School staff are experiencing high levels of job-related stress prompting districts to examine ways to do more to support the mental health and well-being of employees to prevent losing them.
Surveys by the RAND Corp. found approximately one in four teachers are experiencing depression. Furthermore, most secondary principals who reported experiencing frequent job-related stress identified supporting teachers’ mental health and well-being as a major component of their own job-related stress.
Yet, according to an EdWeek Research Center survey, only one third of district and school leaders have made counselors and mental health services available to staff since the start of the pandemic. Retaining staff is already a difficult task for school districts, and leaving employee mental health and burnout unaddressed is driving even the most committed employees to seek other opportunities.
Experts provided a few ways to address the mental health issues plaguing educators.
- Add support where you can, but even just having colleagues to lean on for those struggling can help. Create weekly support groups, peer-support programs, and provide coping tips and tools.
- Make sure employees are aware of the available resources and share these resources equitably. Remember, not all employees check their email daily so broadcast the message in a variety of ways.
- Talk to employees before they feel the need to leave. Conduct “stay interviews,” designed to learn from key employees about how they perceive their jobs and what they feel could be improved.
In addition to “stay interviews” with key employees, districts can conduct annual employee surveys of all employees to understand where support is needed and use exit surveys or interviews to understand what drove staff to leave. These surveys generally cover job satisfaction, working conditions, supervisors, and central office. Recurring surveys done annually allow districts to compare to themselves over time.
Whether a recurring or first-time survey, districts could also add questions as needed on stress, burnout, and familiarity with services offered. These may help identify and improve problem areas before they grow.
Finally, be open about the importance of mental health to help reduce the stigma of seeking help. For more information on the topic, check out the article from Education Week.
Tracy Morris is an HR & compensation consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Tracy an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Janelle Guillory is an assistant director at TASB HR Services. Send Janelle and email at email@example.com.
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