In Autumn Term I organise professional reviews for the staff within my line management area – Office, Lunchtime Assistants, Catering, Site and Cleaning Staff. This year as part of the reviews I will be including support for staff well-being and stress self-management. Let’s face it, we are never going to be able to remove stress from our working lives in schools. What do they say about never working with animals or children? And let’s not even get into workloads, but it is crucial that the right level of support is provided equally for our staff. As part of this management strategy we have to recognise that a low, in context, level of stress motivates staff to meet deadlines whilst also being aware of tipping points.
Ideas for sources of staff support are UK Mental Health, the Mental Health Foundation Website, You Tube videos such as those uploaded for Mental Health Awareness Week, MindTools.com Local Authority or Trust Health and Safety Teams, Occupational Health Services and the Department for Education website – Ways to Reduce Workload in Your School
Establishing a system of coaching and mentoring also helps with well-being, even as a reference point or staff buddy. Maybe you can connect with my own experience from networking events - a wave of relief when another school business professional relates to a question you have over a work issue. Many times I have thought that I was going wrong somewhere or missing a part of the jigsaw, only to find that someone else had faced the same or similar issue. What joy when the colleague can share their solution and also relief that it’s not just you! This relief valve is just as important for our staff and as managers we have a duty to facilitate this through mentors and coaches.
Coming back again to professional reviews, the advice from the Department for Education refers to allowing ‘staff to take ownership of their personal and professional development’. All too often as line managers, we are seen as the person who will have the answer and generally this is true. We do have to remember to look after our own emotional well-being and avoid negative feelings over not having the answer. Encourage personal ownership by asking staff to suggest solutions and that then, as their line manager, you will support them in the workplace.
A focus on your team’s well-being ensures that you have staff who are in the first place at work and who will accept additional work or responsibility through delegation. As with other areas of management, within the remit of the school business professional, there is a need to be proactive rather than reactive. Use management tools such as professional reviews for your staff to avoid crisis points and meltdowns. Empower your staff for the effectiveness of your role and the benefit to the school and pupils.
So what about us as the managers? Do whatever helps you ‘unplug’ – I would advise against alcohol on a school night! For me, it is exercise, not marathon running or heavy weight sessions in the local gym, but invigorating Zumba classes and Clubbercise. Now don’t get me wrong, I am no rhythmic dancer but boy when that Zumba music starts…. In fact, I am concentrating so much on what my left and right feet are doing that all my worries and stress just disappear for the Zumba hour. It is my oasis in the middle of the week. In fact, pass me my lycra leggings and trainers I am off for some well-being - Zumba style!