This has been an incredibly challenging year for human beings globally and the spotlight has very much been on the connections between workplace stress as and poor mental health. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, 55% of school leaders and 49% of teachers reported that their workplace had a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing (Education Support Teacher Wellbeing Index 2019). Now, in the midst of COVID-19, creating a positive workplace and looking after our mental health has never been more crucial.
Teachers are on the front line of this pandemic, often forgotten in our conversations. The impact of the pandemic across the teaching sector has been visceral and wide reaching, impacting both the personal and professional lives of staff who are now facing a wide range of issues compounding an already very demanding job. Key emotional factors in the daily lives of teaching staff are the feelings of fear, anxiousness, vulnerability and a loss of control. For senior leaders, leading, motivating and supporting staff at this time has become a huge challenge. With the focus so much on the children, it is vital that teaching staff have the same level of care and support to enable them to navigate this challenging road as yet without an end in sight. It is important to recognise that staff will likely experience low mood, lack of motivation, exhaustion and an increase in stress.
So, how can we support our teachers? Be human, with empathy and find time. Here are some examples of how we can support and nurture staff mental health and wellbeing now and beyond this pandemic:
Open and honest communication is crucial, with time taken to ask how they are coping. With teams dispersed and working remotely, line managers need to take care to place only modest demands on staff, for example, allowing people to juggle their work with their care duties.
2. Nurture relationships
Creating a strong sense of support, beyond natural friendships groups, can help improve resilience across the school.
Positivity and generosity can go a long way. This is a time to notice the small things your staff are doing, acknowledge them and give positive feedback to encourage them along.
4. Be present
Make some time for each other. If you are a line manager or senior leader then ensure that you are present and are there not to demand but to respond. Feeling supported and valued will go a long way to ensuring teaching staff keep motivated.
5. Practice good health
Encourage others and lead by example when it comes to regular exercise, good nutrition and getting enough sleep. These are the pillars we all need to focus on for self-care, but in addition, staff may need an environment created where they can find the time for this. This is where nutrition is particularly key as it is the one aspect of the teaching day that can be supported and controlled. This is where Lean Lunch provides such a compelling offer – to know that once or twice a week you can get a well-balanced, nutritious meal delivered to the school could be just the boost both mentally and physically that teachers need.
Lean Lunch Guest Blog by Ollie Welsby, Brightcore Consultancy