The notion that educators are overworked is common in Early Childhood Education & Care (ECEC).
Another common theme in the education sector is a focus on staff wellbeing, as a result.
But do you ever get the feeling that you're just doing the same old stuff?
Are your team getting a bit bored of the same activities that are supposed to improve wellbeing?
Have you recently experienced staff turnover, and now your loved wellness activities aren't hitting the same spot?
To provide you with some inspiration, here are a few things we've seen from centres, and what some of the educators on our team have experienced in their workplaces.
1. Team Lunches & Outings
You want your team to build connections outside of work so that they can work well together.
Team outings not only build those connections, but give colleagues a chance to relax from the hectic work schedule and unwind together.
Here are some suggestions to make your team outings get the outcome they desire:
Try not to involve alcohol: Whilst for some it helps with social anxiety, it can add anxiety for others (e.g. those who don't drink, or those prone to 'the fear' the next day). Alcohol-free outings mean that colleagues can work on developing connections at their own pace, and not have to worry about 'the fear' when they head back into work.
Play some games: Whether it's board games, bowling or an escape room, games allow your staff to develop relationships whilst working together - something they can emulate in the workplace. This has a two-fold impact on wellbeing; a better working relationship with colleagues, and a chance to take your mind off work by playing games.
Make healthy lunch/food choices: OK, don't go overboard here and order everyone a bag of salad, but if you're going for team lunches, it may be best to get something healthy. The last thing you want is your team over-indulging at 12pm and then having the sudden urge to nap at 1pm. Team lunches and outings are about energising people, so make the right choices with your food, too.
Some examples of team outings include: bowling, ping pong, mini-golf, escape rooms, painting classes, quiz nights, playing a sport.
2. Regular Massages
A previous workplace I was at used to have a massage company come in and give all team members a free 15-minute massage once a month. And it did wonders for productivity.
Whether you're sat at the office with that C-shape posture all day, staring at your phone on the way to work and getting 'text neck', or constantly bending over to pick things up, we're all in need of a little TLC when it comes to our aching bodies.
Many services that offer massages also offer things like group yoga and mindfulness, so you can treat the mind as well as the body.
3. Positive Messageboard
Having a messageboard up in the staff room is a good way to share messages. But what about one that shares positive comments about teammates from their peers?
One centre has a positive messageboard where team members are tasked with (anonymously) putting up a positive note about a specific colleague. It can be something they have done, something they're good at or something that teammate likes about them.
On days when it's hard to get out of bed, coming into the office to see a positive note about yourself can give you that boost you need.
4. Group Gym Memberships
Exercise is essential for wellbeing. But a lot of the times life gets in the way, and for others, it's an expense they'd rather not shed.
Many workplaces offer subsidised (or free) gym memberships, or ask a professional to come in and deliver a group training session like Zumba.
This type of effort helps team members create a healthy relationship with exercise, improving wellbeing.
5. Provide Healthy Snacks
Sometimes we just want to grab the biscuits when we hear someone put the kettle on. But is that going to help you perform?
Sugary snacks like chocolate and biscuits can contribute to that afternoon crash we know all too well.
Think about including nuts, fruit or other healthy alternatives, and promote consistent energy levels amongst your team.
Similarly though, we don't want to promote an unhealthy relationship with food to the point we ban the so-called 'bad foods'. So maybe have a mixture, and let staff choose what they want to go for.
Wellbeing is as much about the freedom to choose as the choices you make.
6. Create Different Spaces for Breaks/Lunch (and use them intentionally)
Lunch rooms can be the place where everyone puts in their earphones and ignores each other, or the place where colleagues go to relax and connect.
The smallest things can make a big difference, such as:
Making the lunch room separate from the workplace: you shouldn't be eating lunch in the same place you do your documentation/programming/admin. Workers need that separation to promote creativity and recharge.
Positioning tables and chairs so people are invited to talk: they say some of the best ideas come from 'water cooler' conversations. Try promoting connection by putting tables and chairs in a way that helps people connect (i.e. one big table instead of several small tables).
Regularly change the layout of rooms: humans are naturally more creative and productive in new surroundings. Ever get that energised feeling when you rearrange a room in your house? Try putting that feeling in your workplace and start seeing amazing results.
7. Add Plants and Natural Light to Workspaces
Plants naturally improve our mood by decreasing levels of anxiety, whilst natural light helps us regulate our sleep patterns.
Without getting too scientific, natural light tells the body that it's daytime and that we should be awake. And when it's night time, the darkness tells us that it's time to go to bed (hence most of us sleep with the lights off). So having natural light helps with our circadian rhythm a.k.a body clock.
And just an extra note - you can't get the same level of hormone-releasing benefits from artificial light as you do from natural light.
So having plants and natural light in your workspaces decreases anxiety and helps keep our body clock regulated, improving mood and wellbeing.
8. Promote the Benefits of Healthy Sleep
Healthy sleep is one of the most important factors for wellbeing. But it goes way beyond just getting enough sleep.
Here are just a few things you can promote for healthy sleep:
Getting 7-9hrs of sleep each night
Avoiding caffeine for the first 90-120 minutes of waking up
No screens 1 hour before bedtime
Turning off overhead lights and using lamps when it gets dark
Getting natural sunlight first thing in the morning (ideally outside).
Here are some references to the science behind quality sleep:
9. Share Mental Health Resources
Chances are, you know someone who's been through some mental health issues, and maybe you've been through some yourself. But not everyone is willing to share.
Promoting practices for improving mental health can be as simple as sharing resources. It seems a bit impersonal, but it can be a great first step for somebody to start helping themselves.
You can put posters up in the staff room, or even share helpful links through OWNA.
10. 1:1 'Walking Meetings'
When we think of meetings, we think of people around a table, in a meeting room, or on a zoom call.
But what about just going for a coffee and a walk around the block?
One good practice is a 1:1 Walking Meeting between a staff member and someone in the leadership team. Walking and talking with a coffee in-hand can ease the anxiety of having a meeting with the boss, which will help people open up.
These kinds of meetings can be used for team members to discuss their goals, difficulties, and try to find out what really matters to them (which you can use to design your wellbeing program).
Employees who are heard are empowered to do their best work.
Establishing A Wellbeing Program In Your Workplace
It's important to evaluate why you're doing what you're doing when it comes to wellbeing. What might empower someone might bore another, and might be 'cringe' to another.
When we look at adding a wellbeing program, are you actually trying to improve wellbeing? or are we just ticking a box to say 'wellbeing program added ✅'?
Try to take the time to deeply know your team, so you can apply the appropriate activities to promote health and wellness.
Communicating with your team is made easier with OWNA. We combine documentation, rostering and staff communication in one app, so you can communicate efficiently with your colleagues. Sign Up for your FREE Trial!