As we enter the summer term, we remain unsure when this current situation will end and yet some essential school tasks and projects still need to be completed. With this in mind, we really must make sure that our staff are working effectively under their individual lockdown circumstances, whilst being mindful of their wellbeing.
Although created by awful circumstances, when we look for the positives there is actually an opportunity for schools to be productive and complete tasks like never before – which is something we have been focusing on in my own MAT this week and I wanted to share with other leaders.
Understanding staff working patterns
Before you consider any of the below, you must have a clear understanding of how your staff are organising their time during lockdown; they will all have different priorities and roles at home. Being insensitive to this when setting work or chasing deadlines will do nothing for school productivity or staff wellbeing.
Consider: Holding a Zoom staff meeting where all teachers discuss their personal working routines whilst at home. Doing this together will allow you to listen to everyone and offer a consensus on appropriate deadlines before the end of the meeting. Alternatively contact each member of staff individually to better understand their routines. You will then have to make the decision as to whether a collective deadline or individual deadlines for the same task is more appropriate.
Whether deadlines for staff are the same day or set individually, your monitoring arrangements of this work must be robust. Collecting work, checking the quality and offering feedback must be completed quickly by SLT so that morale stays high and productivity remains strong.
Consider: Making sure that staff have an easy way of getting their work to you. Do you have shared platforms such as Trello, Microsoft SharePoint or an accessible server via VPN? Some of these services also allow joint editing of documents, so use this to offer feedback in real-time.
An important detail to ascertain is whether all teachers are working equitably at home. If some staff have completed more work than others, this could be detrimental to morale when we finally return. The easiest way to avoid this in the first instance is to ensure you are very clear of your expectations of what needs doing and how long this should take.
Consider: How are you and your SLT comparing input from staff across school? Hold SLT meetings where your leaders share the work output from each member of staff. It is possible that some staff will be doing less than others, yet it is equally as likely that some staff will be doing too much. As long as you have clearly set out your expectations, these members of staff should be contacted privately, and your expectations reiterated.
Another great way to ensure productivity and support wellbeing is to run shared projects. Staff will largely be working in isolation now, which is an alien concept for most schools and will be affecting their wellbeing. Organising a project where staff work together (virtually) will bring back the spirit of collaboration whilst ensuring key tasks are completed.
Consider: Using what you now know about staff home-working patterns, hold a mutually convenient virtual staff meeting to initiate a project. The head or a senior leader can share the project with the whole team and then staff can break off into smaller teams to complete their tasks. Software such as Microsoft Teams allows leaders to virtually ‘drop in’ on the different teams as they discuss their task. As discussed already, deadlines for work such as this will have to fit with the needs of your staff, but allowing them to work on a collective goal will bring back the normality of usual staff meetings.
These unprecedented times are difficult for everyone, but it does not mean we cannot still be productive. As long as we are clear on our expectations, understand the needs of our staff and always have their wellbeing in mind, there is no reason why staff cannot come together and succeed in tackling some essential school-wide projects.