A good work-life balance is important for all education staff to promote overall health and wellbeing.
In order to lower stress and that sense of feeling constantly overwhelmed with a never-ending ‘to do’ list, it’s certainly worth taking time to notice and address any areas in your life that may need some attention.
When we have a good work-life balance we tend to perform better and are generally more productive. However, this is not always easy when work demands are high and more and more seems to be expected from us.
Research tells us that education staff, in particular, find it difficult to switch off after work and that work often impacts on personal lives.
Maybe some of the following comments from education staff will help to normalise how you may be feeling…
I’m always rushing eating and it’s usually at my desk
I feel guilty taking breaks
I want to enjoy hobbies and interests but I don’t have time
I feel stressed and overwhelmed a lot of the time
I feel the need to check emails in the evening at home
I’m not getting as much time as I would like with my family and friends
It affects my sleep as school issues are on my mind
If you can relate with some of the comments above, it may be worth taking small steps to try and create more balance in your life. Until we stop to take notice, we often just carry on the way things are going as we become used to the fact that ‘this is how life is’ – but it doesn’t have to be. You can take some control back and explore where you want to prioritise your time. Life will feel more enjoyable and meaningful and we are likely to feel more fulfilled and happy when we get a work-life balance that’s right for us. There’ll always be times when the pendulum swings more towards work or home life and that’s normal. However, it’s unhealthy when life continues to revolve around work. There is hope though!
Below are some really useful tips on things you can do:
- Don’t suffer in silence and take responsibility for your own work-life balance. Let your manager/supervisor know if the pressures and demands are too much. Sometimes employers are simply unaware of how much you may have on your plate because they are pre-occupied in other areas.
- Prioritise your time – assign time slots for work on your calendar or diary and try to focus on that piece of work. This may mean not answering non-essential phone calls or closing your emails during this ‘protected time’. Cut out unnecessary meetings or tasks and focus on what needs your attention. Work smart, not long!
- Ensure you take your full lunch break and get mini breaks in during the day when you can. Find somewhere different to your workstation for a change of scenery. Get outside for some fresh air. We are often more productive when we step away from work and take stretch breaks.
- Try to leave work at work, but if you do take work home on occasion where needed, make sure you fully pack it all away so that your home feels like a home again and work is no longer on your mind or in sight.
- Find ways to minimise stress such as being intentional with hobbies and interests, seeing friends, exercising and relaxing. These are protective factors to maintain good overall health. The link between work related stress and mental ill health is real. Don’t sacrifice people and the things you enjoy for working more than you need to.
Here are some things that your workplace may be able to support with:
- Promote staff wellbeing and self-care in the workplace.
- Develop policies that recognise the link between work-related stress and mental health. Policies should list the roles and responsibilities of employees at all levels in the organisation in promoting mental health and also show what support is available to staff who experience mental health problems (i.e. Employee Assistance Programme).
- Encourage staff by letting them know they can talk about work pressures and work-related stress if they need to. Informing them on how they can do this and who they can talk to.
- Offer training opportunities to managers around noticing the warning signs and understanding the impact of poor work-life balance. Also, training around putting better systems in place within the organisation to promote staff wellbeing.
- Being realistic with what staff can achieve in their contracted hours for work so that workloads are manageable and ensuring that this is regularly reviewed within supervisions.
- Monitor work environments with a focus on work stations along with practice, policy and culture.
- Promote activities that encourage staff wellbeing such as exercise or relaxation classes.
Education Support has a helpline: 08000 562 561
Their trained counsellors are there to listen to you without judgement and help you find a way forward, whatever your worries or concerns and feel better.
It’s free and available to all serving and retired teachers, lecturers and staff in education (primary, secondary, further or higher education) in England, Wales and Scotland 24/7, 365 days a year.