8 min readUnderstanding Employee Well-beingposted 28 days ago

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The average adult spends approximately 30-40 hours of their week in the workplace, or working for their employer and whilst this is already a considerable amount of time spent per week, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about increased staff pressures and responsibilities, a range of social and emotional issues, and has resulted in heightened recruitment and retention issues, particularly for the education sector.

The pandemic has significantly impacted the way people have had to adapt and change including working from home arrangements, returning back and forth to their organisational settings, and supporting learners with additional and heightened support needs. According to MIND Charity “Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem but hundreds of thousands of people are still struggling.” 

Mental Health First Aid England report that “mental ill-health is responsible for 72 million working days lost and costs £34.9 billion each year.”

Well-being and mental health

When we consider the term ‘well-being’, this can include our physical, mental, emotional, and social health. Mental well-being describes how an individual is feeling at the time and how well they can cope with daily life, which can fluctuate from moment to moment, day to day, or month to month. 

The World Health Organisation states that “Mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and are able to contribute to their community.” 

Good mental health is defined as: 

  1. Feeling relatively confident in yourself and having positive self-esteem
  2. Feeling and expressing a range of emotions
  3. Building and maintaining good relationships with others
  4. Feeling engaged with the world around you
  5. Living and working productively
  6. Coping with the stresses of daily life
  7. Adapting and managing in times of change and uncertainty

(Adapted from Mind UK).

The Education Staff Well-being Charter 

The charter was published in November 2021 by the Department for Education. You can download a copy here.

“This charter sets out commitments from this department, from Ofsted and employers working in education on actions to protect and promote the well-being of education staff. As signatories, we are accountable for those commitments. Everyone working in education has an important role to play in supporting their well-being and that of their colleagues. I encourage all schools and colleges to put well-being at the centre of everything you do and sign up to the charter.” Nadhim Zahawi Secretary of State for Education November 2021

Work-related stress

Work-related stress can be a significant factor that can impact a staff member’s well-being. The Health and Safety Executive has reported that the 6 main causes of work-related stress are:

  1. Staff are not able to cope with the demands of their job
  2. Staff are unable to control the way they do their work
  3. Staff do not receive enough information and support
  4. Staff are having trouble with relationships at work or are being bullied
  5. Staff do not fully understand their role and responsibilities
  6. Staff are not engaged when a business is undergoing change

For more information and tool kits on how to manage work-related stress please click here:

The Education Hub also provides some excellent guidance around building a culture of psychological safety, for more info click here.

If you are feeling signs of stress within your workplace, it is important you tell someone. If you talk to a manager at the earliest opportunity, it will allow them to intervene and hopefully stop the situation from escalating.

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Other staff issues that can affect well-being and mental health

Organisations, leaders and managers should always try to adopt a holistic approach to well-being, based on the physical and psychological health risks and needs of the workforce. This can include offering support to those who may experience health challenges at various stages of life, such as pregnancy loss, chronic health conditions, caring responsibilities, and menopause.

Menopause

The NHS states that menopause is when your periods stop due to lower hormone levels. This usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55. The condition can cause symptoms like anxiety, brain fog, hot flushes, and irregular periods. These symptoms can start ten years before periods stop and continue afterwards and can have a significant impact on a person’s life, including relationships and work.

Organisations that offer support for menopause:

Menopause Matters:    https://www.menopausematters.co.uk/ 

Menopause Cafe:     https://www.menopausecafe.net/ 

Queer Menopause:   https://www.queermenopause.com/resources 

Culture

A whole-school approach is required to ensure that all employees and learners are truly accepting and understanding of well-being and mental health issues and how building inner resilience and accessing early intervention is essential.

It is fundamental that we do not stigmatise or label mental health issues as we all experience the reality of having normal emotional reactions to new or difficult experiences. Schools and educational organisations should always recognise that some employees may commence their employment with pre-existing psychological issues or diagnoses, either declared or undeclared.

Organisations should aim to:

  1. Provide a supportive and healthy workplace environment
  2. Enrich the experiences of all employees through the promotion of a supportive culture of well-being and emotional resilience
  3. Ensure that there is a clear process of reporting issues or concerns or seeking support for employees
  4. Increase awareness and understanding of well-being, physical health, mental health, and common mental health issues
  5. Be responsive to the early warning signs of mental ill-health with a preventative approach
  6. Provide education, guidance, and support to employees working with those with well-being or mental health issues.
  7. Be responsive to anyone affected directly and indirectly by mental ill-health.
  8. Provide support to individuals experiencing well-being, physical, or mental ill-health issues and conditions.

It is important to note that confidentiality does not apply when a person becomes a danger to themselves, or others and staff should escalate any high-risk concerns immediately to the Designated Safeguarding Lead or Officer as per the organisation’s Safeguarding Reporting Procedure. It is always a safeguarding issue if a person discloses suicidal ideation. Mental health emergencies are serious. By speaking up, everyone should know that you are not wasting anyone’s time.

Mental health first aid style initiatives 

Mental health first aid style initiatives are fundamental to creating a safe and healthy workplace and are trained employees that can identify, understand, and support individuals who may be experiencing a mental health issue. They will listen, reassure, and respond, even in a crisis and even potentially prevent a crisis from occurring and are trained to recognise some of the warning signs of mental ill-health and help to empower people to access support for recovery or management of symptoms.

Organisations should recognise that Mental Health First Aiders/ Advocates or Champions require support given the nature of the role. These employees have volunteered to complete the training and to be available to support others as an addition to their primary job role, so it is essential that they have access to regular supervision, appropriate training, peer-to-peer support and be regularly checked in on by someone who oversees the initiative.

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Accessing Support Staff:

Conversations around well-being and mental health should always have a clear emphasis on enabling individuals to develop their knowledge, understanding, skills, language, and confidence to seek help for themselves and their colleagues.

Be open about your situation wherever possible and prioritise your own self-care and well-being. When we take responsibility for ourselves and build inner resilience and positive thinking it can help us find solutions. If we feel unable to do so on our own, then it is important to speak up and ask for support. 

Ways to look after your well-being:

  1. Get creative
  2. Learn something new
  3. Be active
  4. Eat healthily
  5. Get enough sleep
  6. Help others
  7. Do things you enjoy
  8. Connect with others
  9. Do things to help you relax
  10. Ask for help if you need it

Photo by Tomasz Woźniak on Unsplash

Building Resilience

  1. Protect your physical and psychological health
  2. Manage your stress
  3. Stay calm
  4. Foster supportive relationships at both home and work
  5. Boundaries between home and work
  6. Mindfulness
  7. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  8. Reflective supervision
  9. Accessing Employee Assistance Programmes/ Counselling

Leaders and Managers:

Stress is defined in The Health and Safety Executive as the “adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.” This definition reinforces the difference between pressure which can be a positive state if managed correctly, and stress, which can be detrimental to health. 

It is fundamental that leaders and managers also prioritise their own well-being but also access some form of leadership training, particularly around mental health to improve their level of understanding and how to support their staff members.

Organisations that offer support for mental health and suicide:

MIND Charity: 0300 123 3393    https://www.mind.org.uk/

CALM: 0800 58 58 58    https://www.thecalmzone.net/

Anxiety UK: 03444 775 774    https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/

PAPYRUS: 0800 068 4141    https://www.papyrus-uk.org/

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Rachael Bishop

Rachael Bishop

Rachael has over 18 years of experience, paired with an extensive training record within the safeguarding field.