Head of HR

Beating the Workplace Winter Blues and Avoiding Seasonal Slumps+

It’s now November at the workplace. The enthusiasm of autumn has faded as the beautifully colored leaves step aside and let in the grays and whites of the winter season. The winter blues are a real thing not only in the workplace but in general.

The cold weather and lack of sunbeams peeking through your window are making getting out of bed an absolute chore. Along with all of the work you have to put in to close the year out successfully, it seems as if you have another full-time job to handle – avoiding sick coworkers and getting home healthy.

The winter season can be hard to handle for many people, but it can be especially unbearable for the millions who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that attaches itself to the cold weather.

If you find yourself feeling increasingly lethargic and in a very negative mood most of the time during the winter, there’s a good chance that you have SAD to some degree. Most experts believe that the lack of sunlight during the winter season throws off the body’s rhythm and leads to hormonal changes as well as a decrease in the production of serotonin, the chemical your brain produces when you have a lot of energy and are in a good mood.

Whether you suffer from SAD or not, getting through the workday when the weather is miserable and you haven’t seen the sun in weeks can be a serious struggle. There are, however, things that you and your employees can do to get through the winter while staying as positive, upbeat and productive as possible.

Find a Routine That Works

One of the best ways to avoid a wintertime funk is to create a routine for yourself that takes your attention away from the weather and focuses it on things that you like to do and actions that make you happy.

The morning routine is especially important during the winter, considering how hard it can be to get out of your warm bed when the winter chill creeps through your home. In order to create a positive morning routine, you need to not only find and adopt the actions that make you feel good, you also need to identify all of the triggers that can cause you stress during the morning and cut them out completely.

Why do you think that people like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and many other successful professionals wear nearly the same outfit to work every single day? Because trying to figure out what to wear to work every day can be a huge hassle. By keeping it simple and not having to figure out your outfit every single day, many people spare themselves the stress that dressing up for work can entail.

However, on the other side of the spectrum, there are people who benefit from getting dressed up every morning. Instead of simply wearing the same jeans – or even worse, sweats – every day, dressing up and putting effort into their image helps many people get out of their seasonal depression.

It really all depends on the individual and being able to identify what rituals they can use to start their days off on the right foot. Whether it’s meditation, going to the gym or putting in the effort to make yourself a lovely breakfast before heading out to your job, try to find what makes you happy in the morning and throughout the day and force yourself to participate in these activities even when you’re feeling completely dejected and you’d rather just pull the covers over your head and hibernate for the next three months.

Go Greener

Did you know that having plant life in your office can really help you and your staff beat the winter blues? There have been many studies conducted to confirm this. One study claims that interaction with indoor plants can reduce psychological and physiological stress.

There was also a study conducted recently in Holland that confirms the same for patients who need to stay for a prolonged period of time in hospitals. This study performed by Virginia Lohr of Washington State University claims that even workers who are on their computers all day see an increase in productivity and lower blood pressure when they are working in a room that is full of plant life.

The presence of plants at the workplace boost productivity and it helps workers to feel refreshed and focused. And even if you’re running a business where you can’t really have that many plants around, simply because of the scope of your work, you can include images of nature in paintings and perhaps murals somewhere in the office.

The human brain creates a connection with visuals of nature, which immediately results in a feeling of being able to interact with nature and being outdoors. This, in turn, reduces stress and anxiety. Of course, it’s wise not to clutter your workspace with too many plants, but adding a bit more greenery to the scenery can certainly do wonders for you and your staff members who are having trouble facing the reality of the winter and its lack of colors and stimulating images of a green and budding natural world.

Focus on Your Health

No matter how hard it seems, focusing on your health and keeping yourself healthy should be one of your biggest priorities if you want to avoid feeling miserable during the winter season. Eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep are aspects of your health that you really need to focus on most during the winter season.

One of the main reasons for focusing on your health is so that you can have a better chance of avoiding colds and all of the nasty viruses that can spread around the office during the winter. By keeping your mind and body strong and healthy, you are helping your immune system to battle these threats.

Exercise is another very important aspect of mental health. Of course, not everyone can be an athlete and not everyone can log two hours at the gym every day, but in reality, no one needs to be doing that to get the amount of exercise they need to stay positive and productive. Taking a half-hour-long walk every day during your lunch break could be enough.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine released a study that shows that exercise can help improve the sleep partners of just about everyone, even people who suffer from insomnia.

It’s also important not to forget that people who are feeling depressed, especially during the winter, can turn to negative ways of coping with these feelings, such as an increase in alcohol consumption or overeating and eating so-called “comfort food” that is unhealthy for them. Exercise also acts as an anti-depressive and sends similar signals of euphoria and happiness to the brain, which can keep you from making bad decisions and help you to remain energetic and positive even during the coldest of winters.

This study by the Karolinska Institutet claims that exercise actually prevents the brain from being damaged by the chemical effects of depression.

Getting through the winter when you aren’t a winter person is all about staying focused and making smart decisions that are going to help you cope, like eating well, drinking a lot of water, exercising and getting at least eight hours of sleep each night. It might not be easy, but trying to live a healthy life over the winter will definitely pay dividends emotionally, physically and mentally in the long run.

Set Clear and Realistic Goals

People who suffer from SAD are often overwhelmed when it comes to creating plans and getting things done. Many people who suffer from this type of depression say that it’s a kind of “mental mist” they experience, which doesn’t allow them to think very clearly. That’s why it’s important for people who might not be as naturally productive during the course of the winter to really streamline their goals and try to make the most of the energy and concentration that they have to work with during the colder months.

If you already have some type of a “to-do” list at work, take a look at it again and try to trim it until only the absolute essentials remain. Having too much noise in your everyday tasks can cause discouragement and inevitably lead to nothing getting done.

If there are any big projects that you need to tackle, try to break them down into small increments and focus on these small projects one by one instead of trying to deal with a giant project and being overwhelmed by it.

And if you just can’t seem to get anything going, take a break. Do something else and then go back to the projects and tasks that you find daunting when you feel that you are up for the challenge. Sometimes it’s all about simply getting by for people with SAD. Get through the winter being as productive as possible and when the winter thaws and you start feeling better as spring approaches, then you can ramp up your work goals and take on the big projects that seemed so insurmountable to you while the weather was cold.

Turn on the Lights

One of the biggest causes of SAD and any other productivity problems that arise when the weather gets cold is the lack of natural light that a person is exposed to on a regular basis.

Because of this, you need to make sure to let the sun into your work environment whenever you can. Don’t waste any rays of sunlight that the winter provides you with, open up the blinds and soak them up. However, winter often isn’t very cooperative when it comes to sunlight. Sometimes the clouds arrive and they overstay their welcome. In times like this, you’re going to have to substitute natural light with artificial light.

If you’re working at a desk, getting yourself a lamp or something that’s going to provide you with more light, even when your office is dark. Remember, not everyone has problems coping with the winter, so a lot of times, the rest of your coworkers won’t mind working in the dark and not turning on the lights.

However, if you are a manager, it can’t hurt to encourage everyone in your team to keep the lights bright during the winter for the sake of the people who really need it to get through the day.

Remember, as a manager, whether you suffer from SAD or not, there is probably a solid percentage of people at your workplace who find it tough to work when the weather is cold and the sunlight is missing from their work days. Do everything you can to help them out and take care of their emotional and mental wellbeing.

Helping yourself and your workers get through the winter will undoubtedly result in a stronger, more engaged, happier and more productive workforce once the spring season returns.

Shared from: https://www.humanity.com/blog/beating-the-workplace-winter-blues.html 
Wellbeing strategies for teachers and support staff+

1. Reconnect to your purpose

Try to do one thing each week that reminds you why you became a teacher in the first place.

Get started: Use a teaching strategy that you and your students all enjoy to remind you of the difference you’re making in their lives.

2. Adopt a growth mindset in your teaching

There’s great value in trying new things and accepting mistakes as opportunities to learn. We could all do with a reminder of the power of ‘yet’. It can be helpful to see yourself as a learner (just like your students) and to spend time reflecting on new ideas, considering what you have learnt and acknowledging areas that you find challenging.

Get started: Check out Developing a Growth Mindset in Teachers and Staff.

3. Focus on kindness and gratitude

An act of appreciation or kindness produces positive emotions, stronger social connections and improved wellbeing. Consider simple ways you can build gratitude and kindness into your day. And the best thing? Kindness and gratitude are contagious, so imagine the benefit to your classroom!

Get started: Each night, recall three good things that have happened during the day. To make it easy to keep track, check out the Gratitude Journal app.

4. Create clear boundaries between home and school

Set a reasonable time for leaving school each day (and stick to it). Find ways to turn off your teacher mindset, so that you can relax when you get home.

Get started: Try developing an end-of-day ‘ritual’ to help you switch mindsets. It may include changing your clothes when you get home, heading out for an afternoon walk, or spending time with family and friends. In addition, try to limit the amount of school work you bring home.

5. Set up effective debriefing and mentoring structures

Teaching can be an emotionally taxing job that throws up many different challenges. Set up structures that help you to focus on solutions rather than problems. While a venting session may make you feel better in the short term, it doesn’t solve the problem and may make you feel stuck.

Get started: Consider using a debriefing structure to help manage your thinking about challenging situations. Or team up with a supportive colleague and set up a formal mentor relationship structure.

6. Establish good sleeping habits

Good-quality sleep is one of the most important aspects of maintaining your physical and psychological health. This can be a tough ask after the late nights and long sleep-ins you’ve probably indulged in during your holiday break!

Get started: Develop a regular bedtime routine, which may include taking a warm bath, reading quietly for a while or having a warm milk drink. Consider using a sleep app.

7. Build up your emotional resilience

Think of proactive ways to manage the stress in your life. Meet regularly with friends and family, spend time on hobbies you enjoy, read or watch things that make you laugh, and build into your daily routine proven stress-busting activities such as yoga, meditation or exercises that involve deep breathing.

Get started: There are lots of great (and free) apps to help you manage stress. These include the ReachOut Worrytime , ReachOut Breathe and Smiling Mind.

8. Keep focused on your goals

Setting goals is a great way to give you direction, focus and motivation. Try to ensure that all your goals are achievable, measurable and have an end point. It can be helpful to break a larger goal into more manageable sub-goals.

Get started: Think of something that, if you do it today, will make you feel satisfied and accomplished. Then do it!

9. Reward yourself

The improved physical and psychological health that comes from prioritising your wellbeing is a reward in itself, but there’s also value in using tangible rewards when you meet particular goals.

Get started: Consider simple and practical ways to reward yourself whenever you reach a goal or sub-goal: take a walk in nature, soak in a warm bath, cook your favourite dinner or indulge in a massage.

10. Build new connections and relationships

Building new relationships and connections is key to our wellbeing. Take the time to get to know the students, parents and staff members in your school community.

Get started: Consider ways to develop student-focused relationships. See Wellbeing Fives for some practical ways to do this.

Professor Kinman, Gail. “Teacher wellbeing: how to mentally prepare for a new school year”. The Guardian. 20th August 2014

Staying healthy in winter months+

Cold weather can make some health problems worse and even lead to serious complications. We are sharing NHS advice on staying warm and healthy this winter.

Who’s most at risk from cold weather?

Some people are more vulnerable to the effects of cold weather. This includes:

  • people aged 65 and older
  • babies and children under the age of 5
  • people on a low income (so cannot afford heating)
  • people who have a long-term health condition
  • people with a disability
  • pregnant women
  • people who have a mental health condition

Get advice if you feel unwell

If you are 65 or over, or in one of the other at-risk groups, it’s important to get medical help as soon as you feel unwell.

You can get help and advice from:

  • a pharmacy – pharmacists can give treatment advice for a range of minor illnesses and can tell you if you need to see a doctor
  • your GP – you may be able to speak to a GP online or over the phone, or go in for an appointment if they think you need to
  • NHS 111 – go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111 if you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do

The sooner you get advice, the sooner you are likely to get better.

Call a pharmacy or contact them online before going in person.
You can get medicines delivered or ask someone to collect them.

Get a flu vaccine

Flu will often get better on its own, but it can make some people seriously ill. It’s important to get the flu vaccine if you’re advised to.

The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. It’s offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.

The best time to have the flu vaccine is in the autumn before flu starts spreading. But you can get the vaccine later.

Find out more about the:

Keep your home warm

Follow these tips to keep you and your family warm and well at home:

  • if you’re not very mobile, are 65 or over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease, heat your home to at least 18C
  • keep your bedroom at 18C all night if you can – and keep bedroom window closed
  • if you’re under 65, healthy and active, you can safely have your home cooler than 18C, as long as you’re comfortable
  • use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to keep warm in bed – but do not use both at the same time
  • have at least 1 hot meal a day – eating regularly helps keep you warm
  • have hot drinks regularly
  • to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), babies should sleep in rooms heated to between 16C and 20C
  • draw curtains at dusk and keep doors closed to block out draughts
  • get your heating system checked regularly by a qualified professional

Help with heating costs

You may be able to claim financial and practical help with heating your home. Grants available include the Winter Fuel Payment and the Cold Weather Payment.

For more information on how to reduce your bills and make your home more energy efficient, go to the government’s Simple Energy Advice website, or call the Simple Energy Advice helpline on 0800 444 202.

You can also find out about heating and housing benefits on GOV.UK.

It’s worth claiming all the benefits you’re entitled to as soon as winter begins.

Look in on vulnerable neighbours and relatives

Check on older neighbours and relatives, and those with heart or breathing (respiratory) problems, to make sure they:

  • are safe and well
  • are warm enough, especially at night
  • have stocks of food and medicines so they do not need to go out during very cold weather

If you’re worried about a relative or elderly neighbour, contact your local council or call the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1602 (8am to 7pm every day).

If you’re concerned the person may have hypothermia, contact NHS 111.

Teaching Assistant - key qualities+

Highlight on the role – Teaching Assistant

Is it your dream to become a teaching assistant?

Teaching assistants are an important part of schools and education and are crucial to help support teachers. A teaching assistant can work in a primary school or secondary school and often work with small groups of children or students to develop their learning.

This week, we are highlighting the key qualities of a good teaching assistant.

Building strong relationships

When working as a teaching assistant, you will not only have to build good relationships with your pupils, but staff and parents as well. Support staff have as much interaction with parents and pupils as teachers do, so it is vital that you build up a strong rapport.

It is important for you to get to know your students, in order for them to relate and trust you in the classroom. Parents also need to feel confident that you can meet their child’s educational needs.

Know how children develop and learn

Whether you would like to become a teaching assistant for early years or secondary school students, you will need to know how your pupils learn and develop. It is vital for you to have a clear and thorough understanding of educational, learning and development theories.

You should also have the ability to know when your students need extra support so you can work alongside the teacher to identify additional interventions that could be beneficial.

Flexible and adaptable

As well as being flexible in the sense that you are able to offer a different approach to each child, you will also need to adapt to the flow of a teacher’s lesson. Whilst the best-laid plans of a lesson can go right, they can sometimes go awry. As such, a great teaching assistant will be able to adapt to how the teacher provides the lesson. One minute you will be attending to a child individually, the next you will be working in a group. So being able to adapt is really important.

Solid literacy and numeracy skills

Of course, as a teaching assistant, it is pivotal that you share the knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic to younger generations. However, the ability to know it and to explain it are two different things. That is why, in addition, to knowing, you need to have the communication skills to explain it. That is what makes the best teaching assistant.

Ability to work in a team

Our school operates as a big team, so it is important for you to work together with your colleagues. The teacher and assistants form a vital team within the classroom. For a lesson to run smoothly you will all have to work well together.

Have passion and energy

You should have a passion for working with children and developing their learning. Daily responsibilities can vary day to day. Some of these include assisting with delivery of lessons, engaging students who are struggling with motivation, supporting their mental health and wellbeing, sensory needs or maintain the optimal environment in class.

Good communication

Dealing with different types of people every day, a teaching assistant will need to be a good communicator. Being a ‘connection to knowledge’ for students will mean explaining information clearly in a way that your pupils will understand.






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National Teaching Assistants' Day+


National Teaching Assistants’ Day

On Thursday we celebrated National Teaching Assistants’ Day where we acknowledge the significant contribution our Teaching Assistants make to the support and education of our students. We couldn’t do it without you! Thank you!

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