Managing Stress When Preparing for the Reopening of Schools

Year Published: 2020

With the full re-opening of schools only days away, it will come as no surprise that some education staff may be concerned about returning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst many businesses have been operating fully for a number of weeks, schools have not functioned fully since March this year. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that some staff will experience feelings of stress both at the thought of returning and following the return.

Feelings of stress can present themselves as many different symptoms, these include being: impatient, irritable, nervous, withdrawing socially, overly worried about situations and feeling lonely, amongst others. This then emanates into each individual’s behaviours.

It’s not uncommon for people experiencing stress to behave in easily identifiable ways. These changes in behaviour are where school leaders will need to be able to identify that a member of their team is suffering with stress.

How to Identify Stress

To name a few, some key identifiers may be:

  • regular emotional outbursts
  • avoiding eye contact
  • inability to make decisions
  • feelings of worry
  • inability to sleep
  • inability to concentrate
  • fidgeting
  • nervous nail biting

‘Presenteeism’

Take time to promote and secure ‘presenteeism’. This is where you support staff to remain in attendance at school by taking supportive steps to enable them to have regular and sustained attendance, thus preventing absences.

How can schools support staff?

Be vigilant when looking for changes in behaviour of staff. It’s also good to enquire about staff health, such as asking questions about family life, diet, hydration and social life.

All schools will have risk assessments in place for their staff due to COVID-19. During the autumn term, it is worth asking line managers to carry out staff health checks and also consider welfare meetings, especially for staff who have a history of mental health issues. If any issues are identified, then the HSE guidance and management standards should be followed, which includes carrying out a stress risk assessment.

Schools should also consider taking advantage of other agencies to support staff, such as an employee assistance programme, charities such as Mind and occupational health where necessary.

How can staff reduce their stress symptoms?

It’s important for staff to have a few key things in check to help reduce any symptoms of stress. Some of the most important ones are key to regular good health in individuals.

Health experts promote eating three nutritional meals and drinking at least two litres of water every day. This along with regular exercise is the foundation for good health. Exercise reduces cortisol, which is a stress hormone, and naturally replaces serotonin – a natural anti-depressant.

All of this will help to get back to a normal level of functioning.

If you are experiencing an increase in mental health issues or increased stress in your school, get in touch for further advice on how to support your staff. Contact our Employment team on 0161 475 7676 or email [email protected].

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