In the face of the pandemic, teachers and support staff have stepped up and worked tirelessly to ensure pupils have had continuity in their learning both at home and in the classroom. They’ve had to discover new ways of teaching and go above and beyond in extremely testing times.

We surveyed 1097 teachers and support staff to gain an understanding of how the last 12 months have affected their health and wellbeing and what more employers can do to support them now and in the future. 

Increased pressure and higher workloads.

Almost half, 48%, of staff have revealed that Covid has caused their mental health to deteriorate, with 30% rating their stress levels at work as very high or high. The increased pressure, higher workloads and continuous changes have inevitably taken a toll on many. These pressures coupled with the lack of social interaction and recreation outside of work has meant that staff haven’t had many outlets for stress relief at the end of their working day either. 

14% have also taken time off work due to unmanageable stress or a mental health condition during this period and whilst the majority revealed this as the reason to their employer, 35% didn’t. When asked, how optimistic do you feel about the next 12 months, 23% said they don’t feel optimistic. This is reflected by the 25% of staff that are planning on leaving the education profession in the next 12 months due to stress which is something that employers should be paying very close attention to and take action to decrease this figure.

There’s no doubt that personal concerns around Covid have also added to the stress that staff are facing. The top 3 concerns they had were:

  • Catching or spreading Covid at work - 63%
  • Family health - 45%
  • Finances - 43%

Work life balance has taken a dip.

The education profession is one that typically requires long working hours even in usual circumstances so it’s no surprise that work-life balance took a bit of a dip after the pandemic started. Before the pandemic, 25% described their work-life balance as very poor or poor which has now increased by 5% to 30%. Working long hours is physically and mentally taxing and with less time to sleep and recharge, fatigue increases and so does the risk of physical health problems and mental health illnesses.

Teaching and support staff have gone through extraordinary lengths to support pupils and parents through various challenges. This has meant many of them have had to work overtime with 23% doing more than 5 hours of overtime every week. This has caused concerns around burnout for a fifth of staff.

Improving physical fitness.

The link between exercise and improved mental health is stressed by mental health organisations and advocates on a regular basis. 47% of staff are interested in fitness classes at work with several suggesting that their employer provides discounts or access to gym memberships in the open responses. Alongside this, we also found that staff want flexibility to exercise before or during the school day and longer break times for exercise and relaxation. 

On a similiar note, we've listed a few different ways teachers can incorporate exercise into their busy school day in this article.

Shared support between colleagues.

63% of workers said that their relationships with work colleagues have not changed much over the last 12 months, in fact, 19% have enjoyed improved relationships. Some of the open responses we saw included:

  • “There has been more bonding and concern for each other due to Covid and the restrictions - camaraderie has improved”
  • “Lockdown has better united colleagues to an extent” 
  • “We set up an online chat group which has really helped us to feel less isolated when not in school and gives a platform to discuss our worries, joys and hopes”

We can all agree that support from colleagues can make a world’s difference in the day-to-day battles of our work and personal lives. 

On the contrary, 19% felt that their relationships with work colleagues had become worse and over two thirds of staff, 72%, put this down to the lack of work social events and fewer opportunities for informal catch ups. In particular, supply teachers and support staff were affected by this:

  • “As a supply teacher you don’t really build close relationships but you do get to know other supply staff and share experiences”
  • “Little work connection with colleagues due to being a supply and working in different schools”
  • “I’m a supply teacher - we aren’t involved much”
  • “Supply teaching leaves you excluded from any support”

In this article, we explore how schools can involve supply staff more and what networking support there is available for supply staff.

The call for more mental health resources.

Whilst 60% of staff felt that their employer was helping them manage their stress levels, 40% have battled through stress without sufficient employer support. Furthermore, 43% felt that there are not enough support structures offered by their employer to help them with positive health and wellbeing, which leads us on to the type of resources that staff are looking for at work:

  • Stress reduction workshops - 44%
  • Training about mental health, resilience and stress management - 41% 
  • Mindfulness classes - 39%
  • A wellbeing champion - 36%
  • Meditation sessions - 33% 

There is potential for employers to offer a real mixed bag of resources and we’ve explained the benefits of each one of these in this article.

Interestingly, only 46% of staff said that their employer had a wellbeing policy which poses the important question as to why so many employers don’t. In this article, we’ve highlighted the benefits of employers having a wellbeing policy for their staff.

Employers still have a lot of work to do when it comes to their staff. Staff with better health and wellbeing are in a stronger position to deliver higher standards of education to pupils and support their academic needs. It’s important that staff look out for themselves and each other but after the turbulent year we’ve all had, the expectation from employers to look out for their staff has significantly increased. Staff must feel comfortable enough at work to speak up without the worry of reprisal or stigma (currently 44% don’t feel like they’re able to do this).

Employers need to be having those open conversations, checking-in and offering resources to their staff. Teachers and support staff are a necessity in our ecosystem and employers would do well to take on board this research and suggestions to retain valued staff and build and maintain a happier, healthier workforce to benefit the pupils of tomorrow.