Why staff wellbeing is essential | Early Years Management | Teach Early Years

 Why staff wellbeing is essential | Early Years Management | Teach Early Years

Bright Horizons has been named one of the UK’s Best Workplaces™ for Wellbeing. We hear from Early Childhood Specialist Amanda Forrest about how the nursery group supports staff’s health and happiness…

Wellbeing is a key priority for us all here and helps us to successfully make a difference in the lives of children, families, and the communities where we live and work. 

The challenges our colleagues have faced during the pandemic have made wellbeing even more of a prominent focus in our nurseries. We constantly needed to adapt to new policies and procedures to keep everyone safe. In fact, we’re still doing it! 

Our goal is to ensure employees feel fully supported so they can stay positive and engaged, whatever challenges come along. Wellbeing is fundamental to our health and overall happiness, helping us to overcome difficulties both at work and at home. 

Our wellbeing strategy for employees has a three-fold focus: emotional, physical, and financial.  A holistic approach is essential, enabling us to provide meaningful support and benefits to all members of our diverse employee community.

Underpinning all of our wellbeing support are the HEART principles: honesty, excellence, accountability, respect and teamwork.

We support staff to navigate life’s ups and downs with confidence and resilience. Our Employee Assistance Programme enables colleagues to access counselling, whilst our Work+Family Space – a hub of resources relating to all aspects of work and family life – is a crucial support tool. 

In 2020, we introduced Smart Health, a virtual health service which gives all employees and their families the opportunity to easily manage their health and wellbeing. 

Smart Health provides 24/7 access to everything needed to create long-term wellbeing habits. These services include a Virtual GP, mental health support, nutritional support and tailored fitness programmes.

We also provide colleagues with the relevant skills and knowledge to gain control over their finances and improve their financial wellbeing. Elements that contribute to this include childcare discounts, back-up care for loved ones of all ages and discounts or cashback that can be used to purchase goods and services.

We’ve introduced Wellbeing Wednesdays across the business to re-focus everyone on both our own and our colleagues’ wellbeing. 

This initiative is often topical and linked to national events like guidance during Stress Awareness Month, which included meditation sessions focusing on reflection and the different methods that can be used to build resilience. We’ll also incorporate a monthly Book Club meeting with one of our Professional Development team. 

We appreciate that wellbeing means different things for different people, and we need to ensure that we consciously review and reflect on how we can be better at checking in on each other. 

As the saying goes: “A problem shared is a problem halved.” Talking with each other establishes a positive and professional working environment. We know that there may be times when it’s difficult to talk about a situation. If colleagues are struggling to reach out, they can arrange a wellbeing meeting to speak confidentially with their manager. 

Personally, I always try to keep a positive outlook. There’s only so much I can control, but I try to look for the unseen benefit to each challenge I face and practise positive self-affirmation. It really does influence my mood and outlook on a situation.

Thank You Thursday has been an opportunity to reach out to colleagues, offering appreciation and acknowledging best practice within the company. The smallest of acknowledgments can go such a long way to making someone smile and feel valued. 

Across the business, teams have used their imagination to create innovative “Thank Yous” ranging from donut walls to pamper bags.

We always try to have a bit of fun too, and recognise that the simple things are often the best to lift someone’s spirits, so sometimes there are fruit baskets with smiley faces on oranges to say, “Thanks! We peely appreciate you!” – that sort of thing.

It’s so important to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I encourage colleagues to relax and enjoy some fresh air during their breaks, and for relaxation periods we’ve created hubs of excellence at our settings. Here colleagues can read books and articles, colour or do crosswords and Sudoku as part of that all-important downtime. 

The hubs are managed locally by the individual nursery managers and vary across all our settings but are mainly for use during breaks and at the end of the day. Teams can proactively decide their own relaxation styles.

Likewise in the evenings, I understand how important it is for all colleagues to be able to switch off and to spend quality time with friends and family. There is an expectation here to value everyone’s home life.

Crowds and loud noises can elevate psychological distress, so we’ve taken great care to create environments that support a reduction in noise levels and over-crowding, such as access to garden areas and open spaces. 

We also try our best to avoid working in cluttered environments. Researchers studying clutter have found that messy homes lead to decreased mental wellbeing. 

Messy workspaces can lead to a significant decrease in life satisfaction. Studies have found that clutter starts as a symptom of procrastination tendencies, but soon the mess becomes a stress factor in itself. 

Across all our functions at Bright Horizons we actively promote ‘spring cleaning’ as part of our daily practices to ensure that our settings are places where we will all flourish. 

Amanda Forrest is an Early Childhood Specialist at Bright Horizons.

Bright Horizons is ranked among the UK’s Best Workplaces™ for Wellbeing (2022) by Great Place to Work®, a global leader on workplace culture.

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