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How schools can help staff achieve a better work-life balance and boost mental wellbeing

As we all know, teacher wellbeing has suffered significantly over recent years due to several factors, including the pandemic, cost of living crisis and inflation. The latest Teacher Wellbeing Index found 77 per cent of teachers experience poor mental health due to their work and 72 per cent are regularly stressed and overworked. In fact, teachers are more likely to continue to experience high levels of stress today than any other profession, including healthcare workers.

Additionally, the latest report by Education Support found 74 per cent of teachers help pupils with personal matters beyond their academic work, including buying supplies for pupils (41 per cent) and even washing pupils’ clothes (13 per cent). This additional emotional and academic pressure has exacerbated a wider mental health crisis among teachers and the educational workforce.

The myriad of problems which have nationally increased teacher stress have not been caused by individual schools and so cannot be solved by schools alone. However, education institutions can help minimise the impact of these wider problems on staff by implementing initiatives and perks that support wellbeing, without heavily impacting school budgets. Here are some strategies that can make educators feel more valued, seen and supported to overcome the problems they face.

Nurture staff

This year, the Teacher Wellbeing Survey found 48 per cent of teachers do not feel well supported by their school, up from 43 per cent in 2021. There are several ways schools can help change this, such as launching dedicated and regular teacher drop-in sessions with access to emotional and psychological support should they need it.

Physical health and wellbeing are also incredibly important for positive mental health and outlook, and so schools should encourage staff to try and prioritise their physical health as much as possible and take time for themselves. As part of a school’s benefits package, the option to offer discounted rates for health and fitness will help educators stay active and put their physical health first, thereby encouraging a positive work and life balance.

Support teachers’ anxiety outside the home

Research reveals a staggering 59 per cent of teachers feel “not confident” disclosing unmanageable stress or mental health problems they are facing outside the classroom with their managers or a senior leader and 88 per cent feel they have a negative team culture.

Making pastoral support for teachers a regular, normalised and important part of team meetings or one-to-ones is vital in helping educators feel able to open up and share any issues they may be facing – whether it’s linked to teaching or not. It can also help managers and team leaders to mitigate any circumstances which may negatively impact a teachers’ performance or ability to thrive, such as relationship changes or depression.

Help teachers switch off

While time and space to recharge and switch off from school would help staff feel more positive, resilient and in control of their work-life balance, the reality isn’t always reflective of this. Additionally, educators often feel they not only need to support their students academically but also emotionally beyond what they can offer in the confines of the classroom. One small way to help regain a sense of calm and composure is through the use of meditation and sleep apps. For teachers who may be struggling to disconnect from work concerns at home, meditation and guided-sleep resources can be particularly helpful for improving mindfulness, self-confidence and emotional resilience. These skills and qualities can contribute towards good mental wellbeing and a more positive perspective in one’s personal and professional life in the long-term. In fact, 91 per cent of those using discounts specifically for teachers said it affords them a higher quality of life than would otherwise be possible and 10 per cent report being happier going into work since they began accessing discounts for their profession.

While the cost-of-living crisis is certainly adding to the burdens already being felt by many employees – including teachers – there are free membership platforms and dedicated services for those working in the sector which offer discounted trips and travel for educators to take advantage of. This is particularly important as research has confirmed 61 per cent of teachers spent seven hours or more per week during their summer break working, and one in eight worked more than 21 hours a week. Teachers deserve to take a break and re-set over their holidays and while offering perks and discounts may seem like a small gesture, it goes a long way in helping to improve mindsets, support wellbeing and offer respite; all while saving money during a time that many are feeling the pinch.

Teachers and educators are fundamental to society – helping our children in every sense, and thus shaping the next generation with the skills needed to boost our economy and increase productivity. Yet, they are often the forgotten heroes, and it’s imperative that they are given access to the tools, services and support needed to help them achieve a better work-life balance, improve mental and physical wellbeing and be rewarded with the benefits they deserve.

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