So, you’ve been asked to lead on staff wellbeing. Where on earth do you start? Here are a few guidelines that we have put together from our work with teachers, researchers and consultants.
- Wellbeing is an area of staff development where staff really need to have autonomy. Any feeling that it is being imposed from “on-high” will lead to resentment. Staff working parties are a good way to achieve this, with a clear expectation that their work WILL be taken seriously and WILL be implemented. If budget is a constriction (and of course it is), make it clear at the outset how much has been set aside for wellbeing, so that the working party has an idea of what is possible from the get-go.
- Find out where your staff are with a properly anonymous questionnaire. Many wellbeing consultants and training providers will be able to prepare one for you, or with a bit of work you can prepare your own. Ensure you gather responses from a wide range of staff, not just the most vocal!
- When it comes to staff wellbeing, one size does not fit all. Wellbeing needs vary from person to person. While one member of staff might view a 5 mile run as a wellbeing essential, for another it’s a good old chat down the pub, or curling up with a good book. What all of these needs have in common is that time is required to be made for them. So when it comes to supporting wellbeing, supporting staff in spending less time working is essential.
- Staff hate tokenism, avoid it at all costs. If you are serious about wellbeing, be serious about it, make it a proper focus. Handing out a bag full of goodies at the beginning of term and then carrying in the same old way is counter productive. This isn’t to say never hand out goodies, everyone likes goodies after all. It’s just that there is so much more to wellbeing than scented candles and herbal teabags.
- Senior staff must model wellbeing behaviours. James Hilton, author of Leading from the Edge, says “Most workers take their cue from their leaders who establish the culture. If you want staff to have a work-life balance you have to clearly model that as their leader/manager.” Read more of this interview.
- Do not even attempt to make any wellbeing scheme mandatory. It will backfire. For example, there are some lovely buddy schemes operating in schools – here’s a superb one – but they are not everyone’s cup of tea and no one will respond well to being forced to have fun. Even if they enjoy it. Whatever you decide to offer staff, put a menu of options on offer for those who wish to take them up.
If you are looking for support in improving your staff’s wellbeing, check out our resource directory.