9 Ways to Nurture Staff Wellbeing

The Early Years workforce are champions of children's wellbeing - but what about their own?
August 13, 2022
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Some educators get a lot of emotional and social fulfilment from the job satisfaction of their role, whether it’s those close bonds with the children or the joy of working with great teams. But in a role as physically and emotionally demanding as working in an Early Years setting, staff wellbeing is not always so high.

As an employer, staff mental health and wellbeing should always be high on your agenda. Your leadership can help give your team some much-needed support — and a good sense of workflow and routine can boost your team’s wellbeing. And long term, it will help you retain staff.

If you are recruiting, introducing your staff wellbeing policy to candidates helps demonstrate that your setting takes wellbeing seriously and lets them know that they can expect supportive management.

But policies will only get you so far.

Developing ongoing ways of supporting staff wellbeing are key to keeping your team happy and motivated. And, they're good for your own wellbeing too!

We’ve got some ideas to get you started.

1. Change your leadership approach

Adapt your leadership style to fit with the staff you're working with. This might mean taking on a more understanding approach and a casual work atmosphere, or knowing who needs more hands-on, structured guidance.

Remember that effective team leadership requires superb self-leadership — you’ve got to take care of yourself, too.

Before you can be the pillar of direction for everyone else, make sure you are emotionally replenished and calm. This means getting adequate sleep (even if you are stressed out), getting a good balance of nutrition, and taking the time to enjoy some relaxing activities, as much as your time allows.   

2. Connect your team with the resources they need.

OK, there's only so much you can do with your physical environment, especially if you're working on a tight budget. But a resource doesn't have to be something physical.

If you're a member of a group like the Early Years Alliance, check out what educational and learning resources they can offer you free with your membership. The Famly blog, Famly Sessions (webinars with EY experts), and all our guides are also all free.

Many educational courses are offered online so as an industry, you might appreciate that it’s possible to run lessons and connect with learners remotely - which also saves money on travelling. You could also consider what in-house training you could offer.

Often, if staff are experiencing more serious mental health problems, it's not up to you to give them concrete advice - this is best left up to a doctor. You can, however, play a pivotal role in making it easy for staff to take the time they need to access the relevant professional.

3. Help employees to create a comfortable workspace

The learning environment of your setting is usually considered in terms of how it supports the children. Of course, they are the priority, but the workspace should enable staff too.

Here are some ways you can audit how the setting works for staff:

  • Where do staff write?
    Are they hunched over an awkward shelf, trying to fill out a stack of daily diaries? Balancing a clipboard on their knees? Crammed into a toddler-sized chair with post-it notes?
  • How to staff lift?
    Do staff know how to lift safely? Are staff expected to move heavy furniture around (for example, at sleep time)? How do they lay children on to a changing unit?
  • Where do staff relax?
    Is the staffroom also used as an office and meeting space for parents? Are there refreshments? Is the staff's lunch or break space away from the children?
  • How do staff unwind?
    Are staff having to take paperwork home? Are staff expected to answer messages about work when they're not 'clocked in'? Do staff have sufficient time off for holidays?

Why not do a survey of what staff feel they really need in terms of the environment? This could be a good way for staff to anonymously share concerns, that they might otherwise not feel comfortable saying.

4. Encourage record-keeping to monitor mental health

Feeling safe is an important part of looking after your team’s mental health. When we’re stressed or anxious, our cognitive abilities are diminished because the thinking brain detaches when we are in a state of stress.

If you know someone in your team is having a hard time, perhaps having relationship problems or struggling with their physical health, you may need to accept a few silly mistakes, reduced concentration, and forgetfulness. Instead of keeping notes of each thing they did wrong, record how you supported them and what you can do as a team to learn from it.

You could also ask team members if they would like to record how they feel each day, a real high point or something to feel proud of, what they've learned, and any challenges they feel overwhelmed by. This gives you the opportunity to step in and reduce the burden, when necessary and reflect on what went well too.

5. Schedule time for one-on-one meetings

Even if you’re pressed for time, one-on-ones (or supervision meetings) are really important. Just five minutes of face time can help your team tremendously. It’s your chance to get personal, and to ask how your team members are doing. If you notice a dip in energy levels, address it kindly and ask how you can support them.

Staff members might not be used to “opening up” to their manager in the way that this type of communication invites, so try to keep that in mind and work around it by being more relaxed and compassionate. For anyone, talking about mental health issues can be challenging, but really supporting staff wellbeing means creating space for mental health challenges as well as promoting ongoing good mental health.

That being said, these don't have to be difficult conversations every time, just a casual catch-up lets your team know you're concerned with their wellbeing.

Team building: 4 creative ways to relax

Team building can give your team a sense of connectedness that they might not get when they're all in their individual rooms or classrooms. Gathering together (without it being a staff meeting) is a perfect way to do this.

Why not try weekly Zoom meetings with the whole team? Your team can be relaxed at home (meaning not having to stay late at work) and enjoy an informal meeting touch base and enable people to share how their week has been. Go through the good and the bad together, then get into some fun.

online yoga classes

Online yoga classes

The staff wellbeing activity

Yoga is an age-old practice that soothes stressed bodies and provides gentle exercise, keeping the body conditioned. Now, yoga has moved into the digital realm and your team can enjoy it from the comfort of a homely space.

What you need

  • A yoga mat (or a blanket if you are on carpeted floors)
  • Non-restrictive clothing
  • A free space in the house
  • Computer, internet connection, and speakers to tune into the class

How it’s done

There are now many remote yoga studios operating online to bring guidance to those who want to participate in classes.

There are a couple of ways to go about joining your workplace: You can join an actual live class, or you can sign up for pre-recorded classes that are sent to you. You can even find lessons on Youtube. The first option is great as part of team building, the second is useful if it’s difficult to pin everyone down to the same time schedule.

Cooking lessons wellbeing

Cooking sessions

The staff wellbeing activity

Cooking is a creative outlet and an essential skill. Cooking provides exposes them to a wonderful art form that could spark a new passion.

What you need

  • A nursery chef who's willing to spare some of their skill, a passionate team member who knows their way around a kitchen or, just find a recipe book and go for it!

How it’s done

Cooking together is a great way of uniting people and there are so many ways to go about it.

  • Why not challenge two teams to a bake-off and appoint a judge?
  • Share recipes from staff members' home countries
  • Staff could cook at home and bring something to a pot-luck meal
  • If you have the space in your kitchen, get your setting's chef to give you all a master class in Early Years cooking.

It’s about exploring new skills and getting adventurous. Plus, having this sort of structure and direction to the event is a more comfortable social setting for some.

Online board games

Board games

The staff wellbeing activity

Adult board games have become one of the biggest new trends. It’s interactive, it can be free, and it introduces lighthearted fun and competition to your employees.

What you need

  • A board game (or a few, if you have a large team). If you're short on funds, your local charity shop is bound to have some going cheap.

How it’s done

You just play - it's cathartic, it's easy, it's a conversation starter!

Staff quiz night

Team quiz night

The staff wellbeing activity

A quiz night is an excellent team-building activity that encourages relaxation, laughter, and team bonding. You could invite your team to bring their partners too.

What you need

  • An online quiz platform to facilitate the activity, or simple pen and paper
  • Snacks and drinks at hand (optional, but it never hurts!)

How it’s done

You could do a pop culture quiz, or one about your setting — or, a quiz that tests how well you know one another. The choice is yours!

The big ideas

download pdf
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Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.

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UK Nursery Covid-19 Response Group Recommendations

The full recommendations from a working group of over 70 nursery chains in the UK.

Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

Learn more about Famly's software for nurseries

Find out below from Neil Leitch about the impact of Famly at the Early Years Alliance, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.

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“Every time I ask somebody, ‘How is the system going?’, the thing that always come back to me is that staff say ‘You should have done this a long time ago.'" - Neil Leitch, CEO, Early Years Alliance

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Find out below from Neil Leitch about the impact of Famly at the Early Years Alliance, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.

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Learn more about Famly

Find out below from Neil Leitch about the impact of Famly at the Early Years Alliance, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.

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Learn more about Famly

Find out below from Neil Leitch about the impact of Famly at the Early Years Alliance, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.

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Learn more about Famly

Find out below from Neil Leitch about the impact of Famly at the Early Years Alliance, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.