School staff work tirelessly to support their students. From teachers cultivating curiosity to food service staff dishing up nutritious meals, the dedication of school staff is evident! Yet, often we forget to support these hardworking school employees in their own wellness needs. How can we foster healthier, happier school employees who are more satisfied, successful and productive at work? School employee wellness is an important piece of the puzzle.
What is school employee wellness?
School employee wellness means support for the physical, emotional and professional wellbeing of all school employees, from teachers and administrators to food service and maintenance staff. Supporting the wellbeing of school employees will foster a culture of health among all staff in which healthy behaviors are supported and encouraged both at school and at home.
Support for employees at your school can range from wellness programs and activities to creating school-wide policies and environmental changes. Successful approaches often incorporate both.
Why we care (and why you should, too)
Thriving Schools believes that school employee wellness is an essential component of helping schools to be the healthiest they can be. Wellness in the workplace is important regardless of the location or type of work.
But when it comes to schools, there is a very special need for wellness among all employees. School employee wellness is especially important because:
- Implementing programs and practices helps reduce stress and boosts morale, productivity and effectiveness in the workplace
- Improving the wellness of employees can directly impact the health of students, not just through improved job performance, but also through positive role-modeling of healthy behaviors.
- Teachers experience high rates of turnover and burnout; when schools prioritize employee wellness, they show staff that they are cared for, valued and appreciated.
- Healthy employees can save schools significant amounts of money through reduced health care and sick day costs. Reinvest these dollars into the school to promote health, wellness and education.
Start supporting employees at your school
Before you begin, it is critical to involve representatives from labor and management in whatever wellness initiatives your school decides to do. Gaining support from both parties may result in increased credibility of the program, lower levels of resistance from employees, higher levels of participation, more internal resources and overall greater chances of success in launching your wellness efforts.
You can strengthen the health and wellbeing of employees at your school with some of these simple ideas.
Promote healthy eating
- Establish criteria for healthy staff meetings to ensure only healthy food and beverages are served; serving healthy food items at your meetings is a way to boost energy levels and help staff stay focused throughout the day.
- As your school cafeterias get healthier to meet new federal guidelines, provide opportunities for staff to participate, serving as a positive role model for students in the cafeteria. Also consider offering staff discounts on school foods.
- Ensure employees have access to free, clean drinking water campus-wide in convenient and accessible locations. In fact, work to create an environment that favors healthy beverage options like water over sugar-sweetened beverages.
Build physical activity
- Encourage staff to participate in and lead physical activity breaks like instant recess. Teachers can build physical activity breaks in lesson plans, staff can provide activity breaks during long staff meetings and school leadership can integrate activity into morning announcements, assembles and other school-wide events.
- Include physical activity opportunities in school-wide events like assemblies, evening events, morning announcements and other events. Incorporating activity into established events is a simple way to get the whole school active and engaged, while establishing healthy habits in youth.
- Support staff to organize group physical activity classes or programs onsite to get active together. Encourage employees to walk or do other activities together before school, during lunch, and after the school day; this will build camaraderie and support for being active together.
Create a healthy school environment
- Ensure there is an inviting teacher’s lounge or other space where teachers can relax and interact with colleagues. School break rooms can create environments that promote physical, mental and emotional well-being for school employees.
- Connect and align school and district wellness committees, coordinated school health councils and site councils. Assure ongoing communication and integration to create a healthier school environment.
- Recognize staff successes and communicate positive expectations that they can succeed. Show hardworking school staff that they are valued and appreciated, which boosts morale and job satisfaction.
Find out how school staff and teachers at Hamilton Elementary School in Chicago get active together by setting up circuits, yoga classes, and more, led by the school’s wellness team.
Learn how school staff and teachers at Cherry Creek School District in Coloradoget involved in employee wellness program that help build morale, encourage peer support, and have a positive impact on an individual’s exercise and eating habits.
Our commitment to workforce health
Kaiser Permanente is committed to keeping our members and staff safe and healthy. Find workforce health case-making and resources to help move your employee wellness strategy.