Happy New Year!
We are hoping that 2023 will at last bring back a sense of normality following three years of uncertainty. I understand that recruitment and retention of quality Educators continues to be a challenge for the Early Childhood sector. To remedy this, strategies to support the mental health and wellbeing of employees are critical but must also be managed in the context of the many pressures and challenges of managing a service.
An article published by Community Early Learning Australia (CELA), ‘Create a Staff Sanctuary’, recently caught my eye.
“There are many services with delightful, purpose-built staffrooms that might only need a tweak or two each year to make them more personal to the current team.”
– ‘Create a Staff Sanctuary’, Community Early Learning Australia
However, many centres do not have a designated staff room or, at best, a very small cubbyhole! Where there is a staff room, it often becomes a bit of a dumping ground for those items that just don’t seem to belong to a designated storage space (commonly known as clutter!).
Why not challenge staff to create their own sanctuary by finding and critically examining the existing staffroom? Ruthlessly clear out the clutter and then take a fresh look at how the space can be arranged more efficiently. There are lots of creative ideas for organising small/tiny spaces online. Going vertical is a great way to create space by adding shelves, wire storage frames, and (who knew?) amazing fold-out cupboards with a fold-out table, draws and shelving.
Having a space where all staff can go to unwind and relax is essential for mental health. Making that space pleasant, fresh, comfortable and inviting, communicates to each employee that their wellbeing is important to the organisation. Setting aside funds for a staffroom makeover is an investment in staff wellbeing and a positive investment in staff retention.
At International Child Care College, we recently reflected on ways to improve staff-wellbeing and retention as well as cost effective ways to value-add to the appeal of the organisation as a great destination for potential employees. Strategies we came up with may not be a best fit for other organisations but reflected feedback from our employees. These included a paid day’s birthday leave; free consultations in the workplace with a Financial Planner; an online suggestions/ideas board where team members can post ideas and share achievements; out-of-hours social events for those wishing to get together after work and whole-team training days. Staff also have access to free and confidential mental health consultants. Work and relaxation spaces are kept tidy and clutter-free to promote an inviting, calm and productive atmosphere.
We live in an age where work, family-life and other commitments compete for our limited time, where social media intrudes on our free time and where the cost of living and – for many – finding and keeping suitable housing are constant challenges.
Having a space at work to take time out and relax during breaks is a must.
Perhaps you and your team may make 2023 a year where staff wellbeing is front and centre in your workplace.
Karen Kearns (M.Ed (EC) B.Ed.(EC) Grad.Dip.Ed. (Spec. Ed.)
CEO, International Child Care College