School staff wellbeing is a subject that has received extensive coverage in the news during the past year and it has generally been acknowledged that more needs to be done to support rising stress-levels. We worked with Carolyn Unsted, a former headteacher and education consultant, to get tips on improving the work-life balance of staff and learn how to make sure employees have a voice on workload issues.
To improve staff workload and wellbeing you could:
- Consider reducing or cancelling non-essential meetings at busy times of the year.
- Set up a working group made up of staff members from different departments that can explore ways to reduce workload
- Bring in an external consultant to review the systems and procedures in place at your school and identify anything which is unnecessary or ineffective
- Give staff access to a counselling programme so they can receive professional help before they reach crisis point
- Ensure that your school’s policies on workload are clear and everyone adheres to them
- Encourage your staff to share resources and plans, and facilitate this by making time for teams to meet
- Devote a training day to work-life balance and wellbeing and, following on from this, ask staff to commit to one small change they can stick to every day that will make a difference to their wellbeing
Give your staff a voice on workload issues
Ask your staff about work-life balance
Gather their views on what they’d find beneficial in improving their work-life balance, and use this as a starting point for putting strategies in place.
Use line management structures
Strong line management can allow you to find out if workload pressures on your staff are too high.
Ensure that, throughout your school, line managers make time for frequent structured meetings. This will allow staff to establish a proper dialogue with their managers, and they might then feel more comfortable communicating any workload concerns.
Managers are more likely to be able to pick up on the signs of stress if they meet regularly with their direct reports. They should see the wellbeing of those they manage as part of their management responsibility.
Create a supportive workplace culture
It’s important to create a culture in which staff members feel encouraged to speak up when workload pressures are too much. To do this, you can:
- Remind staff that speaking up is not a sign of incompetence - it’s actually a strength to be willing to seek help before a crisis is reached
- Put in place some wellbeing ambassadors who are positive, well respected by staff, and representative of the whole staff body
- Use a staff survey to bring widespread issues into the open and encourage open and frank dialogue
- Make sure staff know that no concern is too small to be taken seriously, and everyone has someone they can speak to
- Have a worries box where staff can post concerns, and make sure these are responded to in a non-judgemental way
- Build consideration and discussion of wellbeing and work-life balance issues into the performance management process
- Ensure that absence management procedures are rigorous and fair, and address work-life balance and wellbeing issues
Have your own strategies to share on improving staff wellbeing? Contact us on: firstname.lastname@example.org.