December 20, 2023

Prioritising Staff Wellbeing to Reduce Absence 

Within education, the wellbeing of staff members is paramount to creating a thriving and effective learning environment. Educators directly impact student outcomes, meaning it is imperative for educational institutions to focus on supporting staff wellbeing.

What is Wellbeing? Understanding the Foundation for a Healthy Work Environment

Wellbeing, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.” In the context of the education sector, the concept of wellbeing encompasses ranges from physical health to emotional and mental happiness. How individuals feel about their lives, including their jobs and relationships, significantly influences their overall wellbeing. Recognising the complex nature of wellbeing, numerous models have emerged in recent years to provide a comprehensive understanding of what is involved.

To support staff wellbeing in the education sector, it is essential to focus on key factors that directly impact the way individuals experience their work lives.

The Key Factors Affecting Wellbeing at Work

People Management and Relationships

The role of good-quality interpersonal relationships in supporting wellbeing at work is undeniable. Challenges in working relationships, whether with colleagues, line managers, pupils, or parents, can lead to daily stress and negatively impact all parties involved. Schools can enhance wellbeing through initiatives such as promoting approachable management styles, equality and inclusion policies, team-building opportunities, and quick resolution of problematic relationships.

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a significant concern in the education sector, with teachers and support staff facing demanding workloads. To address this, schools can nominate a senior lead for wellbeing, gather feedback on work-life balance, and provide flexibility in working hours where possible. Creating a supportive environment, improving staff facilities, and encouraging breaks contribute to a healthier work-life balance.

Personal Development

Staff growth and learning play a vital role in enhancing wellbeing at work. Personal development activities, including coaching, mentoring, performance management, and access to continuous professional development (CPD), contribute to job satisfaction and fulfillment. Schools can engage with staff to identify development needs, ensure access to relevant CPD opportunities, and create innovation in improving work processes.

Culture and Values

The unique culture of each school significantly influences staff engagement, retention, and wellbeing. Schools can positively impact culture by communicating a vision for future development, developing and embedding values, regularly engaging with staff feedback, and trusting experienced staff to perform their roles autonomously.

Employee Voice

Employee voice mechanisms whereby staff influence the matters that affect them most, positively influences productivity, creativity, and job satisfaction. Schools can conduct staff surveys, encourage employee voice through various channels such as team meetings, appraisals, suggestion schemes, and internal forums. Senior leaders benefit from listening directly to staff, adopting an inclusive environment that values diverse perspectives.

Understanding the Impact of Staff Wellbeing on Absence

One of the key indicators of a healthy work environment is the reduction of staff absenteeism, a challenge that can be addressed by implementing strategies to promote mental, emotional, and physical health.

High levels of stress, burnout, and dissatisfaction among educators contribute significantly to increased absenteeism. The demanding nature of the education sector, coupled with the pressures of meeting academic goals and managing diverse classrooms, can take a toll on teachers and support staff. When wellbeing is compromised, staff are more likely to take sick leave, impacting the continuity of education for students and disrupting the school’s overall effectiveness.

Strategies to Support Staff Wellbeing

Promoting a Positive Work Culture

Establishing a positive work culture is fundamental to staff wellbeing. Encourage open communication and collaboration, and recognise the efforts of staff members. A positive environment can mitigate stressors and contribute to increased job satisfaction.

Professional Development and Training

Providing ongoing professional development and training opportunities helps staff feel supported and empowered. This can enhance their skills, boost confidence, and reduce feelings of stagnation or burnout.

Flexible Working Arrangements

Recognising the diverse needs of staff and offering flexible working arrangements where possible can be a powerful tool. This may include options for part-time work, job-sharing, or flexible hours, allowing educators to better balance their professional and personal lives.

Mental Health Support

Prioritising mental health is crucial. Establish confidential counselling services, workshops, or access to mental health professionals to provide support and resources for staff dealing with stress, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. Employee Assistance programmes (EAP) also offer a range of services and are valued by staff.

Physical Wellbeing Initiatives

Implementing wellness programs, fitness activities, or access to health resources can contribute to the physical wellbeing of staff. Encouraging healthy lifestyles can have a positive impact on energy levels, resilience, and overall job satisfaction.

Workload Management

Addressing workload concerns is vital. Strive for a fair distribution of responsibilities, provide realistic timelines for tasks, and ensure that staff members do not feel overwhelmed. Collaborative planning and effective communication can contribute to a more manageable workload.

Recognition and Rewards

Regularly acknowledging and rewarding staff achievements creates a sense of appreciation and value. Recognition can come in various forms, including awards, public acknowledgment, or small gestures of appreciation.

Prioritising staff wellbeing is not just an ethical responsibility, it is an investment in the success of education establishments. By implementing targeted strategies, educational institutions can create an environment where staff thrive, reducing absenteeism and contributing to a positive and effective learning environment.

How Strictly Education can help

For more information on how to improve wellbeing at work, visit our HR Resources Hub.

Alternatively, get in touch to find out more on 0330 123 2549 or at enquire@strictlyeducation.co.uk we are happy to answer your questions.

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