Blue Monday, a term coined for the third Monday in January, is deemed as the “most depressing day of the year”. This year it falls on 21st January and considers the effects of Christmas debt, failing New Year’s resolutions, low sunlight levels and cold weather, to name but a few.
Blue Monday may have prompted you to look at your team’s wellbeing or you might just want to start the new year as you mean to go on. While your role as a senior leader in education will no doubt have its up and downs, you want to ensure that you have a team around you who are managing their stress. Teaching can be one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, but it is also one of the most stressful. Limited resources, longer working hours, low pay and high pressures for greater results, can all play havoc on a teacher’s mind.
According to the Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018, 67% of teachers are stressed at work, with more than three-quarters of teachers surveyed experienced work-related behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms and more than half were considering leaving the profession due to poor health.
So, if your team is feeling the blues, here are some handy strategies to improve the team’s mental wellbeing:
1. Measure staff wellbeing
Find out from staff what their wellbeing concerns are – You can’t tackle the issue of staff wellbeing based on assumptions only. You can get staff to undertake a survey or providing a suggestion box for them to give feedback. By getting staff to complete an anonymous survey, you can gain real insight into their needs and concerns, which goes a long way in informing you of any changes you need to make. Throughout the process keep staff in the loop, let them know about the results, any changes made and any outcomes.
2. Promote a positive work-life balance
It important that you let staff know how imperative it is to take time to do something that they enjoy away from work – cultivate a life outside the classroom and foster a positive work-life balance. A happy employee, who strikes a good balance, tends to stay and be more productive.
3. Encourage collaboration
There are times when teaching can seem overwhelming and staff need extra support with the sharing of resources, ideas or methods. If something is consistently working for a member of staff let them share it with other people, equally staff can share lessons learnt to encourage sharing of knowledge gained. It helps people to feel like part of a team rather than on their own.
4. Shower them with praise
Staff want nothing more than to feel appreciate, to know that what they are doing matters and doesn’t go unnoticed. Praise improvements, great results, good work practices but also provide feedback to create a positive working culture. Giving them thanks goes a long way in sporting staff wellbeing and boosting self-esteem. Not all successes can be measured, so let them know you value their contribution (small or large).
5. Foster open communication
It’s important that staff can talk about the pressures of the role and their experiences to you or their peers. The idea is not to inflate negativity but to encourage staff to talk openly without fear or judgement or scrutiny. Let them know that asking for help is not a weakness but a strength.
Whether Blue Monday or not, staff need ways to alleviate the pressures and stresses of the role. Focusing on staff wellbeing cultivates a mentally healthy school, improves staff retention; motivated staff, promote higher wellbeing and attainment in students.