As the Summer vacation winds down, millions of students, teachers, and education workers across the country are preparing to head back to school.
For parents, preparing kids for the new school year includes everything from shopping for supplies and clothes to scheduling checkups and coordinating schedules. Teachers need to start developing their lesson plans and getting their classrooms ready to welcome both new and familiar faces.
For most teachers, their job is a vocation. However, many are prone to high levels of stress.
The reasons are complex and multi-faceted. Even before the pandemic struck, significant numbers of American teachers were burning out. Then the unexpected expectation of facilitating distance learning to support uninterrupted learning for their students during the pandemic while caring for the needs of their own families increased their anxiety levels.
A recent survey highlights the current scale of the problem:
The same survey found that the top-ranked sources of job-related stress among teachers are:
Teachers who report having poor well-being or stressful working conditions are more likely to want to quit.
Commenting on these figures, a spokesperson from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) said, “Teaching has never been an easy job, but the added stress of the pandemic, ensuing shortages, safety issues, and the injection of politics into our classrooms has done a real number on our educators.”
Education institutions can do a lot to help improve the well-being of their teachers and other education staff. Since August is also National Wellness Month, it’s an ideal time for them to enhance programs that help teachers better manage their stress and establish more manageable routines.
Here are some ways to do this:
Positive school environments where employees feel supported and appreciated are linked to better educator well-being and a decreased likelihood of leaving.
Remember that teachers want their superiors to respect their professional judgment. So, avoid micromanaging them – it will only disincentivize innovation and problem-solving. Trusting educators is an effective way to boost the school’s culture and student performance.
Employee wellness or well-being programs are designed to support and improve employees’ mental and physical well-being to help build a productive, motivated, and engaged workforce.
There’s been heightened awareness of the need to support employee well-being as a result of the pandemic. Right now, 90% of employers are increasing their investment in mental health programs. However, teachers are less likely than people working in other occupations to have access to counseling services. A third of teachers report having access to counseling through their employers compared to about half of adults employed in other industries.
Responsible and compassionate education institutions should prioritize their employees’ mental well-being by investing in such support mechanisms.
Financial worries are among the most prevalent sources of employee stress, and teachers are no exception. Financial wellness programs provide employees with tools, coaching, and support to better equip them to manage their day-to-day personal financial concerns.
Today, many employers are including Earned Wage Access (EWA) services as part of their financial wellness program. EWA is a payroll model that allows people to access earned wages before their regular payday should they find themselves short on cash to pay for an unexpected or emergency expense. It removes the embarrassment and stress of borrowing money from friends and family or approaching high-cost, unsecured lenders. The funds are automatically loaded onto a prepaid card, deposited onto the employee’s existing direct deposit, or accrued earnings are transferred into a bank account facilitated by the EWA provider.
People who are battling stress often isolate themselves from others, suffer physical aches and pains, or become irritable or intolerant. That’s not conducive to a healthy learning environment.
So, be on the lookout for any signs that a staff member is struggling. If a teacher appears to be “off” for some reason, approach them with an attitude of curiosity to find out what might be troubling them. Don’t assume they’re upset about something related to work or frustrated with the school or their students. Offer to be a support in whatever ways are most helpful and appropriate.
Leaders of educational institutions should set positive and achievable expectations and make sure they’re available to answer questions and receive feedback. One way to optimize bi-directional internal communication is to invest in a digital employee communication app. This tool will allow staff to receive personalized, timely, and relevant information from wherever they are via their smartphones.
A good app will help ensure that everyone stays informed about important school news and updates and can perform their teaching jobs more efficiently.
One of the most effective ways to show you genuinely care about your employees’ well-being and professional success is to include them in the decision-making process.
While some decisions are better taken by school leaders alone (such as HR concerns, budgets, and legal issues), most day-to-day decisions can and should be made with input from teaching staff. These matters might include curriculum choices, scheduling shifts, and policy initiatives.
While there may be limits to the extent to which educational institutions can offer shift scheduling flexibility to teachers who have regular classes, this might be something you can introduce to your catering or cleaning staff.
For example, why not introduce a mechanism that allows them to swap shifts in the event that an unforeseen personal commitment or health issue crops up?
Wherever possible, allow your teachers to choose their own professional learning programs so they can explore areas of most interest to them.
This will give them the opportunity to try out new ideas they believe will benefit their students.
Teaching is about developing people and constantly encouraging others to reach their potential. But that’s not easy for teachers to do if they’re struggling with stress, burnout, or other physical or mental issues.
At a time of low unemployment and labor shortages in many other fields, teachers recognize they have plenty of other options. That’s why forward-looking educational institutions are doing all they can to treat their teachers the very best.
Payactiv is a leading EWA services provider. Our service is low-cost to employees and zero-cost to employers. We offer a SaaS-based service so staff can access it anywhere with a smartphone. Our service integrates fully with the systems provided by leading payroll providers so that it aligns fully with your internal payment processes.
Our service also includes other value-adding features; for example, our relationships with industry partners like Uber mean employees can pay for Uber rides simply by using the service on their smartphones. And our company communication app allows employees to engage with company announcements and shift management systems while they’re on the go, giving them additional working flexibility where and when they need it.
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