Last year, we published an article on “How to improve the wellbeing of your staff”, focusing on ways that you could promote their physical, mental and emotional health. In Ofsted’s recently introduced Education Inspection Framework, the wellbeing of nursery and other education-establishment staff is specifically mentioned as one of the criteria that inspectors will look at under the “Leadership and Management” section.
Extracting the staff wellbeing parts, settings who want to obtain ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ judgements, should meet the following targets.
To be judged “good”:
- Leaders engage with their staff and are aware of the main pressures on them.
- They are realistic and constructive in the way they manage staff, including their workload.
- Leaders protect staff from harassment, bullying and discrimination.
To be judged “outstanding”, settings must meet all the ‘good’ criteria, plus:
- Leaders ensure that they and practitioners receive focused and highly effective professional development. Practitioners’ subject, pedagogical content and knowledge consistently builds and develops over time, and this consistently translates into improvements in the teaching of the curriculum.
- Leaders ensure that highly effective and meaningful engagement takes place with staff at all levels and that any issues are identified. When issues are identified – in particular about workload – they are consistently dealt with appropriately and quickly.
- Staff consistently report high levels of support for well-being issues.
But what does this really mean in practice? And what can your setting do to ensure it is on the right path when it comes to staff wellbeing? Here are 5 things to consider:
Policies and procedures
Good governance starts with having clear ideas about how things should optimally be run. This is where your strategies and policies come in. For example, does your setting have a clearly written staff wellbeing policy or strategy, which outlines what staff can expect in relation to their own wellbeing? If so, are your provisions adequate, and how do you know that they are being adhered to equitably across the board? If not, what are you doing to improve this?
The culture in your setting
What do the people who work for you say about your setting? It is an enjoyable, empowering and supportive environment, or do they feel pressured to work overtime, feel powerless, or fear for their jobs in a culture of blame?
We all know which culture we would prefer to work in, but sometimes, everyday work pressures can lead to a very different practical culture being developed. Ask yourself some searching questions here about what is expected of staff both in their written contract and in the often-unwritten culture that has developed? Do your leaders set a good work-life balance example, and are there opportunities for staff to raise concerns without recriminations?
Opportunities for further education and staff development
Bill Gates once said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others”. He was right. Helping to empower your staff will ultimately help your setting to succeed on levels that you cannot yet imagine because it will allow staff to feel valued, make informed choices, and to ultimately find solutions to their own problems. Education empowers people as does encouraging life-long learning, CPD and trust. Studies show that CPD increases job satisfaction and contributes to good health and wellbeing. So, are you allocating time and resources to do that? If not, why not?
Supporting and helping your staff
What do you do if your staff have a problem – be it a personal problem, mental health or physical health problem? Do your policies and working arrangements allow for emergencies or flexible working patterns, and what sources of information and help do you offer if issues do arise? We all know that some employers are more flexible and understanding than others when it comes to these things, so ask yourself bluntly – would you like to work for you?
Audit your approach
A few years ago, it seemed that ‘audit’ was almost a dirty word since anything and everything that could be audited, was being done. This led some institutions into a culture of box-ticking and meaningless surveys and reports. However, done well, auditing your practice gives you the information you need to continue going forward and improving with each step, and should be seen like a satellite navigation system that is continually feeding back your position so that you can be certain you are in the right place, heading in the right direction.
What does this mean in practice?
If you are unsure about what some of these things mean in practice, it might be useful to download a recent staff wellbeing report published by the National Centre for Children and Families. It outlines 10 steps to help support staff wellbeing, and although written initially for schools, much of the content of the report is also relevant to nurseries.
It offers several suggestions for improvements, including:
- A dedicated space for staff to take time out
- A culture of openness and support talking about mental health
- A lead person responsible for mental health
- Introduction of a staff wellbeing survey
- Consideration of working hours
These are just a few of the suggestions, but it also includes some case studies to show how different schools have improved their staff wellbeing by following some of the advice.
Other ideas that fall into similar categories include:
- Stress reduction techniques such as relaxation or mindfulness classes
- Encouraging appraisal systems that are focused on praise rather than fault-finding
- Instigating team building and teamwork opportunities
- Offering initiatives which recognise and praise staff
- Robust staff induction programmes
Buddy schemes or counselling services for help and advice
- Using language to promote wellbeing as a normal concept within the work environment
- Encouraging an open-door policy
- Provision of occasional free lunches, fruit or other low-cost perks
- Regular consultations with staff and ‘staff voice’ initiatives
- Healthcare plans or private health insurance
- Mental health first aid training
- Perks such as gym memberships or wellbeing workshops
- Encouraging a can-do attitude and growth mindset
Staff wellbeing matters, so make sure you are looking after your staff well.