One of the biggest challenges faced by providers of services for children and young are low retention rates of qualified and experienced social workers and teachers. Of particular concern are the unprecedented levels of stress currently experienced by staff and managers working in education, health and social care. Essentially Work with children and young people and worker stress go hand in hand and can in some circumstances have a multiplier effect on each other.
When people experience these sorts of pressures over a period of time they experience stress. This has a negative impact not only on their health and well-being, but also on their ability to function in the workplace. It impacts upon their ability to make decisions and on the way in which they interact with their colleagues. Most importantly it impacts on their ability to develop an accurate awareness and understanding of children and young people’s needs and respond to them in an appropriate way.
Individuals are going into work exhibiting physical, psychological, emotional and behavioural signs of stress and if this is not picked up on and dealt with, all too often they become an absence management statistic. This puts added pressure on those who have to pick up the slack.
People working with children and young people need advice and support around developing the resilience needed to manage pressures and demands. At the same time employers need to be proactive and put time and effort into working with employees to identify the factors causing stress. It is not enough to provide places for staff on a generic stress management course, those working in the sector experience specific challenges that need to be managed.
Creating and happier and healthier working environments requires that organisations develop and implement strategies that include:
- Identifying and where possible addressing to root causes of stress
- Developing the awareness, understanding and skills people need to recognise and manage their own stress
- Helping people to address to negative effects of stress
Mindfulness can be used to help individuals and organisations to develop:
- a greater awareness and understanding of their current situation, including the risks to people’s psychological health and well-being
- a more creative response to the problem
- a greater awareness of their own stress levels and how best to support themselves when facing difficulty
- the ability to respond rather than react to situations
- more positive interpersonal relationships resulting in less conflict
A few years ago I was always being asked to deliver stress management courses in response to growing concerns about absenteeism and staff turnover. Then it was resilience courses, how to ensure staff can perform well under pressure. Now it is mindfulness as if learning a few mindfulness practices will ensure people remain calm under pressure. It does not work like that. Mindfulness needs to be part of a robust approach to managing the pressures and challenges in the workplace.