboratively with the school is important, allowing staff to take ownership and responsibility for their wellbeing. Improvements could be to be more strategic with the calendar to space out deadlines for staff to support pressure points.
- We used to have policies and practices related to staff wellbeing and supporting staff mental health, and the school was very much a community and a family. We have recently academised and that has all changed. The policy and procedures are no longer in place let alone enacted.
- Change has been introduced rapidly, and staff have not been consulted. There are unrealistic deadlines and staff morale is incredibly low.
It always surprises me that people working in education choose to do this to other colleagues, and although external pressures do play a factor, there are many things school leaders can do to make a challenging workplace much easier for teachers and support staff. We should start by asking staff how they feel and what issues are caused by leadership decisions!
I guess the real issue is, that there are some people that are simply choosing not to make wellbeing a priority, nor see the long-term benefits and savings …
If schools don’t seek to learn what policy decisions they make, and how this influences staff wellbeing, they are simply guessing in the dark …