Employee experience has become one of the real hot topics across every industry over the past year or two. As the pandemic has caused many people to reassess their lives, work/life balance has become a much higher priority, and employees are putting much more emphasis on protecting their wellbeing.
Education is no exception to this trend. The Department for Education has responded by drawing up the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter, which sets out what Ofsted, education organisations and the DfE itself should be doing to support staff as best they can. At a day-to-day level, there are lots of measures and initiatives that school management can take to make employees feel positive, valued and comfortable.
In this blog, we’ll explore how three particular strategies can help you develop a positive, inclusive culture that your workforce is happy to be a part of.
Letters of gratitude
The old saying about birthday and Christmas presents can be applied here: “it’s the thought that counts”. If a thank you, a well done, a congratulations or any other recognition of achievement feels forced, generic or simply just a platitude, it won’t move the needle in terms of making staff feel genuinely good about themselves.
On the other hand, headteachers in both primary and secondary schools alike have found that when feedback is more specific and more personal, the intended positive response for the recipient is far stronger (and that works for students as well as staff). Writing letters of gratitude, where the specific achievement or good deed is highlighted along with a personal note of things, can make a big difference without requiring any significant effort or financial outlay.
Giving both staff and students the chance to break away from the norm for a day and enjoy a welcome change of pace can significantly improve the wellbeing of everyone involved.
How this can be carried out depends on the type of school involved. Many primary schools run ‘random days’, where different activities happen without students being forewarned: such as craft days, games around the school (and even staff working in their pyjamas for the day!).
At secondary schools, the best activity days are those that get everyone out of the classroom environment. The feedback we’ve received has suggested that barbecues and afternoon teas have been particularly successful in helping people relax, and helping teachers and students build stronger working relationships in less formal surroundings.
One extra element that can further support these events is to personalise the environments they’re held in, especially if it’s in a classroom or a staff room. Making everyone feel that they’re in a less formal area than usual makes it much easier for them to relax.
While open communication is always helpful in supporting schools from an organisational standpoint, it can be just as beneficial in supporting wellbeing initiatives, too.
All employees should feel confident that they can give constructive and honest feedback to managers, and that their views will be valued and respected. Some staff members will naturally feel more comfortable with giving feedback than others, and so suggestion boxes where employees can air their views with discretion can support those who feel shy about holding direct conversations.
These suggestions can often lead to changes that ultimately benefit everyone. For example, we’ve heard from secondary schools that held parents evenings over video calls during the pandemic, and who received requests from teachers to retain that arrangement permanently. Those schools that subsequently made the change got positive feedback from staff, teachers and students alike, who all felt that a virtual parents’ evening was much better to fit around their respective personal lives.
Schools that are proactive in supporting their employees’ wellbeing will find they benefit from a happier workforce that’s more motivated and creative. As a result, those schools will also find it easier to keep hold of their most talented teachers and to attract new star performers – an important consideration in today’s job market.
Additionally, if you’d like to read more about flexible working in education, our blog explores three practical ways to introduce working flexibly into your school.