How can we create a mentally healthy workplace in Early Years ?

Working in Early Years is a challenging career, not just physically, it’s emotionally and mentally tiring too. It’s a fast paced role with a humongous responsibility for the care and safety of children. Every moment of the day we are on high alert, supervising and keeping children safe, secure and happy. 

Therefore it’s important we work with colleagues who support us and have our backs throughout those tough challenging days. People who prop us up when we are feeling low, down or struggling with work and/ or personal life. 

Colleagues we can laugh with, joke with! To fill our Early Years settings with laugher, enjoyment and places of mutual respect. A place that oozes camaraderie and team work!

Why is it then ? That in some settings there is a (hidden and brushed under the carpet culture) a negative one, cultivating in our work spaces opposite to the ones we endeavour to promote ? A petri dish of attitudes. 

Let’s consider that the negative culture we breed in our settings impacts the staff and children in our care. A BAD ATTITUDE is VERY ‘different’ to low mood, feeling depressed and struggling with MENTAL HEALTH.

Let’s separate the two !!!

Bad attitude & mental health

This is a tricky subject to discuss, especially when mental health is mentioned, however it’s important we look to create spaces and places where children play, that are positive and uplifting environments. Work settings in which adults get on together and bad attitudes are left at the front door. 

This blog is about a person’s ATTITUDE towards their role and responsibilities. Towards their job!

Those staff who really don’t even want to be there!

Those staff who think it’s ok to moan and complain about work or a colleague lnstead of dealing with the situation and having an open and respectful discussion!

Bitching, back biting, talking behind someone’s back, cliquey groups, spreading gossip, nasty comments nasty attitudes are not acceptable in Early Years settings.

We must work hard to create a culture where these attitudes are not allowed to fester or breed.

We are role models to children and children are watching how we engage and interact with our peers. Seeing how we talk and respond to each other.

To be POSITIVE role models. 

We also have a duty to raise mental health awareness and to ensure we are providing mentally safe places to work. It is hard enough dealing with mental health issues, anxiety, low mood and depression, without having to spend 8-10 hours a day where toxic conversations and energy are zapping any strength we have remaining to keep a smile on our faces. 

Let’s also consider that being a nasty person at work and blaming it on mental health is NOT acceptable either.

We must all raise our awareness of mental health & to recognise staff who are genuinely struggling, by  allowing a culture of bitching or back biting to continue for fear of challenging attitudes only perpetuates the problem.

It also masks those that genuinely need help.
Let’s consider -

If someone is having a bitch or a moan about a colleague and we get drawn or dragged into the conversation, it’s important we challenge.

Say something like “please don’t talk like that ! I don’t want to hear and I don’t want to be part of this discussion”

It’s not acceptable at this setting and not part of our values, by standing there, listening and paying attention we are only fanning the flames and allowing this behaviour to continue fester and multiply.
By ALSO staying quiet, trying not to listen ignoring and allowing the conversation to continue - is giving that person permission to talk or act in such a negative and impactful way !
We become part of the problem & sadly not the solution. 

We have to ensure that everyone understands that this behaviour, talk, discussion ATTITUDE is not acceptable in our setting & especially not EARLY YEARS.  

We have to create an expectation in our settings where nastiness is not acceptable.

When challenged it’s is also not acceptable to blame nastiness on mental health. 

Nobody has a free pass to be cruel or nasty or hurt others.
***** It is important to remember that there are disorders that cause mood swings, anger and irritability – such as bipolar disorder. * Raise mental health awareness * 

Let’s consider that we are more likely to identify staff who are genuinely struggling with mental health instead of masking the problem or even fuelling feelings of anxiety, stress and depression.

We ALL have a duty to help ! 

In April 2018, the Early Years Alliance launched it’s landmark Minds Matter survey, looking at the impact of working in childcare and the early years sector on practitioners' mental health.

More than 2,000 of educators responded
The findings revealed:

  • a sector struggling with the impact of excessive paperwork and administration, financial instability due to inadequate government funding, and low pay
  • that most of you are often stressed about work and that work-related mental health issues have had an impact on your personal relationships
  • a quarter of you are thinking about leaving the early years sector entirely.

YES! We can work had to reduce documentation, paperwork administration or even work overload. However, until we RID our settings of a culture where bitching & back biting is the norm, HOW can we create mentally healthy safe spaces for those of us struggling with mental health to talk or open up?

How can we all feel SAFE to discuss our true feelings, to unburden our deepest insecurities. To talk about a problem bad day or something more serious ?

Especially, If we do not trust those around us, to not bitch or spread gossip and rumours - to talk behind our backs ???

Bad attitudes, cliquey groups, whispers rumours, rolling eyes, nastiness and disrespect for each other is not acceptable in general, but it most certainly cannot be a culture we allow or put up with in Early Years. 

Harvard Research proves toxic employees destroy your work culture, it discusses the 6 different types of negativity 
What is the ethos in your setting? Have you discussed the values expected of your team? How do you draw everyone back to these values and emerged a positive and healthy culture within your provision?  As Early Years Manager we have a duty of care to have those difficult and challenging conversations 

We all have a duty of care to raise mental health awareness and create safe happy places and spaces to work! Together we can do more 

Let’s reduce the stigma of mental health

  1. Know the facts. Educate yourself about mental illness including substance use disorders.
  2. Be aware of your attitudes and behaviour. ...
  3. Choose your words carefully. ...
  4. Educate others. ...
  5. Focus on the positive. ...
  6. Support people. ...
  7. Include everyone.

* If you are struggling with mental health and need help, please TALK!

It’s ok to not be ok & we are here to offer support.

Did you know our Curiosity Approach® Accreditation starts with a bonus module that discusses values and the culture within your setting? We believe that by promoting a sense of belonging for everyone, we can build a mentally healthy generation of children and adults. Together we can do more. 

Are you interested in our Accreditation? See details here  https://www.thecuriosityapproa...
Or take our Curiosity Approach quiz https://thecuriosityapproach.s...