29 Apr Finding Your Work-Life Balance
Having a great work-life balance is essential when you have a career in teaching or education. It can become increasingly difficult to switch off from work and enjoy your well-earned downtime, especially when you have so many responsibilities and tight deadlines to meet.
According to a government survey completed in 2016, primary school teachers are working in excess of 55 hours a week and secondary staff work around 53. This is 18 hours above the national average hours of work per week for people in full-time work. In a follow-up survey in 2018, the reasons for this near unmanageable workload were uncovered after speaking to a sample of teachers.
The factors which led teachers to feel out of their depth with their workload are as followed:
- Administration – this mainly consisted of emails from senior teams which needed fast responses. This area also consisted of emails and communication between parents and students as well as the heavy loads of paperwork which needed to be completed for SEN students.
- Behaviour Monitoring – safeguarding events and monitoring disciplinary issues which need addressing immediately.
- Changes to specifications – the recent change between grading structures is a common workload driver amongst teachers (the old A*-C structure is gone and is now graded in numeric form).
- Data tracking – having to take time to track and recognise each individual pupil’s progress in each subject is just one reason for the exceptionally high workload.
- Marketing and assessments – ‘The need to show differentiation – e.g. using different colour paper and pens – was regarded as time-consuming’.
- Planning and meetings – having to plan for lessons and activities as well as make time for meetings all must fall outside of school hours- hence the extra workload this causes.
Many of these factors adding to teacher’s workload are unavoidable, it comes with the job, but that makes it more vital that your downtime is your own and that you can switch off from work and carry on with your personal life and hobbies.
Nail your work-life balance
At Forward Teaching, we know this is easier said than done. Which is why we have put together a list of tips to help you nail your own work-life balance.
- Determine your own priorities
Not just work priorities, all your priorities. This could include work tasks, or it could be spending time with your family, doing the shopping- anything. Having a clear list of what needs to get done and at what urgency will help you determine what is important and what is not. This may help you to stop completing small, menial work tasks out of habit that can wait until Monday.
- Switch off
If possible, turn notifications for your work emails off when you’re at home or out and about. For many people, the notification bleeping on your phone will make you feel the need to respond straight away. Think to yourself, ‘Does this email need a response right now? Or can it wait?’ Only check your emails when you have the time to respond so that you do not feel overwhelmed and worried about piecing together a professional email when you simply do not have the time.
- Set yourself time limits
Times where you can do work and times where you need to stop. This will stop you from spending all your downtime meticulously planning lessons or marking work. Stick to these time-limits and be strict with yourself so that you can enjoy a portion of your evening each night. Also, set aside some time for yourself. With no errands to run or jobs to complete, try and set aside time each week that you can relax and just be yourself.
- Be firm
If you have too much on your plate or are struggling to get things done, don’t suffer in silence. Tell somebody politely yet firmly that you do not have time to complete a certain task. Maybe someone can help you or maybe it can wait until next week but don’t let it bottle up otherwise you could end up resenting your job. Tell people that you won’t be online over the weekend as you are spending time with family or you have other plans and don’t feel guilty for this. You are entitled to your own time off.
- Speak to others
With just under 500,000 teachers in the UK, you are not alone and you are bound to share the same stress and worries as nearly half a million other people- so speak to them. Maybe some other teachers have some similar tips about how they cope with their workload and finding their work-life balance. Don’t isolate yourself, speak to people.