How can we improve staff wellbeing to achieve the best for schools and pupils? Here are my eight top tips, created in association with three inspirational school leaders.
1) Focus on your own wellbeing before anything else
This is a ‘must’! Look after your own wellbeing and everyone around you benefits.
It’s important to lead by example and practise what you preach if you are to truly enhance staff wellbeing, and as a result, the outcomes for your pupils.
Start by booking some thinking and reflection time each week and to focus on what you need to do for you, as well as those you lead. The quality of your thinking underpins your success - so make time for it.
2) Put a focus on what is going well
If you are like many leaders, teachers and staff I know, you probably end each day thinking about what you haven’t done and the things that have gone wrong.
Yet what about the many things you have done and your successes? We are either our own biggest cheerleader or critic.
So how can you flip this?
In her book ‘Positivity’, Barbara Frederickson a US psychologist revealed that we need a 3:1 positive to negative ratio to be emotionally well. Create a trigger – for example a phone alarm or post-it note on your steering wheel – to make sure when you ask yourself at the end of each day, “What did I do well?” or “What were my three biggest achievements.”
Repeat until it becomes your habit and share this with colleagues to help them too.
3) Make praise part of every day
Recognition improves engagement and performance. Schools are often great at shout-outs and staff messages. Yet they miss out on ‘in the moment’ praise. It is hard because so many staff are spread across classrooms, yet when done well, the impact can be better than a pay rise!
Set a goal to catch people doing things right and share this with other leaders. This means being in the present and spotting all those brilliant things that happen each day. Imagine the impact if you and other leaders all caught three people every day!
This is one of the fastest ways to build staff wellbeing into the school culture – people copy and it is contagious.
4) Measure staff wellbeing
If you want to make a difference to staff wellbeing, you must first understand where you are now and what needs to change.
Track staff data and run an evidence-based anonymous staff survey to provide scores, benchmarks and feedback. You can see how well you are doing in building a workplace environment where your staff can do their best work.
Share strengths and focus on recommended actions.
5) Focus on behaviours
Review your school values and agree with all staff what behaviours you would see if they were being lived. Start with the senior leadership team, make sure they are role models, then move to middle leaders, providing coaching and training to ensure everyone is fully engaged. Make them part of everything you do, including performance management and appraisals, and reinforce them through praise and holding staff to account.
6) View any changes through the lens of staff wellbeing
Before changing or implementing any new policies, procedures, or practices, consider them through the lens of staff wellbeing by asking the question: ‘What impact will this have on the wellbeing of colleagues and the outcomes for pupils?’
Remove anything that needs high energy or commitment and even where it delivers strong outcomes, make sure it is worth it!
Apply the ‘in/out’ rule. If you are going to add something new then you need to remove something too.
7) Train colleagues in efficient approaches
There will always be too much to do, so we have to quit trying to do it all and focus only on what is important!
The more efficient your staff are, the more time they will have to invest in the things that matter to the school and to themselves. Teach people how to prioritise, delegate, better manage themselves, their email, technology, their workload, and that perfection is over-rated.
Challenge them to set their hours and fit the work to these, rather than letting the work dictate the hours they work.
8) Ensure all meetings are necessary and effective
We have all attended meetings that start late, finish late, cover too much, cover agenda items not relevant to them, have unprepared attendees, or do not achieve a satisfactory outcome. Ask yourself:
- Is the meeting necessary?
- Could we communicate, distribute information or arrive at a decision in a better way?
- Does everyone who attends need to be there?
- Is the agenda and outcome to be achieved from the meeting clear?
- Is the agenda realistic for the time available?
- Have attendees had enough notice and information, so they can contribute effectively?
Getting this right can have a big impact on the degree to which staff feel valued. They are giving up time, which they could use to better manage their own life balance.