Now more than ever, educators and those who work in schools are looking to feel a sense of connection with their employers.
Our schools look different this year: many students are logging in virtually, those who opt for in-person instruction are masked and distanced from peers, lunches are grab and go and often eaten in classrooms, teens are instructed not to congregate in the hallways, water fountains are covered, and surfaces are constantly disinfected.
All of this is taking a toll on our educators.
Create a positive work culture
School leaders across Texas are working diligently to create and maintain a positive work culture during this particularly challenging school year. Last summer, we reported that employee engagement increases retention. Schools with engaged employees enjoy better retention numbers, and the positive work culture supports student learning. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, leaders can take action to preserve a positive culture.
Acknowledge stress and provide tools to manage it
Acknowledging stress and how it impacts teachers and staff can go a long way. Give educators permission to grieve the loss of a normal school year and accept them wherever they are in that process. It is not a sign of weakness to recognize and acknowledge that this school year is more stressful than most. Savvy school entities will remind employees of tools available to them and add to the suite in times of high stress. Some options include:
- Send email reminders of the entity’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Consider dropping pamphlets at each campus, if possible.
- Post informational fliers about stress management in employee breakrooms and restrooms.
- Cultivate an open-door policy and encourage staff to reach out when they are feeling stressed.
Employees are most engaged when they are clear about their role in the organization. Frequent communication from leadership, whether a principal or an administrator from the central office, is appreciated. Human resources officials should encourage first-level supervisors to conduct regular check-ins with all employees. Remember that communication is a two-way street. Including teacher and other stakeholder voices in decision-making will further improve employee engagement.
Encourage work-life balance
In some educational entities, teachers began the school year teaching virtually and from home. Although remote work has its benefits, the line between work time and personal time is often blurred. Even more challenging, educators who are teaching both virtual and in-person students are finding increased demands on their time to engage with all students. School leadership can help by promoting strategies to establish boundaries and a good balance. This applies to non-teachers as well. Everyone can benefit from time away from work.
The most effective leaders seek to inspire rather than motivate. Engaging employees through regular communication and support will help accomplish that goal even during times of stress.
Erin Kolecki is a compensation and HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Erin an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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