The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Lauren Peart-Roddis

The TEAM plan for workload and wellbeing

The TEAM Education Trust put wellbeing at the heart of its strategy from the start. Lauren Peart-Roddis shares useful tips and lessons learnt.

Launching as a new education trust in the midst of a pandemic in June 2020 was always going to be tricky, but staff wellbeing was an important priority for us even during our early days of planning.

As educators, we have a huge responsibility towards each of our students, and   to each other, to be role models and mentors. To do this effectively, we must practise what we preach – we should be self-aware and take care of ourselves in order to teach the lessons that our students deserve.

The TEAM Education Trust has always sought to be an employer of choice to increase empowerment, reducing the potential for strains and stresses whilst enabling us to recruit and keep high quality staff.

Our workload charter sets out how we plan to bring this from strategic planning into the reality of our day-to-day working practices.

Implementing our initial ideas

Where to begin? We started out with our initial concepts, piecing them together as we developed our plans. Some were planned whilst others were reactive.

Wellbeing doesn’t need to cost money

A pandemic drives change so, for example, we responded to the need for staff to relax and socialise. During potential periods of isolation, we set up activities and resources such as:

  • Zoom yoga
  • a virtual café where colleagues could join us for a TEAM chat
  • individual support packages when required
  • mental health first aid to support those with anxiety or in crisis
  • buddy sessions.

Introducing a more structured approach

In January 2021, we introduced our first workload audit which gave us an essential insight into how our ambitions were rolling out in practice.

We recognised the need to develop a more structured approach. As our Trust expanded and we grew our central team, we were able to appoint a HR Manager, with the capacity to focus and lead on a wellbeing strategy for the trust.

Extensive research into a wide range of wellbeing programmes both within the education sector and beyond included the CIPD Deloitte Report, the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and the results of a staff survey.

To gain further insight to develop our strategy, we connected with other organisations who are currently leading the way in promoting wellbeing. We are grateful to the University of Derby, Calm in a Box and the Human Wisdom Project.

Developing mental health first aiders

We introduced our approach to wellbeing at the start of this academic year. On the first inset day of the term, staff met virtually with Kate Wood from the University of Derby, who discussed mental health and social wellbeing.

Kate's lively presentation was followed by Manoj Krishna from the Human Wisdom Project, who introduced his wellbeing app to further support staff.

After the inset day introductions, we created a wellbeing working group with volunteers from staff teams across the trust. We set the new group the simple (or not) task of supporting the transformation of our workspaces into places with a positive culture towards work and life in balance.

We underpinned this by inviting all members of the new group to become ‘mental health first aiders’. To ensure that our approach developed traction, we set out to recruit a trust wellbeing champion who would work to support the trust’s mental health and wellbeing strategy. The new champion takes up their post in January 2022.

Engaging with our staff

All great ambitions need an implementation plan. Our focus shifted towards making sure that all staff were fully engaged with, and understood, the offer in place for them.

We took it from the top, and the CEO along with others in the central team, visited our schools to outline the detail of the plan. The CEO outlined her commitment to wellbeing and its importance to all those in our school community, whilst our HR Manager introduced two wellbeing apps (VIVUP and The Human Wisdom Project) along with new ‘wellbeing walks’ and themed wellbeing cafes.

Ensure your wellbeing strategy aligns with your vision and values. 

The first wellbeing café was a resounding success. We kicked off with cake and munched over the theme of social wellbeing. Those staff present embraced the discussions and there was plenty of positive feedback and suggestions for future cafés.

Lessons we’ve learnt

As we take our early steps on our wellbeing journey as a trust we have already collected some valuable pointers:

  • We have learnt the value of a small, supportive forum to nurture those who do not normally speak out. We learnt to seek out these colleagues and to offer a supportive place for them to explore and share their own thoughts.
  • One size doesn’t fit all. Wellbeing is extremely personal and, whilst some people may be happy to share their views in a public forum, others may prefer only to speak to trusted colleagues.
  • Wellbeing doesn’t need to cost money. Grand gestures are not what people need – personal touches mean the most. It’s wise to remember that positive feedback for a job well done is extremely valuable. Recognising great work doesn't need to involve the opening of the organisation’s wallet.
  • Start with the old mantra of ‘keep it simple’. Our initial enthusiasm to offer classes and activities needed to be honed down. It can be counter-productive if staff feel they need to get involved with everything to show their commitment. Interventions amid, or at the end of, a busy day can just irritate some people, although others will love it.
  • For many colleagues, the best thing we can give people is time. Some staff don’t like yoga, others don’t like apps – but everyone appreciates the culture of listening, developing and providing a clear, wide-ranging offer that will give support when it is needed.

We encourage trusts to take staff wellbeing to their hearts. It’s not straightforward but it is worthwhile.

You might find the following advice helpful

  • Do your research and ask staff what they think. Wellbeing is personal to everyone – it is not a one-size-fits-all situation (but keep it simple).
  • Give a staff member dedicated time to lead on wellbeing. Building a wellbeing strategy and all the activities that go with it can be very time consuming.
  • Ensure your wellbeing strategy aligns with your vision and values. No two wellbeing strategies will look the same. It is what works best for your school/trust.
  • The wellbeing strategy needs to come from the leaders. Those at the top need to be modelling the wellbeing strategy to encourage staff to engage appropriately with it and to gain the value from it when it’s needed.



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