Author: Antoinette Morris
Posted: 01 Jun 2023
Estimated time to read: 5 mins
At the end of 2022, reports showed that the Department of Education missed its own targets for teacher recruitment, with overall training numbers down by 20%.
Creating opportunities for meaningful work is a key first step towards improving staff wellbeing and increasing retention.
This guide explains the importance of meaningful work in a school setting, as well as steps that can be taken to make school work more meaningful.
What is meaningful work?
What does it mean for teachers and school staff to do meaningful work?
Put simply, 'meaningful work' is work that is about more than merely earning a paycheque and paying the bills.
Meaningful work connects to someone’s core values, piques their interest and aligns with their moral compass. It helps them feel fulfilled and as though they’re doing something valuable that helps others or makes the world a better place.
What meaningful work looks like in a school setting
There are lots of opportunities for meaningful work in a school setting.
Teachers and other school staff members play a critical role in shaping the next generation, teaching the skills and information they need to succeed in their future careers and become contributing members of society. Many teachers and staff members understand the importance of their job and are committed to making a difference.
That being said, not every teacher and school staff member finds their job meaningful.
These people might be too overwhelmed by a lack of support from their schools. They might also feel that they spend too much time on administrative tasks that don’t help them execute the more essential parts of their job.
A teacher or school staff member doing meaningful work will do more than show up right before the first bell rings and leave as soon as the last one tolls. They are engaged with pupils, parents, fellow teachers, and administrators. They seek feedback and continuously look for ways to improve their teaching style rather than assuming they have it all figured out.
How does meaningful work influence staff wellbeing?
When they have the opportunity to do meaningful work, teachers and staff can experience significant improvements in their wellbeing. The following are some specific ways these improvements can happen:
Improved mental health
Meaningful work, naturally, positively impacts people’s mental health. Although they will still find certain aspects of their jobs stressful, people who find meaning in their work will have an easier time bouncing back from difficult situations. They’ll also feel more confident in themselves and have higher self-esteem, making tough moments feel more worthwhile.
Better physical health
Improved mental health can also improve physical health. When people feel more satisfied with their work and more resilient to stress, they may be less likely to succumb to stress-related health problems like poor digestive health, headaches, and chronic pain.
Reduced risk of burnout
If professionals take care of their mental and physical health, they’re less likely to experience burnout — a severe form of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.
If teachers and other staff members find meaning in their work, they may have an easier time connecting with each other and building strong relationships. They will agree that they’re all working towards the same goals and will support each other achieving them.
All these benefits lead to increased engagement and job satisfaction for teachers and other school staff. When they feel engaged and motivated at work, they're much more likely to put their best foot forward and deliver better outcomes.
Why staff wellbeing is important in the current climate
With teacher turnover rates skyrocketing, staff wellbeing and job satisfaction are more important than ever.
90% of teachers say they have experienced more work-related stress in the last year, and 91% said their job had an adverse effect on their mental health. 64% also reported negative impacts on their physical health.
Clearly, teachers and school staff members are struggling with heightened stress levels that mean they need more help than usual finding meaning in their work. That’s where senior leaders come in.
What can be done make school work more meaningful?
There are many different steps senior leaders can take to help work feel more meaningful for their staff, including the following:
Create opportunities for relationship and team-building
Teachers and staff who feel close to their colleagues will likely be more satisfied with their jobs and find them more meaningful.
Headteachers and administrators should create more opportunities for staff to get to know one another and build stronger relationships in and out of the workplace.
Shared mission and goals
Meaningful work often comes through striving for a shared mission and goals. Encourage everyone to work together to identify their mission, core values, and what they want to accomplish in the coming quarter, term, or year.
Check in often
It’s easier for staff to find meaning in their work and avoid issues like burnout if they know that their headteacher and others in leadership positions have their backs.
You can make their work more meaningful by checking in often, sharing praise when they do something well, and helping them set and work toward individual goals.
Eliminate unnecessary tasks
Sometimes, teachers and staff members struggle to find meaning in their work because they feel they spend too much time on unnecessary or repetitive tasks (record-keeping, transferring grades, emailing, etc.).
Look for ways to help them automate these tasks so that they have more time to do the work that fulfils them.
Want to learn more about why meaningful work is so vital for staff wellbeing?
Staff Wellbeing Webinar Series: Meaningful Work
05/07/23 at 12pm GMT
This webinar will discuss:
- Why ‘Meaningful Work’ is important for staff wellbeing
- How can we gather data on this area of wellbeing
- Actionable strategies for improving staff wellbeing
Can't make it? Sign up and we will send you a copy of the webinar on the day