Your Wellbeing within Further Education
The UK’s Health and Safety Executive study found that education professionals suffer from the highest rates of work-related stress and anxiety in the country. A recent Ofsted study confirmed that many FE professionals struggle with lack of work-life balance, a challenging workload and lack of support from seniors. Despite the above findings, most FE teachers report that they enjoy their teaching and making a positive difference in the lives of young people.
Although FE employers are starting to recognise the need to provide more in-depth support, we should not wait for our organisations to provide all the help we need. It is wise for us to seek opportunities to develop our own physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Education Support Partnership
The above charity promotes the wellbeing of education professionals in the UK by offering free counselling and life coaching services. If you feel stressed, worried or anxious at the workplace, or would like some help with personal issues, you could benefit from the one-to-one support they provide.
Alternatively, you could enquire about in-house mentoring for teaching staff within your own FE College. Through mentoring, you may share your work-related concerns and receive guidance about how to manage challenging behaviour in the classroom.
People who do a great job at work are always given more to do. If you are a talented, committed and hardworking teacher, you are most likely to be given more and more tasks to tackle. Burning out is a real threat for many FE teachers. They go into the profession because they are passionate about teaching. They find it flattering to be handed more responsibilities (for a while) and they struggle to say no. Speaking up about your overflowing workload may be a real challenge for you. You might be concerned about missing out on upcoming promotions and demonstrating a lack of commitment. However, people will never realise how stretched you feel if you fail to voice your concerns.
It is wise to clarify for yourself the long term consequences of working under significant (and increasing) pressure. Would you still have a passion for teaching in 5 years from now? Would you enjoy excellent health if you continue pushing yourself harder and harder?
Although work plays a significant part in our lives, it should not consume most of our waking hours. Nurturing family relationships, taking up new hobbies and creating memorable experiences are part of a happy life. According to Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, unequal work-life balance contributes to decreased happiness and wellbeing. You might be surprised to hear that the UK is currently listed number 15th in the World Happiness Report (in 2019).
Engaging in hobbies helps us become more creative in how we solve complex problems. Leading a one-sided life (with too much focus on work) can result in resentment, bitterness and mental fatigue.
Here is a reflective question to ask yourself: ‘Looking back from a decade from today, what advice would you give to your current self?’ Most people would advise their younger selves to relax, to slow down slightly, and to enjoy their life journey.
Introduce a tech-free day
Technology is both a friend and a foe. Smartphones help us to reach each other quickly however they can lead to frittering away our time. I have recently started introducing technology free days when I leave the phone and the laptop switched off for a whole day (normally a Sunday). I choose not to go online and check e-mails. Surprisingly, the day seems much longer when I cut out screen time. I have the time to enjoy long conversations with loved ones, spend time in the fresh air and pursue creative projects.
Why not try a tech-free day and leave the phone, kindle, laptop, PC, TV (or whatever communications device you have) switched off for just one day?
Working in the FE sector is challenging for many people. However, there are very few other professions where you have opportunities on a daily basis to positively influence future generations. The more you look after your wellbeing, the more you will be able to bring fresh energy, enthusiasm and creative solutions to your work.