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Make wellbeing a priority

Recent years have seen a veritable explosion in workplace wellbeing programs. Organisations in all industries and sectors are investing in wellbeing programs to encourage mindfulness, exercise, and other stress-busting initiatives. Whether it be via access to digital programs, training or other innovations, society now expects employers to take an active role in the wellbeing of its biggest asset: people. In the context of schools, it is a school-wide responsibility to ensure that this is a priority so we can support teachers to do what they do best – teach – and also have a meaningful life beyond the school gate.

Read on for an overview for some quick steps you can take now.

“When employees work for a company that embraces wellness, they will be more likely to practice healthy habits throughout the workday and prioritize their physical and mental health.” Forbes

Teaching and life can become entwined

Perhaps more than any other profession, teachers experience a real blur between work and life. We have all heard teachers tell stories in the staffroom of waking in the middle of the night: they’ve finally worked out a way to teach present-perfect to their language class. Being a teacher can feel like a 24 hour concern and it can be challenging to create clear boundaries between home and school. It’s not hard to understand why. Teachers do so much more than teach classes. They also manage classroom behaviour, help students grow both academically and socially, coordinate with their peers, ensure they are always compliant with a suite of government requirements, deal with parental enquiries and keep records of almost everything they do. No wonder teachers are stressed and retention rates are reportedly dire.

Wellbeing is a personal matter and is always evolving

Wellbeing is a personal matter and will mean different things for different people. When it comes to teacher wellbeing, it is widely considered to be multifaceted and complex to even define. Generally speaking though, the key to any successful wellbeing initiatives is to ensure they meet the needs of teachers. This information graphic from Deloitte shows the disconnect that can occur between wellbeing offerings and what employees would find helpful.


Administrative and collegial support are the basis of teacher wellbeing

When it comes to teachers, research shows that administrative and collegial support are the two constants that lead to the biggest improvements in teacher job satisfaction and wellbeing at work. Teacher wellbeing is also deeply connected to the quality of their work and its impact on student outcomes so we have a significant stake in getting it right. An Australian survey of 133 teachers and former teachers found teacher wellbeing has a significant role to play in improving retention rates. Survey results suggested wellbeing strategies should be linked to improving supportive relationships in the school, addressing workload, greater job security and providing opportunities for professional development.

Teacher wellbeing is a factor for teachers when making employment decisions

Teacher wellbeing is a complex beast and requires constant communication between staff and the leadership team to ensure any offerings are hitting their target. For teachers, the presence of a good wellbeing program is increasingly a consideration when making employment decisions, whether to join, stay or go.

Principals need wellbeing programs too

Obviously, the wellbeing of Principals needs to be addressed as well. With recent reports detailing shocking statistics of violence, the physical, as well as mental needs of Principals, undeniably demands urgent attention.

“The survey found almost half (45%) were threatened with violence in 2018, compared with 38% in 2011 and that 99.7% of principals work hours far beyond those recommended for positive mental and physical health.” The Educator

Quick wellbeing hacks you can introduce easily

While it may seem daunting, there are some quick wellbeing processes you can introduce working with what you likely already have. Here are some suggestions from other schools:

  • Celebrate successes and milestones. Acknowledgement goes a long way to staff feeling supported and valued.
  • Encourage healthy food choices school-wide. This can include basing the canteen menu on the Smart Choices website and eradicating vending machine and sweets-based fundraising.
  • Promote Employer Assistance Provider (EAP) and the services offered.
  • Use school organisational decision making to support increased work-life balance. Eg: to manage workloads, marking loads, part-time/flexible loads.
  • Facilitate opportunities for collaboration and team building.
    Establish a P&C Wellbeing Fund to recognise and acknowledge staff efforts.
  • Raise awareness of online resources and tools available at HeadsUp, Beyond Blue, RU Ok day. and Checkpoint.

Educator wellbeing at every level is a massive topic and it is impossible to cover every aspect in brief here. We’d love you to join the conversation and share what has worked in your school.