An Introduction to Personalised Wellbeing Action Plans and How They Improve Staff Wellbeing at Your School
Considering the high levels of stress and poor mental health we are seeing in the workplace, there is a growing demand for innovative and proactive ways of supporting staff’s mental health at work.
We can support our staff by helping them identify ways they can also support themselves when they experience impacted mental health or wellbeing. To do so, schools can explore creating Personalised Wellbeing Action Plans (PWAPs) with their staff.
PWAP’s are an excellent tool to help school leaders, teachers, and staff support mental health. Anyone can complete a wellbeing action plan, not just those with a mental health condition. In fact, in this climate, every member of our staff (and even our students!) would likely benefit from completing this exercise designed to facilitate a proactive approach to mental health and wellbeing.
However, to increase staff buy-in and provide context, there are a few considerations that we must take into account before introducing this process to our staff.
As with any new initiative you wish to implement at your school – consultation is key.
This article will cover:
- What are Personalised Wellbeing Action Plans
- What they entail and cover
- The benefits of completing a PWAP
- How to get started with PWAP creation at your school
What is a personalised wellbeing action plan?
PWAPs are a personalised, practical tool all staff can use – whether they have a mental health problem or not. A PWAP is a self-reflective document filled out by staff and is used to identify what keeps them well at work, what causes them to become unwell, and how to address a mental health challenge should they experience one.
In this context, a mental health challenge could include anything from stress, anxiety, depression, right through to mood disorders or trauma (3).
Working through a pandemic is likely to bring up many mixed emotions and feelings, so using this tool to identify ways of supporting ourselves is a preventative and intervention strategy schools can use as part of their staff wellbeing plans.
A PWAP reminds staff what we need to do to stay well at work (and in life!) and details what their leaders or supervisors can do to support them better. It also helps them develop an awareness of their working style, stress triggers, and responses and provides them with an opportunity to communicate these to their colleagues, supervisors, and anyone else who can support them.
The PWAP is not legally binding (nor mandatory) but is intended as a segue for discussion between staff and their leaders (or coach/mentor) to promote their wellbeing or address any existing mental health needs, including any adjustments they may wish to discuss.
Good Personalised Wellbeing Action Plans include reflection and identification of:
- Reasons for being at work
- How school leaders/supervisors can proactively support mental health at work
- Triggers that raise stress levels or impact overall wellbeing
- The effects of heightened stress or impacted mental health on work capability
- Warning signs to look out for
- Small actions that can improve the working environment or help to manage stress
- Ways leaders can best support staff if they notice any warning signs
- Ways staff can support others with gratitude and kindness to improve wellbeing and culture
- Family, friends, and workmates who can support or listen
- Professional support options
Benefits of a Personalised Wellbeing Action Plan
Supporting our staff to reflect on their own needs and ways to support themselves is a positive experience that many could benefit from exploring. This reflective process, followed by open conversations with trusted leaders, helps staff to take proactive steps towards supporting themselves and building a strong support system at work and beyond.
Other benefits include: (1,2)
- Reminding them of why they are in teaching and their reasons for being at work (purpose)
- PWAPs open up a dialogue with managers or supervisors for them to better understand the needs and experiences of their staff and ultimately better support their mental health at work
- Greater productivity and engagement at work
- Increased job satisfaction
- Helpful during a return to work process, if staff have been off work due to a mental health challenge
- Provide a structure for conversations around what kind of support will help staff and what reasonable adjustments might be useful
How to get started with Personalised Wellbeing Action Plans
School leaders must remember that the process of developing PWAPs with their staff is not a decision that we spring on our staff because it sounds like a “good idea.” I am sure many would appreciate that some staff might not respond well if we dump a “wellbeing plan” on their laps, tell them to complete it, and then ask them to book a meeting with their supervisor to share their experiences with wellbeing and mental health.
Context is important. Trust is important. Buy-in is important.
The best time to introduce a PWAP is after your school has conducted a school scan of wellbeing, and by this point, staff should be aware that staff wellbeing is a focus. While staff will be pleased to hear their wellbeing is being attended to, it is also important for them to have warmed up to the idea of discussing their wellbeing and mental health with others – especially anyone they don’t know well.
Some suggestions for introducing these plans at your school could be:
- Discuss plans to support wellbeing with staff, seek consultation and input, share ideas and plans for the upcoming terms/year – a school scan is a great place to start.
- Warm your staff up to the idea of discussing their wellbeing – a good way to promote this is following a staff wellbeing professional learning opportunity.
- The leadership team familiarises themselves with what a PWAP is – they could even practice on each other.
- Leaders ensure there is enough familiarity, trust, and relationship developed between them and the staff they will be discussing PWAPs with.
- School leaders explain how to complete a PWAP to all staff, including what it is, the benefits, the purpose, and time for questions.
- Invite all staff to take the time to fill in their own PWAP’s.
- Invite (but don’t mandate) that staff schedule confidential time with a leader, coach, or mentor to discuss specific areas of their PWAP (it can be as little or as much as they like). Suggest staff consider which aspects they feel comfortable sharing or think would be most helpful for their leader/supervisor to know before the meeting.
- Consider supporting students (senior primary and high school) to complete a similar version of this plan.
As you’ve learned here, Personalised Wellbeing Action Plans encourage individuals to reflect on their mental health, triggers, purpose, and ways to seek support and support themselves when needed.
The benefits of creating one and using it at your school include opening up dialogue between leaders and their teams, empowering staff to identify the support they need, increasing productivity, engagement, and job satisfaction, and creating a structure for conversations surrounding wellbeing at work.
However, before considering using PWAPs at your school, it’s important that staff feel comfortable with the idea of having open conversations surrounding mental health and wellbeing.
If you’re looking for new ways to support staff wellbeing at your school or would like guidance on best practices for introducing Personalised Wellbeing Action Plans to your staff, I invite you to learn more about my School Wellbeing Consulting services and Staff Development Workshops and book a discovery call to discuss your needs and how I can help you and/or your school.
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