The Real Costs Of Stress in Education
Workplace stress in education is well documented and researched; there is a sound business case for addressing it. Sound not just in terms of how stress impairs performance (of both teachers and pupils), sound in terms of the negative impact stress has on the health and welfare of teachers and sound in terms of the cost of paying sick leave and employing supply teachers to cover.
The real cost of stress can be measured by looking at legacy records such as absenteeism and sick leave. Absenteeism is the final result of often prolonged or chronic periods of stress. Stress accounts for 47% of all cases of absenteeism.
There is another hidden, and therefore often unrecognized and unmeasured cost of stress, which precedes absenteeism, this is called presenteeism. Presenteeism is the damage caused by someone who is enduring excessive stress, still shows up for work, makes bad decisions, has poor judgment and underperforms. Research shows that the cost of presenteesim is between 1.8 to 10 times the costs of absenteeism.
The problem many teachers and head teachers face when addressing stress is that the recommended solutions available are either unworkable or have minimal impact. Most solutions address external circumstances such as changing working practices in particular demand or workload. They come from looking at stress as an external problem addressed by changing processes and procedures. The problem is what happens when external circumstances can’t be changed?
Changing working practices does have a positive impact on people abilities to cope with stress however its only one part of a two part solution. Recruiting more teachers and reducing workload are external solutions and as much as we would all probably agree they would make a world of difference such changes are out of our control and in the hands of policy makers.
So if we can’t change or control external circumstances what can we do? The answer is to look inside at what we can change and control.
Most teachers will recognize this scenario. Imagine a bright young student who has attended class, studied hard and knows their material, they have practiced test papers and on paper are on target to get good results. Yet when they walk into an exam room all their knowledge and education seems to leave them. Their mind goes blank and yet when they leave the exam room and breathe a sigh of relief all the answers come flooding back to them.
The stress of the situation impaired their ability to process and recall information and as soon as they relaxed their mind comes back online and is able to process and perform.
The mindset of the individual has a profound impact on memory, creativity, judgment, decision-making and performance. Some people learn naturally to cope with stressful situations and others don’t. The difference shows up in performance.
Until funding and supply and demand issues in education are addressed there is only place to look which will have a positive impact on stress and that is inside the minds of the teachers. When all teachers know how to manage their own internal thinking and emotional states external circumstances will have less of an impact on their wellbeing.
For more information on:
“The Wellbeing at Work Formula” – Stress Management & Resilience Training and Stress Management Coaching Programmes
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