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Leadership, Redesigning Schools

Are You Happy at Work? #BlueMonday

With Blue Monday just around the corner we are about to hit the most depressing day of the year, statistically that is.  Some people will have a great 26th January 2015 but for others it will be a bit of a nightmare.

Blue Monday actually has its own equation; [W + D – d]TQ / MNa.  The factors in the formula include the weather (freezing in January in Britain), our level of personal debt and our ability to repay it post-Christmas, the time since giving up on or failing our New Year’s Resolution, low motivation and the realisation we need to take action.  It all adds up to a pretty depressing state of affairs. However, with D not defined and no units offending my scientific senses I’m not the only person to treat the formula with more than a bit of suspicion.  (Source: Wikipedia)

How Are You Today?

I’m very well, thank you.  And just to prove it the results from the happiness at work survey I recently took are above.  How we feel at work is not fixed and the Happiness Works website has a great free tool for measuring your current happiness and that of your team, if you share the same e-mail domain name.  The survey was really quick to complete, the personal report is interesting and it may help give you some insights into ways to improve your own or your team’s happiness at work.


“This view of the happiness at work survey results illustrates the dynamic and interconnected nature of four key areas of happiness at work.  Reading from the top of the dynamic model downwards: People’s ‘experience of work’ (how they feel) is influenced by how they are ‘functioning at work’ (what they do). This in turn is dependent on both the ‘organizational system’ they work in and their personal resources (who they are).  Other important feedback loops in the model are illustrated by the curved arrows.”

Happiness Works Survey Feedback

Below are the results from my own survey broken down into the four sections.

1.  Experience of Work

When I break down my Experience of Work my Positive feelings score was one of the lowest though still being well above average.  Interestingly, for me how much I enjoy the work (second lowest score) was masked by my sense of pride in the organisation which I gave a perfect ten.  On reflection how much I enjoy some of my current work is questionable.  A lot of last term was spent setting up the Multi Academy Trust, helping establish the Board, writing policies and ensuring financial procedures and processes were in place.  Let’s be honest it sounds dull because it is.  But this will pass.

2.  Functioning at Work

The most fun I’ve had this week was looking at the backward design of learning with St. Mary’s Music Teacher, debating what a current grade may or may not be and how we can use Y11 mock papers formatively.  Much more down my street.

The dynamin model shows how closely linked the organisational system and people’s personal resources are but it also makes clear that they are distinct.  Whilst most people’s personal resources are used to good effect in good organisations, do you thrive in a challenging environment and get bored if things are all running smoothly for too long?

3.  Organisational System

I don’t think it’s that surprising that the organisational system is the top scoring element of my happiness report and had the greatest number of tens in it.  I have played a huge part in designing so many elements of the organisation.  What did give me a shock was that the lowest scoring response I made was in this section – a 5.1 for achievable job.  This relates to my feelings about whether I have enough time in the day to get the job done.

When I first started headship, the wife of the outgoing headteacher offered me three pieces of advice: leave work by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, don’t forget your family as the job can be all consuming and your desk will never be empty so don’t stress too much about it.  I wish I had listened better and heeded her advice more.  Don’t be too hard on yourself if your to do list doesn’t get everything ticked off it by Friday afternoon.  Just look at what you did achieve and the difference you did make.

4.  Personal Resources

Creating An Action Plan

What I liked about the personal report was the detailed analysis of different factors which may be affecting my happiness at work.  The analysis doesn’t tell you what to focus on it simply asks questions and points you in some specific places to start looking.  As the action planning section of the website says, “look out for what ‘strikes a chord’ or ‘rings true’ for you.”   As with all data the numbers only take you so far, you need to add your own perspectives and insights and possibly those of others.  Then think about how you can address some of the issues and then decide which ones to address first.

I will enjoy work more as I make sure I refocus my efforts of the core business of our academies, the people in them and their performance and well-being.  Once the Trust is established the work associated with this initial phase, which I find dull, will naturally decline.  The achievable job issue needs me to stop and reflect every day or week on what I have achieved and acknowledge it rather than immediately looking at what’s in the diary for tomorrow.  I can do more to make sure I am more realistic in what I plan to do each day given the actual time available.

Investors in People

The annual Investors in People Employee Sentiment Poll attempts to reveal major trends across the UK workforce.  It looks at the likelihood that people are looking to move jobs and the reasons for doing so.

Acknowledgement: Investors in People

Acknowledgement: Investors in People

The trend this year compared to last shows happiness at work down and more employees seeking to move job.  The report also identifies the main reasons people give for not being happy in their job.  The number one reason is poor management, followed by pay and third was not feeling valued.

How are you using PRP?  Has your school implemented the Living Wage?  A few extra pounds for some of our poorest workers makes a huge difference to them but very little to the school’s budget.    How are you explicitly managing the well-being of your employees and making sure they know their efforts are valued?  Teachers are just about to go into overdrive to help their Year 6, GCSE and A-level students do they best they can this summer.  What can we do to support them and acknowledge their efforts?  The small things seem to have a disproportionate impact: the quiet word, the small token of thanks, the cakes in the staff room or giving back a bit of time if they need it.

St. Mary’s Catholic Academy will shortly go through its re-designation process for Investors in People.  I’m booked in for my discussion at 9:30 a.m. on the 9th February 2015.  This will be, in part, a good review of our current management practice and processes to identify what we do well and what we could do better.

Job Exodus Time Bomb

Acknowledgement: Investors in People


If you’re not feeling happy at work why not do something about it before going for the nuclear option and leaving?  Not everything is within your control but many things are.

Final Word of Warning – The ILYM Threshold

After a few too many beers (there are equivalences, for example, wine and spirits) blokes admit their undying love for their friends, uttering the immortal words, “I Love You Mate!” This apparently is an important point, the ILYM Threshold, after which statistical data takes on less reliability.  You should defer completing the survey if you have reached or passed this threshold 😉



2 thoughts on “Are You Happy at Work? #BlueMonday

  1. I had to laugh when I read this one. It does for management, organisational behaviour and motivation what “meta analysis” does for classroom teaching.

    The following was part of an email sent to a teacher from a senior member of the SMT in response to a concern regarding work life balance of teaching staff.

    “All professional teachers work in their own time and spend a huge amount of it outside work in order to deliver the best possible service to their students.”

    It went on to explain that……

    “Most of us would prefer to work our contracted number of hours and then stop, but sadly, I’m not aware of many jobs in education at any level which allow for that. Large numbers of teachers in many different schools and colleges are working in excess of 70 hours a week.”

    The message is clear. I hope it is not true and does not reflect the approach of other schools up and down the land. My concern is that it does.

    I do not think it a good idea to reduce teaching strategies to a number, to one decimal place. Nor do I think it is a good idea to reduce management and leadership to a single number to one decimal place. In fact I think it is a step backwards.

    All teachers should reflect on their work life balance and the tasks they undertake while carrying out their professional duties. All teachers should raise issues with their line management in an effort to improve the situation for all stakeholders. The analysis will result in words, sentences and paragraphs rather than numbers to one decimal place, although I feel that producing such numbers may appeal to those who think there is a shortcut, those who think that teaching can be formulaic and those who follow one or two of the most influential education bloggers.

    Just my thoughts.

    Have a great and restful weekend

    Posted by One has to laugh | January 24, 2015, 10:25 am
    • Thanks for spending the time putting this response together. Jill Berry and you are becoming the greatest contributors to the blog. The survey I still found quite useful, did you try it? What I liked about the website was its approach – get the numerical feedback but then reflect on whether it feels right. Two pronged approach. Suppose no one way would suit all people. Hope you had a great weekend and enjoy the week. Sorry for the delay in this appearing on the blg, I thought I had already approved it.

      Posted by ExecutiveHT | January 26, 2015, 7:28 pm

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