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Rethink how you Tackle Staff Stress and Teacher Mental Health and Wellbeing

March 12, 2018, 9:21 GMT+1
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  • If you lack the in-house expertise needed to support staff-related mental health issues, could an employee assistance programme be the answer?
Rethink how you Tackle Staff Stress and Teacher Mental Health and Wellbeing

In a recent survey carried out among teachers by Leeds Beckett University, 77% of those questioned said that poor teacher mental health was having a detrimental impact on pupil progress. According to one respondent, “So much of teaching is about relationships and patience, so this has a human impact.”

By adopting a proactive approach to supporting mental health, schools can improve the attendance and retention of their staff, while at the same time maintaining performance and reducing supply costs – but it’s important to bear in mind that schools don’t have to do this alone.

Through an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) schools can give their staff confidential access to a number of qualified professionals, including counsellors and occupational therapists, as well as specialist helplines and online courses. An EAP will typically be flexible in terms of pricing, enabling schools to avail themselves of a personalised service while closely managing the attendant costs, and also offer additional training for managers in resolving workplace issues.

Even if the source of your colleagues’ stress isn’t directly attributable to the workplace itself, that stress can still be exacerbated by your working environment. Employers therefore have a duty to take ‘reasonable care’ in ensuring the health and safety of their employees. If such issues aren’t properly addressed there can be an adverse impact on staff performance, absence, turnover and retention, resulting in increased costs for the school. It can also lead to significant increases in the workload of managers, particularly if a matter can’t be resolved and proceeds to a formal hearing.

Managers are well-placed to directly address key workplace stressors such as workload, but they often won’t be sufficiently equipped to support staff who are dealing with external personal pressures or broader mental health issues. It’s not unusual for workplace and personal matters to become intertwined, making it harder to get to the bottom of the issue. Staff are also less likely to discuss personal issues with their manager, due to embarrassment or fear of judgement.

The type of support that staff need in such cases will typically be beyond the skillset of their line manager, but with an EAP in place, staff can get to benefit from a completely confidential forum in which they can discuss the issues involved.

The access to 24/7 support provided by an EAP can also mean that staff won’t have to wait to for a referral through their GP. Depending on the package your school chooses, they can be assessed, supported and/or signposted to other organisations before the problem escalates into something more serious.

Adopting an EAP is an investment. By engaging with the needs of your staff, your staff are more likely to engage with you and your school, ultimately resulting in a happier workforce, increased productivity and improved performance.

Laura Williams is a former MAT chief operations officer and school business manager, and the founder of LJ Business Consultancy