A 6-Step Staff Wellbeing Framework to Beat Staff Burnout and Improve School Culture

Across schools worldwide, the strain of teacher stress, burnout, and mental health challenges is palpable. We see it in the increased absenteeism, vacant positions, and staff struggling to keep up with workloads that cut into their personal time. This trend mirrors broader concerns, as impacted wellbeing emerges as a leading cause of absenteeism and reduced performance among Australian educators. 

Staff wellbeing has a profound impact that affects student life, learning outcomes and school performance. If our people aren’t faring well, then it’s unlikely they’ll bring the energy and patience needed to educate our students and collaborate effectively with colleagues and leaders, contributing to collective efficacy. 

School Culture, Function and Performance Improve When We Focus On Staff’s Personal and Workplace Wellbeing

When staff are healthy and well, they are more optimistic, inspired, self-determined, and willing to engage with their work. This makes them responsive to change and willing to solve problems with innovation and creativity, leading to better outcomes, eventually reflected in the data.

But it’s not just about encouraging staff to better look after their wellbeing.

When it comes to teacher and educator wellbeing, recognising the interconnectedness of personal and workplace wellbeing is paramount. Within the context of a Well-Led School or one that “leads with wellbeing in mind,” the assumption is that both personal and workplace wellbeing are integral, each influencing the other.

A supportive, wellbeing-focused school culture has a protective effect against stress and burnout and can help mitigate the risks associated with chronic stress, such as impacted mental and physical health. When you put staff wellbeing front and centre, you’re more likely to get staff on board with new initiatives, job satisfaction increases, morale is boosted, and school communities begin to thrive again. 

As we have discussed earlier, this involves not just a mere focus on “staff wellbeing” but also a focus on other key influential areas of staff wellbeing which have also been shown to have a correlation to student and school performance including staff satisfaction, morale, school culture, whole school relationships, engagement, workload and the promotion and support of staff wellbeing. 

Well-Led Schools

‘Well-Led’ schools are those that lead with wellbeing in mind.

These schools are focused and guided by a set of principles informed by research but also the experiences of teachers and staff in our schools. These principles aim to define the behaviours and actions involved in creating a school and working environment that puts wellbeing front and centre. Here, we can begin to transform the culture from within and better influence positive outcomes in student learning and school achievement. 

‘Well-Led’ schools understand and embody the concept of “People First, Then Pedagogy.” 

These schools approach their whole-school goals with the understanding that if their people aren’t taken care of first, they likely won’t see the performance outcomes they desire.

Our Well-Led Schools Partnership program supports schools in adopting these principles so they can make needle-moving changes to their school culture and go on to improve staff wellbeing, relationships and morale, beat staff burnout, and improve student learning outcomes. 

Our Approach

We know it’s not just about offering morning teas, wellbeing workshops and the occasional team-building activity. It’s about transforming the culture from the inside out, and we do that through a structured Staff Wellbeing Framework. 

With the Well-Led Schools Partnership, we support schools in embedding an approach to wellbeing that isn’t surface level but rather woven into every decision and action we take for the greater wellbeing of the school. 

As we craft our staff wellbeing frameworks, it’s crucial to draw upon wellbeing models and approaches backed by robust scientific research. I’m a firm advocate for an integrated approach in all endeavors, so I’m particularly drawn to building frameworks that encompass a diverse array of evidence-based practices.

Our Well-Led Schools approach incorporates:

  1. Positive Psychology’s PERMA(H) model
  2. The latest research in educational leadership
  3. Guidance from leading wellbeing organisations such as Beyond Blue, Be You, Black Dog Institute and Mental Health First Aid Australia

A 6-Step Framework For Improved School Culture

Knowing these ideas and theories isn’t enough to make a change in your school. You might find yourself embedding lots of well-intentioned initiatives but feeling frustrated and disappointed that they’re not making a difference. 

That’s why we created the 6 steps to becoming a Well-Led school – a proven framework we are using and getting results with (as evidenced by data) across a number of Australian schools. 

Step 1: Scan your school and pinpoint the wellbeing needs of your team

In this step, you’ll survey your staff and review multiple data sets to pinpoint the wellbeing needs of your team. Discover the unique health and wellbeing needs of your people before implementing wellbeing initiatives. Collect, review and analyse staff voice, data and observations in order to identify your priorities moving forward.

A school scan is an essential first step to understanding where your staff need the most support to improve their wellbeing and school culture. Without a clear understanding of the current work environment and the school’s overall approach to wellbeing, health, and mental health, your attempts to improve wellbeing may be considered futile by your staff.

A scan of staff wellbeing enables a school to be curious about its people and stay open to new kinds of information and insights about leadership, team formation, relationships, school culture, strengths and areas for development. It also ensures a much richer understanding of staff experiences and helps schools avoid the traps of their own assumptions, biases, judgments or perceptions.

A school scan also increases the likelihood of buy-in from staff as they feel involved in the process and like their voice is valued in the school’s improvement process. It also helps you to decide on the priority areas for focus in your framework to maximise your success.

Step 2: Establish a culture of wellbeing beginning with a co-created school vision for wellbeing

As your school identifies priority areas for focus, you begin to send a message that staff wellbeing matters. The crucial next step is crafting a co-created vision that places staff wellbeing at the core. This vision goes beyond what’s written; it’s about instilling a mindset that promotes a mentally healthy workplace. Weaving wellbeing into your daily language, actions and identity takes your message from lip service to the conditions under which everyone operates. Every member, from leaders to staff, play a pivotal role in making wellbeing a part of the school culture.

Having a vision provides your people with purpose and meaning, clarifies what you stand for, helps set standards and expectations and fosters positive communication and collaboration.

Step 3: Agree on the joint responsibilities of staff wellbeing

When it comes to maintaining health and wellbeing in the workplace, there has to be a symbiotic relationship between leaders, teachers, and staff. While school leaders should establish the foundations, policies, procedures, and initiatives to promote wellbeing and ensure positive school culture, staff need to elect to put up their hand and get involved in the programs offered and offer feedback and solutions alongside supporting their own personal health and wellbeing.

When the joint responsibilities of leaders and staff are clearly laid out, communicated and understood, it boosts individual and collective accountability for everyone’s actions, lessens confusion, and increases collaboration between all of those involved.

Step 4: Upskill and train leaders and staff in effective ways to promote, support and improve staff wellbeing and school culture

After identifying key priorities and co-creating a vision, the next pivotal step is upskilling both leaders and staff to effectively champion a culture of wellbeing. Professional development tailored to the school’s strategic goals becomes vital.

Whole school culture can be improved by building the capabilities of leaders through professional development that focuses not only on school leadership styles and people management skills but also on ways to support those who may be struggling with their mental or physical health.

Further, staff members are integral contributors to the school’s improvement journey. Targeted training equips them with culture-building practices, aligning everyone with the school’s vision. 

The result is a cohesive community that thrives on loyalty, commitment, and collaboration. As the school invests in the professional development of both leaders and staff, it strengthens its foundation for positive transformation and sustained success.

Step 5: Tailor a ‘Wellbeing Action Plan’ for your school

A ‘Wellbeing Action Plan’ is an evidence-based and globally recognised system that serves as a systematic approach employed by schools, organisations, and workplaces to manage staff health and wellbeing. 

It is a collaborative document created in consultation with the school’s leaders and staff. In order to be most effective, each plan should be strategically developed to ensure relevance to the school’s individual needs.

A key component of our work with schools is delivering a Staff Wellbeing Action Plan upon completion of our ‘Well-Led’ Schools Partnership Programs. Wellbeing Action Plans help outline the school’s vision for improvement, identify priority areas, and highlight staff-focused actions, initiatives and supports over a 1-3 year period. 

Step 6: Follow through on your Wellbeing Action Plan and check in on your progress

Developing a positive workplace culture that prioritises staff wellbeing is an ongoing process. It involves building on existing positive aspects of the work environment while reducing potential risk factors for stress. 

School staff want to see consistent follow-through, action, and accountability. This is where the bulk of the work happens, including reviewing the vision, checking in on action steps and roles and responsibilities, conducting staff surveys to monitor progress, and adapting the plan to meet the school’s evolving needs. 

This step marks the culmination of intentional efforts toward fostering a culture of wellbeing. It’s not only about initiating positive changes but ensuring that these changes are sustained and continually refined.

Conclusion

By prioritising staff wellbeing and following this six-step process you’ll be well on your way toward transforming the culture at your school so you can achieve the success and outcomes you know your school is capable of.

Download this FREE guide to learn more about the six-step process for improving school culture and staff wellbeing.

Well-Led Schools Partnership Program

Our Well-Led Schools Partnership program is a tailored professional development program that empowers school leaders and their staff to embed a proven Staff Wellbeing Framework and strategy designed to beat staff burnout and create a thriving school culture. 

With expert guidance, your school can finally address staff wellbeing effectively and go on to kick strategic goals and level up school performance. 

Pinpoint your school’s needs, co-create your vision alongside staff, establish everyone’s role in contributing to a culture of wellbeing, upskill leaders and staff with tailored professional development sessions and create an action plan that will ensure maintained success for years to come. 

To learn more visit our Well-Led Schools Partnership page!

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