In the second of two blogs focussing on school staff burnout, we look at how HR can put support in place to reduce rates of the syndrome.

(Missed part 1? Catch up below!)

Does your school or MAT have a plan to spot and counteract stress?

We know that the responsibilities of the HR department are already vast and always growing, but promoting and supporting employee health and wellbeing is core to a positive workplace environment. In turn, it also helps to reduce staff absences that could escalate into cases, and a whole other bunch of issues!

Poor mental health caused by pressure or stress has caused 1 in 5 working adults to take time off work in the past year.

Yet, Mental Health UK’s first annual burnout report has found that nearly half of workers say their employer doesn’t have a plan to ‘spot the signs of chronic stress and prevent burnout in the workplace’. Without a plan, how can organisations expect to be able to lessen rates of burnout among their staff?

Burnout in education

We’re realists, so we know that it’s impossible for HR to solve every single problem for every single employee every single time there is one. But having the basics in place is a good place to start solving as many as possible!

They say prevention is the best treatment, and we agree. Here’s some questions to get you about what you can do to prevent staff reaching a point of burnout in your school or MAT:

1. Can you spot the early signs of school staff burnout?

When you’re aware of the symptoms of stress and the implications of these turning into burnout, you’re more informed to make the appropriate interventions (and work to reduce it!).  Whilst it’s widely recognised that school staff work over hours, it’s not a pre-requisite of the job – and it shouldn’t be an expectation. 

If an employee is showing signs of tiredness (all the time!), self-doubt, cynicism, overwhelm, or procrastination, then they could be displaying early signs of burnout.

To prevent these symptoms turning into a case of burnout, Mental Health UK recommends employers should provide things like:

  • regular check-ins with employees to discuss workload and challenges
  • a strategy, policy, or plan for employee mental health to prevent chronic stress or burnout
  • training sessions to help employees and managers understand the importance of good mental health
  • and more!

2. How proactive is your approach to absence management?

Staff absence management is more than recording absences and having them escalate into cases – it’s about understanding the root cause of the absence to prevent them recurring. With pre-emptive absence triggers that notify managers when a member of staff is approaching a formal trigger, our school HR software promotes more of an open conversation around what’s causing the dip in attendance levels (before it drops too far!).

You can also compare absence levels across departments and roles in your school, and if you’re a MAT, across all your schools. Patterns in absences can be identified, and you can start to investigate what’s contributing to a surge in absences at one school compared to the others. Or, what could be linked to higher or lower rates of school staff burnout.

When you’re more informed about what’s causing the absence, be it role-related pressures (like an impending Ofsted inspection or A-Level exams season), or out-of-work personal issues, you’re more informed to put the right types of support in place for the individual(s).

3. Are you regularly reviewing and updating working policies in line with evolving guidance?

This April, new statutory flexible working guidance is due to come into play. The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 and the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 will change how employers need to approach flexible working requests, including within education.

Flexible workers have a higher level of job satisfaction and commitment, according to The Tavistock Institute. We’re aware that integrating flexible working into education is a rather complex operation, simply due to the nature of the school day. But where academies and trusts can offer a more flexible approach to employee working patterns, weeks, and holidays could have a positive impact on sector-wide challenges, from teacher retention and recruitment through to staff wellbeing.

A responsive education sector

It’s promising to see how the education sector is moving with the times and becoming more responsive to wellbeing challenges. More support continues to be put in place to promote more positive mental (and physical) wellbeing. And, it’s important to note that most adults (73%) feel able to manage stress and pressure levels in their lives. 

But whether you’re in this category or relate to the almost 1 in 4 adults who feel unable to manage stress, having processes and practices in place to reduce burnout and support all staff’s wellbeing is what the sector needs to aim for.

To see our school HR software in action and find out how it can support your people-management activities, contact our team.