Wellbeing is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.”
Wellbeing is a broad concept and covers several aspects of the way people feel about their lives. Inevitably this includes how people feel about their jobs and their relationships with the people around them.
In recent years as the importance of staff wellbeing has been recognised many models of wellbeing have been developed. Here is our model, focussing on the key factors affecting wellbeing at work:
You can read more about these individual factors below:
People management is, of course, a broad factor covering a range of work activities and approaches, such as:
There are a multitude of ways in which people management activities can positively (or, of course, negatively) impact on staff wellbeing. Some of those which can positively influence wellbeing include:
The part that good-quality interpersonal relationships has to play in supporting wellbeing at work is self-evident. Where an employee experiences difficulty working with someone - a colleague or line manager, pupil, parent or any other person they must regularly cooperate with - this can negatively affect one or both parties every day they are at work, leaving them feeling anxious, stressed, frustrated or annoyed after every interaction. This may involve no fault on either side - sometimes it can be just a clash of different personalities - or it can result from bullying behaviours, overbearing or dictatorial management styles, a failure to respect boundaries or a whole range of other factors. Where the 'problem' person is in a position of influence, this can amplify the issue, adversely affecting a large number of staff.
Ways in which it may be possible to improve wellbeing through promoting good-quality interpersonal relationships could include:
The issue of work-life balance is a major one for schools and colleges to address and there are few easy solutions in the current economic climate. A 2019 survey of 1,200 teachers by UCL suggested that:
Whilst the headlines tend to focus predominantly on teaching staff, support staff similarly report workload and work-life balance issues as key factors affecting wellbeing at work.
Whilst acknowledging there are few quick fixes, there are areas that schools and colleges can tackle to have a positive impact on workload and work-life balance and demonstrate that governors/trustees and senior management take the matter seriously. In brief, these might include:
It is important that schools and colleges recognise the impact that an unhealthy work-life balance has on wellbeing (and by extension, the retention of staff) and keep this high on the agenda. We look in more detail at what can be done to improve work-life balance in our section on Enhancing Staff Wellbeing.
Personal development, as a factor affecting wellbeing at work, incorporates all activities which focus on staff growth and learning. Wellbeing is enhanced when people experience job satisfaction and where work is fulfilling the innate need to be challenged. This area therefore covers elements such as performance management and feedback, access to CPD, succession planning, on-the-job learning, job design and the extent to which management is autocratic rather than promoting autonomy and creativity.
Relevant activities which can positively influence wellbeing could include:
Every school and college, indeed every workplace, has a unique culture and this impacts on staff engagement, retention and - of course, linked to both of these - wellbeing. The 'culture' of an organisation is not always easy to pin down, it exists regardless of attempts to shape and influence it, as it manifests chiefly in how staff behave and interact. It is therefore sometimes referred to as an organisation's 'personality'. An organisation's 'values' are part of its culture and form the framework for staff behaviour. Sometimes values have grown organically and are difficult to define, in other cases organisations - including in the education sector - have sought to take the lead by developing a set of stated values which staff are expected to reflect in their day-to-day approach to work.
However the culture and values have developed, there are actions that schools and colleges can take to positively influence the culture and values to support wellbeing. For example:
Employee voice is about how individual staff can influence the matters that affect them at work and through what mechanisms. Where employee voice operates effectively, it impacts positively on productivity, creativity and job satisfaction. It contributes to the continuous improvement of the organisation. Where management do not listen to, or act on, employee voice, staff are increasingly demoralised and disaffected. Employee voice can be heard through a mixture of informal and formal mechanisms, as well as individual and collective ones, such as:
Employee voice can also be used to express emotional states, as a means of dealing with stress and not just with the aim of influencing matters at work.
Senior leaders in particular can benefit from listening directly to front-line staff rather than just talking to their managers.
To develop employee voice into something which positively impacts on wellbeing, schools and colleges can benefit from reviewing existing mechanisms, considering such questions as:
This area of the website contains a range of guidance and tools to help you actively manage staff wellbeing in your school or college. The resources in this section are open to all, although links to other areas of the website may be restricted to customers of our HR services.
Use the links on the right to access all the subtopics in this collection.