It’s never been more mentally demanding to work in schools and we can usually expect to experience the highs and lows, with the constant rollercoaster of emotions taking its toll on our well-being. During busier times like end of term, it can feel like the rollercoaster doesn’t stop for anything and it’s one thing after another. Many will find themselves completely worn out, exhausted and depleted of energy come the end of term, falling ill with winter bugs and the like as a result. Summer term is similar, with report writing and leaving activities taking centre stage.
This rollercoaster of meeting deadlines and managing workload can impact our personal well-being, and the constant rush is usually followed by a period of quiet over the break where we are then trying to regain sleep. The high pressured, long days are followed up with an even faster paced end of term with the sudden dip of the holiday period.
The stress hormone Cortisol comes with high stress/workload and is of course, not good for our health in many ways. The high amount of stress causes our body to take resources from elsewhere, such as other hormone regeneration, drawing on reserves in the process. There is a price to pay when our bodies are recovering from the high stress peak of the rollercoaster, sometimes causing us to fall ill. This is a psychological response to the depletion of resources within our body, a sign telling us to stop and refuel.
As we all know, this way of working is not sustainable for long periods of time and it makes us more vulnerable to bugs, colds, and even Covid. Our immune systems are so important in the fight against Covid and they need to be as strong as possible, which is why we need to make changes to how we approach the next academic year. Covid may well be here to stay for some time, therefore staff in schools need to have robust immune systems, not ones worn down by excessive pressure and workload.
This post from NAHT Wellness and Protect is to promote and shine a light on how we deal with the highs and lows, in-turn helping to promote better well-being for staff. For governors reading this, this could form a part of your discussions at governor’s meeting or meetings with senior leaders.
In terms of well-being, there are a number of important factors. Adequate sleep of at least 7 quality hours a night, a focus on nutrition rather than skipping meals, finding time to relax in the evening, and exercising more to not only strengthen our bodies but also release endorphins.
Building a well-being plan is about addressing the bigger picture, as opposed to focusing on the ‘smaller’ aspects. The basic requirements must be met, and the rest will follow much easier. For leadership teams, it’s important to decide what your priorities are in terms of staff well-being. What are the key things you want to achieve?
With regards to promoting good well-being with staff there is an abundance of things you can do, but ask yourself if these are sustainable and not just tokenistic. Free tea and coffee in the staffroom doesn’t address staff having too high a workload, for example.
For a basis of well-being as humans beings, there are four key factors that we need to address. These are sleep, exercise, relaxation, and nutrition. The following questions can be asked in SLT meetings first as they will be a microcosm of the responses you’ll get from staff.
- In a professional sense, what is preventing staff from getting a good nights sleep? Is it pressure from parents or pupils, workload, or something else? How can we address this?
- Are we exercising enough? Nothing too strenuous, but at least twice a week where we are getting our heart beating faster than usual. Walking is a good form of exercise and is the most accessible. 20 minutes’ walk during lunch or after school not only gives you a break from work but freshens your mind and produces those ever-important endorphins. Keeping up a routine will help you become healthier and greatly benefit your mental health.
- Relaxation shouldn’t be seen as a luxury, but rather a necessity. We need to relax to recharge. Not just at home, we need to take a real break at work and find time to relax. Does your staff room allow this? What do you do in the staffroom to relax properly?
- During the school day a lot of us opt to not fuel ourselves properly. Breakfast is usually a piece of toast or something we grab in the morning rush, lunch if we find time, and eating in the evening ends up being far too late. Could school kitchen staff be doing more to offer healthy snacks during the day for staff?
NAHT Wellness and Protect is a staff absence protection with complimentary whole school well-being and leadership support. Learn about all of the benefits of NAHT Wellness and Protect for your school here.
Alternatively, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0300 3030 892 (open 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday).