How to recognise and prevent employee burnout

blank Alice Martin-Hawkins - 6 January, 2023

Category : Blog

How to recognise and prevent employee burnout

In my role at Arbor I speak to headteachers, SLT and admin teams everyday when they’re in the early stages of exploring Arbor MIS. I’ve noticed a question that comes up time and time again in conversations: “How can we reduce workload for staff?”  It’s no secret that teacher workload is high; studies have found

staff burnout in schools

In my role at Arbor I speak to headteachers, SLT and admin teams everyday when they’re in the early stages of exploring Arbor MIS. I’ve noticed a question that comes up time and time again in conversations: “How can we reduce workload for staff?” 

It’s no secret that teacher workload is high; studies have found that teachers experience more stress than other workers. Tes reports that almost a third of teachers leave the profession within five years of qualifying. This got me thinking about the impact of heavy workload and the difference between being busy and being burned out. 

What is staff burnout?

Burnout is recognised as the feeling of running out of steam at work – those days when even small tasks can feel unachievable. Psychology Today describes burnout as ‘a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism,  detachment, feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.’ It doesn’t just happen overnight, which is why it can be hard to spot, even for the person experiencing it. One of the best ways to prevent burnout is to spot the signs as early as possible so that you can make small changes to get back on track. 

Signs that you or your staff might be experiencing burnout: 

  • Fatigue and sleep issues 
  • Finding it hard to concentrate 
  • Finding it hard to stay productive 
  • Feeling cynical and detached
  • Reduced creativity 
  • Not doing things to the best of your ability

Potential causes of employee burnout: 

  • High workload – You consistently have a workload that goes beyond your capacity and leaves you no time for rest or space for development
  • Lack of control – Schools are places of constant change, especially since the Covid pandemic. This can be stressful and make us feel like we are losing control
  • Work-life balance – When work takes up too much of your time and prevents you from focusing on friends and family, this can cause feelings of isolation or frustration
  • Too much admin – It can be demotivating to feel like you are spending too much time on admin, rather than what feels like the more impactful side of your role

Burnout prevention strategies

One of the best ways to avoid burnout is to take some time off. It’s important to have time when you don’t think about work so that you can be energised and engaged when you return. This can take the shape of a holiday, but for school staff you might find the holidays don’t fall when you need them the most. More and more schools are introducing paid wellbeing days for staff, and in many circumstances this has helped reduce staff absence, sickness and turnover rates. Read more about how Dan Morrow, CEO at Woodland Academy Trust, implemented wellbeing days and other initiatives across his schools. 

It’s important to set boundaries to protect the time you have for yourself as well as being available in a work capacity. Set hours in the day where you don’t respond to work-related messages, no one should expect you to be on call 24 hours a day – even parents!

Work out some burnout prevention strategies by making a list of all the things that help you deal with stress. These can be things such as exercise, spending time outside or having a long bath. Self-care is often the first thing to slip off your to-do list when you’re busy so make sure you build time into your routine for yourself.

It’s important to tell someone when you are feeling burned out at work. Reach out to your colleagues, friends or family if you are feeling overwhelmed, sometimes just having someone to listen can make a world of difference. If your mental wellbeing is being especially impacted by burnout, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP about arranging some extra support.

Heavy workloads, constant change, admin pressure on teachers and staff at every level… sometimes it feels like this is just part and parcel of school life today. But it doesn’t have to be that way. At Arbor, we passionately believe that there’s a better way to work. And it starts by giving everyone the right tools and technology for the job.

Want to find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform the way your school works for the better? Book a free demo here or get in touch at tellmemore@arbor-education.com. 

If you found this blog useful, you can see more of our mental health and wellbeing content for school staff here. 

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