Practical ways to improve teacher wellbeing

Practical ways to improve teacher wellbeing


By Suzanne Allies

We all know that teachers are extremely busy, and when workload and expectations from school become overwhelming, this can be very detrimental to the wellbeing of you and your colleagues, especially if stress and exhaustion continue in the long term. Wellbeing is such a personal matter; activities that support one person’s wellbeing, whether that is going for a five-mile run or crocheting a blanket, may be unhelpful for another person and would certainly not support their wellbeing. Therefore, it is necessary for every teacher to learn ways of supporting their wellbeing so you and your colleagues can flourish and enjoy this rewarding profession, whether you are a new or experienced teacher, a middle leader or a member of the SLT.

This blog explores what teacher wellbeing is and how it is measured, what practical steps you can take to support your own wellbeing and the strategies that senior leaders can implement in a school to support their staff.


What is good teacher wellbeing?

Teacher wellbeing has been defined holistically as ‘an overall satisfaction in life and current role/position’, relating to one’s ‘sense of autonomy, control, competence, connectedness and congruence’ (Bending, as cited in Luke & Gourd, 2018). This demonstrates the importance of feeling that you have freedom and agency as a teacher, that you feel good enough in your role and connected to your work and the people around you. It also highlights the significance of being authentic about how you are feeling; sharing your thoughts about your own wellbeing at work, with openness and honesty, is crucial. When you are truly listened to, you will feel cared for, accepted, understood and ‘seen’ by colleagues and in particular senior leaders.


Teacher Wellbeing Index

The 2022 Teacher Wellbeing Index (Education Support) surveyed 3,082 staff across primaries, secondaries, sixth form and further education colleges, early years and adult education settings. It found that three-quarters of all school staff are ‘stressed’, which shows a 3% increase from 2021. In relation to retention, 59% of staff surveyed admitted that they’ve considered leaving the sector in the past academic year due to pressures on their mental health and wellbeing; this constituted 67% of senior leaders and 59% of teachers. This research indicates that now more than ever, especially after the turbulence of the past few years, improving teacher wellbeing should be a high priority for schools.


Practical ideas to improve wellbeing

Using the acronym ‘SECRET’, I’d like to focus on some practical ideas of how to encourage wellbeing amongst teachers – though none of these suggestions will be a secret to you. To me, they sum up how we can achieve an ethos in which everyone feels valued and appreciated in a school. This involves a focus on creating a positive environment where any excessive workload expectations can be challenged by staff. Although there should not be an ‘us and them’ division between teachers and leaders when wellbeing is being addressed in a school, I have included ideas in each section that firstly applies to teachers, and then ideas for senior leaders to consider implementing:


Social connection:

Finding ways to connect and bond as a staff, depending on the interests that exist within a team, is likely to support wellbeing and promote a sense of belonging. For instance, if there is a high proportion of staff that enjoy pub quizzes then this can be incorporated into the social calendar.

As a leader, if you ask questions about ways that your staff most like to connect, and you encourage dialogue around which social activities appeal to the majority of your staff, this should be appreciated. For example, if you find out that your staff value exercise and fresh air, perhaps you could promote ‘walk and talk’ meetings so these staff get the opportunity to support their wellbeing during the day.



For many teachers, the pressure to reply to mounting emails can create stress. Although some emails may require a swift response, it is useful for teachers to avoid constantly checking email inboxes, especially out of school hours.

As leaders, it is useful for you to establish your expectations about emails with staff. For example, you may wish to share your expectation that all non-urgent emails are responded to within 3 days if possible. In addition, sharing your expectations with parents, via all of your staff’s ‘out of office’ notifications, will communicate a consistent approach.


Culture of openness and trust:

The 2022 Teacher Wellbeing Index found that 42% of all staff consider their organisation’s culture has a negative effect on their wellbeing. Teachers should learn to challenge any laborious workload demands, and if any tasks exist that lack meaning or purpose, this should respectfully be reported to leaders. Letting go of any unrealistic and perfectionist tendencies that are not serving you can support your wellbeing. If you are overwhelmed and have extra demands placed on you that are not part of your usual, or agreed, workload, then try not to feel guilty about saying ‘no’.

The 2022 Teacher Wellbeing Index also discovered that 59% of all staff are not confident in disclosing unmanageable stress or mental health issues to their line manager. As leaders, clear and agreed procedures need to be shared with all of your staff about appropriate and safe ways that they can disclose to you when their wellbeing dips. It’s so vital, also, that you model healthy wellbeing practices yourself and show how you prioritise your own self-care to inspire others. It’s imperative that you grasp that if teachers are happy and well, this will positively impact on productivity in a school. In addition, understanding and acknowledging that staff are not automatons or super-human can ease pressure at times when staff may need time to recover from exceptional workloads, for instance, following an Ofsted inspection or after assessment periods and testing.



Being pro-active about supporting your own wellbeing and researching the many wellbeing resources available to you from books, websites and services, can only positively support you to thrive as a teacher.

Leaders should be familiar with appropriate signposting to share with your members of staff who are struggling. The three best sources of help that I am aware of are as follows:



If you are working in a compassionate, caring and empathetic environment, where all staff ‘look out’ for each other and recognise when people are struggling, this may be all that is needed to support wellbeing in a school. If you do not feel as if empathy is given to you, consider suggesting that a peer support system is organised to allow everyone to feel supported.

As a leader, a powerful way for you to show empathy to your staff is simply to apply active listening skills when communicating, by having a non-judgemental approach, and by validating your staff’s feelings in an attempt to understand things from their point of view rather than your own. For example, if a staff member has experienced a bereavement, try not to assume what they need or how they feel, but ask about their feelings and ensure that you listen to them before suggesting any support.


Time-out, and organisation:

It’s important to become more self-aware during the teaching day and to consciously, and regularly, ‘check-in’ to assess your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing (Allies, 2020). For instance, notice if your neck muscles are tense and make a conscious effort to roll your shoulders or change your posture. Similarly, if you have a headache, ensure you are drinking enough water. During lunchtime, incorporate a mindful 10 minutes into your routine so you can close your eyes and let go of any negative mental clutter that is not serving you; you may prefer to go for a quick walk to reset and breathe deeply. Having regular breaks is the secret to increased productivity (Allies, 2020). Stress can be minimised if you are organised and prepared but also realistic about what you can achieve. Therefore when writing to-do lists, don’t set yourself up to fail. You will just feel worse about yourself and add an unnecessary burden to your days.

As a leader, you may wish to recommend that your staff use the Eisenhower method (Mulder, 2017) to categorise their tasks into levels of urgency/importance so that your teachers can decide when to attend to, delegate or drop a task. The technique of breaking down bigger tasks into manageable chunks, and rewarding yourself when jobs are complete, is a good strategy for you to model to your staff as a leader.


Case studies

A primary school incorporated a training programme into their staff wellbeing provision. The staff were released from the classroom for five half-day sessions to engage in a Dare to Lead course, created by the inspirational Brené Brown. Staff were trained and taught skills, practices, and tools to underpin the four areas of ‘courage’: rumbling with vulnerability, living into their values, braving trust, and learning to rise. The result was that staff became more open and accepting of each other once they had identified what was important to each individual member of the school. It strengthened teamwork and connections within staff, enabled more understanding and empathy for one another and most importantly initiated crucial conversations about what each person needed to thrive in the workplace.

A middle school has worked exceptionally hard to prioritise their staff wellbeing and have acknowledged that good staff wellbeing is highly necessary to guarantee pupil achievement, staff motivation and satisfaction. Here are some of the recent improvements they made:

  • The Designated Mental Health Lead wrote a detailed staff wellbeing policy linked to their vision statement, including clear and simple procedures for staff to follow if their wellbeing dips. They also formed a working party amongst staff to keep wellbeing conversations ongoing.
  • Various in-school initiatives have been developed, including staff yoga and a therapy dog.
  • The school employed cover supervisors to help with the replacement of absent staff. They have a good peer support system, where pairs of teachers ‘look out’ for each other. Senior leaders make sure to reach out to staff during difficult points in a staff member’s personal lives and allow for sufficient time off and support when they return to work.
  • Commissioned regular staff wellbeing surveys and organised regular structured conversations about workload. Dedicated staff training on staff wellbeing, where refreshments are funded by the school and gratitude is expressed to staff. Social events for staff are planned, such as nature and mindfulness walks and drinks in the local park.
  • Any staff with a passion for supporting wellbeing are trained to be Mental Health First Aiders.

I hope this blog has convinced you of the importance of prioritising your wellbeing and health above everything else. I hope that you are now armed with a few ideas of how you can practically support yourself, and other staff, to stay well in your school. Although this may feel strange, it’s vital to maintain the perspective that you are many things, not just a teacher, and if you are trying your best, that is all you can do. This is especially important to remember on difficult days when demands are constantly thrown at you from colleagues, parents, staff, and the government. Reminding yourself of the reasons you chose to teach can help to lift your spirits, as can holding onto the special and joyful moments of your day when you connect with young people, inspire them and make a difference.



Education Support (2022) Teacher Wellbeing Index. Available at: (Accessed 25 January 2023).

Luke, I & Gourd, J (2018) Thriving as a Professional Teacher: How to be a Principled Professional, London: Routledge.

Mulder P (2017) Eisenhower Matrix. Available at: (accessed 12 January 2023).



Suzanne Allies

Suzanne Allies is a senior lecturer and wellbeing co-ordinator at the University of Worcester and has taught in Higher Education for ten years. She has 20 years of teaching experience in primary schools and was PSHE coordinator for over ten years in a three-form entry primary school. Suzanne’s true passion is to support the mental health and wellbeing of university students, teachers and children. She has delivered many staff wellbeing workshops in a range of primary schools and written a book entitled Supporting Teacher Wellbeing: a practical guide for primary teachers and school leaders. She is a Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor for MHFA England and Nuco and has a Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy.