The world of work is changing with every passing day.
Each year, more and more people are leaving the traditional 9-5 office routine behind and transitioning towards working as they want to. On their own schedule, from anywhere in the world. They’re taking back control and enjoying a host of benefits along the way.
But while the world of work in general has progressed rapidly, the education sector is yet to embrace this. We’re not suggesting teachers should work remotely. After all, controlling a Sixth Form class would be a lot harder if you weren’t in the room with them! But there is a strong case to be made for schools to offer flexible working arrangements.
Do teachers want flexible working?
By far the biggest reason for teachers leaving the profession is lack of work/life balance, but the evidence does suggest that teachers could be retained if more was done to support the shift to flexible working.
TES Global have found that job adverts that mention the words part-time get 13% more interest than those that don’t, and given the fierce competition for the best talent, that’s well worth considering.
A Teacher Tapp survey of almost 2,500 teachers found that 11% would “definitely” consider working three days a week or less if they were able to find a job-share partner, with a further 18% choosing the option “yes, perhaps”.
A report by the National Foundation for Educational Research says there is an “unmet demand” from secondary teachers wanting to reduce or alter their hours. It estimates that one in six teachers would like to reduce their hours – one in 12 by more than one day a week.
Why Flexible Working Would Be Good For Schools
As a schools HR professional, you will understand that teachers are suffering in today’s education sector. And it’s easy to see why. Teacher training shortfalls, growing class sizes, constant regulatory pressure, and ever-increasing academic demands are just a few of the problems facing UK teachers today.
Teachers work an average of 12 hours unpaid overtime every week – the highest of any profession in the UK. And the most common reason for teachers leaving the profession in droves is a “lack of work-life balance”.
In other industries, flexible working practices like job sharing, flexible working hours and remote work have had very positive impacts on productivity and employee absenteeism. This intuitively makes sense: working fewer hours gives employees more time to reflect, recharge, and give their all when they are working.
If even a fraction of those productivity gains could be replicated in schools (in the form of increased student benefit), then shifting to flexible work would be a win-win for everyone involved. Your school will stand out from competitors and being able to describe the flexible working arrangements you offer will help your job postings instantly cut through the noise. Top talent will take note – and this could even be the deciding factor for those candidates considering more than one offer.
We understand that this isn’t going to be easy to implement, but there are several different strategies you can use.
How To Implement Flexible Working Practices In Your School
While you can’t necessarily copy the strategies used by cutting-edge tech firms to keep their workforce happy and engaged, you can benefit from flexible working practices in your school.
One initiative many schools have had success with is allowing teachers to complete their PPA time at home, if they choose. Giving staff the choice to do this work where they want to affords them valuable autonomy in their role.
Consider is timetabling specific late starts or early finishes for teachers. While this is a little harder to organise (as you have to coordinate schedules across all staff), many people appreciate having a little deviation from their standard working hours.
Test new ways to design jobs with flexibility built in by trialling new approaches to designing part-time and flexible jobs, which still work within the school timetable and maintain quality teaching standards.
Job-sharing is a common flexible working arrangement used in schools around the country. While this has typically been reserved for specific cases in the past (e.g. a new mother returning from maternity leave, or staff suffering from health issues), there’s no reason why other individuals couldn’t consider this option. Some teachers find not being in the classroom with a particular group every day challenging – but for others, the benefits are more than worth the drawbacks.
The business case for flexible working is stronger than it’s ever been. Businesses all over the world are seeing the benefits of giving control back to their employees. Increased productivity, motivation, job satisfaction – that’s just a few of the many benefits the workforce experiences when they make the shift.
Schools have nothing to lose by at least looking into offering staff flexible working arrangements. Moving into 2020 and beyond, being one of the few schools out there that makes an effort to help teachers live more balanced lives will set you apart from competitors. You’ll find attracting top talent easier than ever with this clear advantage.
With that, we’d like to close with a question: Are you a school that has successfully implemented flexible working practices?
If so, we’d love to hear from you (and possibly feature you in an upcoming piece).