What's it about?
Education can be a stressful and emotionally demanding field, perhaps now more than ever. School staff are juggling many roles as they help students navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many questions, and sometimes few answers.
This strategy taps into what works to make schools healthier workplaces. These are subtle but important actions that can boost mental wellness among school staff, and sometimes among students too.
Here are four science-based ways to promote staff wellness at school. Adapt them to suit your school community, and be sure to follow health measures in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Promote work-life balance
- Acknowledge that stress is real. This simple action encourages all of us to reach out for help when we need it.
- Talk about stress in the school workplace. Sometimes colleagues can help each other problem-solve.
- As a team, consider audits or assessments as a way to formally measure or monitor stress in the school workplace.
- Be mindful of excessive workloads and watch for burnout, especially at times of high stress (like before holidays or during report cards).
- Try these promising ways of balancing work and life:
- Limit work-related e-mail outside of school hours
- Limit work taken home
- Rest, relax, and recharge during days off
Build skills for self-care
- De-mystify workplace wellness programs. Make sure everyone knows what’s available to them and how to access it. Digital tools are shown to boost participation in workplace wellness programs, so promote online portals or apps that are available.
- Integrate self-care into professional life at school—for example, try:
- Mindfulness breaks during the school day
- Physical activity groups during school breaks, like lunch walking clubs
- Self-care tips during morning announcements or at staff meetings
- Create time and space for positive professional relationships to grow among colleagues. For example:
- Organize welcome activities for new staff and designate team members to help them settle in.
- Set up professional learning collaboratives, mentoring pairs or teams, or similar groups.
- Get to know each other outside of school hours.
- Acknowledge and celebrate personal achievements and professional successes—do it often, and with intention.
Explore the 'ripple effect'
- Trust that many strategies aimed at improving health in students can also contribute to positive outcomes for staff. Research suggests that:
- When staff build mental health literacy alongside students, they have more confidence (and less stress) about how to help others.
- When adults at school engage in caring and supportive interactions with their students, they feel respected and valued.
- When staff explore mindfulness with students, they may tap into practices that work well for them at home or at school.
- When teachers support social emotional skill development in students, their own social emotional competence may improve.
How it connects
New science continues to shape our understanding of the relationship between staff and student health. There’s emerging evidence that when school staff are mentally well, there are positive effects on student mental health and overall school climate.
A whole school approach can make it easier to infuse staff wellness into your school health vision, plan, or framework. To learn more, check out: