nursery staff well-being stressed teacher

Nursery staff well-being

According to the World Health Organisation, mental health is: “a state of well-being, in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

What role does your work as a nursery practitioner play in your mental health?

Mental ill-health is usually caused by a combination of work and non-work related factors. There is a myriad of reasons for mental ill-health, from the pressure of ongoing change at work to longer or more intense hours exacerbated by financial pressures at home, or relationship problems and greater caring responsibilities.

If your nursery is not supportive as a workplace, it can trigger or exacerbate mental ill health with anxiety, depression and stress-related disorders being the most common issues.

Poor work environments with high demands, low levels of individual autonomy and poor support can undermine the health and well-being benefits that ‘good’ work can bring.

How can you support your colleagues?

Your colleagues may already understand the most effective way to bring out the best in each other, from not piling on the pressure but engaging and supporting them to work more effectively.

Striking the balance between what is considered appropriate results or output, and robust mental health is tricky and relies on a strong understanding by your nursery and well-trained line managers, in particular. They need to know about creating and maintaining conditions that support and encourage good mental health, as well as recognising the signs of ill health and providing appropriate support.

The stigma associated with mental health remains a major obstacle to the effective diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. It can prevent employees from talking to colleagues or managers about their problems because they fear discrimination. It may even prevent them from acknowledging to themselves that there is a problem.

Tips for supporting the well-being of your colleagues:

  • Develop a work culture where everyone is treated with respect and bullying and harassment are not tolerated
  • Develop a culture where open and honest communication is encouraged. Support and mutual respect should be the norm
  • If possible, give employees more control over their work and how they do it
  • Ensure employees have the correct level of skills for the job they are required to do
  • Ensure that the team has a manageable workload
  • Where possible, create flexible working hours to try and support a work-life harmony
  • Audit the work environment for physical stressors and try to eliminate them e.g. poor lighting
  • Check out Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Management Standards risk assessment process documents, to help identify the extent and causes of employees work-related stress
  • HSE, CIPD and Investors in People have developed a Stress Management Competency Indicators Framework of tools.  This allows managers to assess whether there may be some behaviours of concern
  • As a manager or supervisor, support your setting by being aware of mental health issues and attending appropriate training if required
  • Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England Instructors can train staff to become accredited MHFA Champions, by delivering a two-day course. This raises awareness of a variety of potential mental health issues and how to address them.

How can you support nursery staff well-being?

Visible leadership – some staff will cope well during a crisis and step up to take action where others may feel more comfortable and secure being led. It is important that leaders take care of themselves, communicate effectively, provide clear information and updates, and are compassionate when leading staff.

Supportive workplace – a safe and supportive environment can help to relieve anxiety. Things such as buddying, reflective journals, well-being supervisions, regular rest periods, shift rotation and reduced hours (using flexible furlough scheme where possible) could be explored to support staff and to relieve some of their anxiety.

Effective communication – our biggest defence from anxiety is knowledge and support. Talk to others about your anxieties and encourage colleagues to do the same. Often talking helps and there may be some action that can be taken to reduce anxieties that you and your colleagues are feeling. Staff on furlough also need regular meaningful contact to ensure they are kept up-to-date and feel part of the team.

Promote mindfulness and self-care as well as supporting each other to remain physically safe – the mind is just as important as the body and adopting some mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help to reduce the effects of anxiety. This is an ideal opportunity as a setting to reflect on and improve policy and practice around supporting staff well-being.

Nursery staff well-being activity for easing anxieties

If you take the time to understand what contributes to good well-being, you will be able to approach all challenges positively.

What Works Wellbeing and The Department for Work and Pensions have developed a set of questions to give a quick snapshot of how people are doing with respect to different aspects of well-being. See it here.

You could use this to gauge staff well-being and take action in any particular areas of concern.

More support with nursery staff well-being

Learn strategies for improving the health and well-being of you and your team with our FREE ‘Supporting Well-being in the Early Years Workforce’ online course.

This online course provides an overview of the main theories on well-being, including physical; mental and emotional; social; and spiritual well-being. You’ll discover the effect that poor well-being has on the workplace too.

This course will help you to assess your own personal well-being with ideas for appropriate steps you can take to improve it and will help owners and managers to think about strategies to support the well-being of their staff.

  • anxiety
  • childcare
  • coronavirus
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • early years
  • mindfulness
  • self-care
  • support staff
  • well-being

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