This blog was written by David Price, the CEO and Wellbeing expert at Health Assured
Many employers are now aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance – not only to improve productivity and engagement amongst employees but also for their mental wellbeing.
In the Education sector, there’s a myth that teachers have it easy due to their 3 o’clock finish and 6 weeks off in the summer; however, according to a survey of 4,450 teachers by The Guardian, up to a third of teachers work more than 60 hours a week. 
This is mostly due to unmanageable workloads – 76 percent of respondents said that working through such a high workload was affecting their mental health.
In this blog, we’ll highlight the factors that impact the mental wellbeing of teachers, explore the benefits of promoting wellbeing and a healthy work-life balance, and provide some tips on how you can protect the mental wellbeing of your staff.
Teacher mental wellbeing
In 2018, the Education Support Partnership published its Teachers wellbeing index.  In it, they found 67 percent of Education professionals consider themselves stressed, with more than half of them (57 percent) saying they’ve considered leaving the Education sector in the last two years as a result of numerous health pressures.
These figures show us the importance of focusing on the mental wellbeing of those in the Education sector. Not only because ill mental health is detrimental to teachers, but also because it can hold back the progress of pupils.
Benefits of investing in the mental wellbeing of teachers
The first and most common benefit is the improvement of job satisfaction.
As we pointed out earlier, over half of all Education professionals surveyed said they’ve considered leaving the sector due to lack of support. By encouraging a healthy balance of their work and social life, they’re more likely to be content with their job, which in turn reduces the feeling of anxiety about going to work, making them less likely to consider quitting.
Other benefits include:
- An increase in retention rates.
- Reduced costs of recruitment.
- An improved organisational culture.
- Increased productivity levels.
- A decline in sickness-related absences.
- Lower absenteeism and presenteeism rates.
- More engagement with co-workers, the school and its governors.
- Having a reputation as a school that cares and invests in the wellbeing of its employees.
Tips for promoting a positive attitude towards mental health
There are various ways to encourage a positive attitude towards mental health. Accommodating positive mental health in any workplace doesn’t have to be cost consuming.
You can encourage conversations between school leaders and teachers to foster a safe environment where they can open up about their problems or concerns.
Other techniques include:
By building a supportive wellbeing culture, school leaders and teachers can openly discuss mental health without the stigma attached to it. Consider other initiatives such as wellbeing surveys and mental health first aid.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
With CBT, teachers learn to observe their behaviour and thoughts to identify how it affects their mood. They’re able to create new patterns to help them avoid the effects of negative thoughts.
Combined with mindfulness training, teachers will learn to manage the stresses that contribute to anxiety and depression. A study by the American Journal of Psychiatry highlighted the impacts of meditation on the brain. According to their research, meditation can reduce the density of brain tissue associated with anxiety and depression.
According to the wellbeing index, more than 70 percent of all employees surveyed cited their workload as being the main reason for considering leaving their jobs. (ESP: 2018)
So, to address this issue, you can offer alternative arrangements such as job-sharing. You can also consider setting limits on activities such as meetings and other gatherings after school. If these meetings are necessary, ensure all invitees are essential to the discussion.
The Education Support Partnership
The ESP charity is dedicated to helping school leaders and teachers by offering effective support programmes that allow Education professionals to better manage their teams, workloads and other work-related stresses. It also allows them to put processes in place to build a positive work culture.
To conclude their index, they propose recommendations for supporting school leaders and teachers including:
- Mandatory provision of personal mental health and wellbeing guidance within Initial Teacher Training.
- Regulators to prioritise staff wellbeing in their assessments and measure this against an evidence-based framework.
- Annual staff surveys to become statutory in all schools and colleges; with senior leaders acting on the issues identified in an open and transparent way.
- Increased awareness, knowledge and signposting to external support services.
- Access to an externally provided Employee Assistance Programme for all staff in schools and colleges.
- Access to facilitated peer support programmes for all leaders in schools and colleges.
There’s no single thing we can to do promote health and wellbeing in the workplace. It takes a combination of implementing internal policies and initiatives around the workplace.
The first approach should always be direct communication with staff members. They know best what can help them and can guide you on what they need.
By making small positive adjustments, over the long term, meaningful change can occur for teachers, students, and school leaders.
For more guidance and information from Health Assured, go to: https://www.healthassured.org/
 Rachel Banning-Lover (2016) ‘60-hour weeks and unrealistic targets: teachers' working lives uncovered’ <https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/datablog/2016/mar/22/60-hour-weeks-and-unrealistic-targets-teachers-working-lives-uncovered>
 Education Support Partnership (2018) 'Teacher wellbeing index 2018' <https://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk/sites/default/files/teacher_wellbeing_index_2018.pdf>
 Leeds Beckett University (2018) 'Pupil progress held back by teachers’ poor mental health', https://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/news/0118-mental-health-survey/>
 Health Assured (2019) 'Going to work with Anxiety' <https://www.healthassured.org/blog/job-anxiety/>