Workable Wellbeing

Inspired by the @SLTchat discussion about wellbeing on 6/9/15, I have collated some of the easily implementable ideas we use to promote wellbeing at St Gregory the Great Catholic School in Oxford.

Some updates added on 10th October 2015 to mark World Mental Health Day.

1. Free tea & coffee in our staff room. This is essential really, I feel it makes breaks a proper break and its the fuel that keeps staff going in between! I’ve worked in schools where staff pay into a kitty for tea & coffee – it’s a lot of effort for a very small sum in terms of a school budget and usually a nightmare for the colleague who has to get everyone to cough up. Chocolate biscuits also help at high pressure times and several colleagues share cake on their birthdays.

2. Considering the impact of new policies on staff wellbeing. Change seems to be the one contestant in schools. As we plan and implement new policies and procedures it’s important to consider their impact on workload and wellbeing. I have described this in more detail here.

3. Thank yous. It only takes a moment to say thank you, but in a busy day doing so can easily slip, whether acknowledging an email response, on paper or in person. It’s well worth getting into the habit of thanking people in even the routine tasks like a request for photocopying to reprographics. Use key points in the year such as the end of terms to voice appreciation or drop people a note. Performance management reviews are also an opportunity to thank colleagues for their contribution over the past year. At our Performance Development (we don’t call it appraisal) day this year we picked up on idea from Cheney school, Oxford, and started a staff Thank You board where anyone can post thank yous to colleagues.

4. Active steps to make workload manageable. We try to plan for busy times of the year, for example reducing the requirement to attend meetings in the weeks before exam board submission dates. I’ve written more about this here.

5. Staff book swap. We maintain simple book swap in the staff room. Colleagues contribute books they have read and enjoyed and anyone can take them to read themselves. There is only one condition: if you enjoy the book you have to pass it on to someone else you think will like it. We started with about 30 books donated by colleagues a couple of years ago. Since then the book swap has grown and become completely self-sustaining.

6. Mindfulness. We are just starting out with mindfulness as a school after training at the start of the year. We are aiming to use it with pupils, especially to reduce anxiety, but many friends and colleagues have found it extremely useful, so we are also keen to explore the benefits for staff wellbeing.

7. Spirituality. I work at a Catholic school so prayer and worship form part of school life. Our chapel is an oasis of peace and staff are welcome to take part in a short Taize service each week. It’s open most of the time to drop in. Most schools, whatever their character, have staff faith groups. While maybe not what everyone wants, they can be a boon to the wellbeing of their members.

8. Humour. A smile, a laugh, a cartoon or a joke, even if it is a bit lame, can lighten the day sometimes even the workload. It’s important to get the balance right, and to make sure the humour isn’t personal, but used well humour can make a large contribution to wellbeing. We try to have something that will make people smile at staff briefing, in our newsletter, and in the end-of-week email. My colleagues seem to have quite taken to the idea of dressing up 1980s style to mark ‘Back to the Future Day’ on 21st October. People are sending me pictures of their hair crimpers.

9. Cake. Yes cake. It seems to feature quite a bit. It precedes CPD, accompanies meetings and is occasional treat at break time. I noticed a thread in the #SLTchat discussion about the benefits of fruit. I can see the health and nutrition arguments, but I think if we tried to replace cake we might have a mass walkout. As a compromise we sometimes put fruit in the cake. Cocoa beans are a fruit, right?

10. Staying Fresh. Ideas that I was struck by in the @SLTchat included sending cards to team members that arrive home over the summer (from @MrBenWard), ‘Have a break, have a kit kat’ for staff returning after illness (from @TeacherToolkit) and specific coaching for managing time & wellbeing (from @ottleyoconnor). For myself, I’m going to try to make time for lunch as @gazneedle suggested) – something I’m not too good at most weeks.

It would be great to here other suggestions that have worked for you. Thanks to @ASTsupportAAli from Cheney School for the Thank you board idea. @evenbetterif has suggested a wellbeing objective in everyone’s performance development – an idea we will consider for next year.

7 thoughts on “Workable Wellbeing”

  1. Only just catching up with this Rodger, but thank you! Always good to read practical suggestions for improving morale and well-being.

    Re: the book swap – at the end of my first year as a head, as a thank you to the staff I bought a load of (what I thought were interesting) novels and put them in two baskets, one in the senior school staff room and one in the junior (this was a 7-18 school) and suggested staff borrowed books, added their own, and talked about them with colleagues. It’s five years since I finished, after ten years of headship. Wonder whether the baskets are still going strong?

    Liked by 1 person

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