Supporting Resilience In The Workplace

By Sam Fuller, Director & Founder of The Wraw Index

Navigating the Covid-19 pandemic has dialled up the pressure on employees in all sectors, but for those working in education the challenge has been unprecedented. Now, as schools break for the summer, the invitation is to take stock. How has the pandemic impacted staff wellbeing, and what can we learn from this to continue to support those in education to perform at their best? We recently conducted a study of employee resilience and wellbeing across the UK, analysing data from almost 9,500 working people. The findings, laid out in the Wraw Resilience Report 2021, give a detailed breakdown of resilience in the workplace today, and provide important insight for leaders in education.

One of the key findings of the report is the degree to which the pandemic has impacted different genders.

Our data showed that women experienced a 4.7% drop in their resilience, compared to 2.8% for men. This equates to women experiencing a decline that is 68% larger than men.

For the education sector, where the majority of teachers are women, this is worth paying attention to. What might be the driver of this dip in the wellbeing and resilience of women?

Even today, the greater burden of domestic and household duties tends to fall on women. During the pandemic, working mothers have juggled the day-to-day demands of work with domestic chores, childcare, homeschooling and looking after elderly relatives. Teachers have faced additional pressure as they support their online classes, while also ensuring the children of keyworkers are taught in person. It is easy to understand how the resulting pressure may have eroded levels of resilience.


Our report also highlighted the impact of age on wellbeing. We found that middle adulthood appears to be a particularly challenging time, with people aged between 36 and 45 reporting the lowest levels of energy of all other age groups. This may reflect the combined impact of life and work pressures as they care for children and aging parents, alongside higher than average work pressures. This is a group that feels it ‘should’ be on top of things but our findings highlight the potential risk of burnout, and all leaders, including those in education, should be aware of this.

We also looked at the impact of levels of seniority. We found that resilience increases the higher up the career ladder you go with senior leaders having significantly higher levels of resilience than other groups. Many directors and executives will have received workplace training to boost their resilience skills and have learnt crucial strategies as they’ve worked their way up the career ladder. The risk is that they may overlook the impact of increased pressures on others and not put sufficient support structures in place to mitigate the risk of a decline in wellbeing.

Previous research has looked at wellbeing in the public sector, and found that workers in the UK feel less supported in their mental wellbeing, compared to the private sector.

Our study bears this out, as we found that the wellbeing of private sector workers was 4% higher than those in the public sector.

Whilst there are no simple reasons for this, it is an important insight for leaders in the public sector. So, what can leaders in education do to support their staff?

Organisations have introduced a variety of initiatives to support the wellbeing and resilience of their staff through the pandemic and beyond. Flexible working hours, stress management training, resilience webinars, online yoga classes, care packages – the list is endless - but there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every school is different so it starts with understanding the challenges your staff are facing. From that point you can invest in the initiatives that will make the biggest difference.

One of the most important steps any organisation can take is to upskill their leaders to lead a culture of wellbeing. This starts with giving them the knowledge to look after their own wellbeing. All staff, even experienced long-servers, will benefit from seeing that their line manager doesn’t just give lip-service to wellbeing, but also walks the walk. The next step is to give them the confidence to proactively monitor the impact of pressure through their teams, and talk to team members when they start to have concerns. This will help to ensure that individual challenges don’t get overlooked and unnecessarily escalate. It can be tempting for leaders to jump in and try and fix things, but this isn’t their role. Instead, it is about creating a working environment where people feel safe enough to share their challenges and concerns, and supported enough to find the solutions that are right for them.

Teaching is a high-pressured role at the best of times. When everyone is asked to give that little bit more, day-after-day, it’s crucial that the support is there to enable them to do this without suffering from unhealthy levels of strain. I hope that the insight here gives you the inspiration you need to take the next step to making this happen.

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