Creating an effective staff mental health and wellbeing strategy is reliant on two things: understanding the current provision, and understanding the needs and feelings of all staff members who will be relying upon it.
Similarly, any changes or reviews of the strategy must take into account staff views and feedback to ensure both its effectiveness and staff buy-in.
An audit can provide high-level information for governors and senior leadership about the quality of the current staff wellbeing strategy. It can also show any gaps in policy and structure within the school. Audits are a measure of what’s currently in place – they’re not hard to design, but there are a variety of groups offering wellbeing audit services and information to schools including The Key for School Leaders. A basic but free example of a more corporate style of workplace wellbeing audit can be found here.
Information the school already collects is another useful source when measuring the effect of current staff wellbeing. This could include staff absence rates, numbers of grievances and disputes and their nature, as well as any other pertinent incidents involving staff behaviour. These, alongside observations regarding staff interactions and relationships, provide a helpful beginning to understanding how mentally healthy the school is. It will also demonstrate the importance of conducting regular reviews with all staff as well as comprehensive exit interviews to generate and collate actionable feedback.
Surveys of staff views will provide valuable information into their sense of wellbeing culture at the school. Surveys also highlight staff’s awareness of policies and procedures, and potential ways they could change for the better. Take care when designing a survey to make sure that the data it collects can be easily collated and analysed, and that benchmarks are in place to measure against.
There are many commercial options to help you conduct employee wellbeing surveys, including some aimed specifically at schools, such as the services offered by Welbee, the Child Outcomes Research Consortium, Bounce Together and Education Support. You can develop a survey that suits your school’s needs by working with senior leadership. We’ve developed an example survey to use as a template and which can be amended to suit a school’s particular requirements. A DIY approach avoids the cost of outsourcing and can be tailored exactly to the school’s needs. However, the downsides include a lack of benchmarking, the time and effort involved, and no support in addressing the survey’s findings.
It’s important that as many people as possible are included in the survey, and that the data collected is of a high quality. This helps make sure it is useful going forward as a baseline measure. Governors and senior leadership are also encouraged to share these findings with staff, even when they potentially indicate a negative view of the school’s efforts. This will help underline the commitment to an open and transparent approach to mental health and wellbeing, provide impetus for positive change, and encourage staff buy-in.
Thanks to Welbee, What Works Wellbeing and Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families for their contributions to this article.