This week saw SSV take a big step towards achieving it’s new Ed Tech strategy with staff receiving their new Microsoft Surface Pro devices. The rationale for this vision has been outlined clearly by Kieran Early (CEO and Principal of The British School in the Netherlands) here and how this strategy will enable our school to improve the outcomes of our students. Having spent the last month trialling the new device, I have been surprised that the area I have seen perhaps the biggest impact in is my ‘mobility’ and how the strategy, coupled with the new device is improving my work life balance.
Maintaining a healthy work life balance is a commonly discussed issue in the teaching profession and it’s no surprise why. As teachers we don’t need reminding of the state of workload in the profession. If you do need reminding, you probably aren’t a teacher, and if you are a teacher lucky enough to be working in a school where maintaining your work-life balance is never an issue, I’m sure people would be interested to know if you have any vacancies coming up……
During a workshop for staff this week on migrating their school documents to cloud based storage, we began discussing how this increased mobility now enables us to access our ‘work’ documents at home. Which then inevitably lead to a discussion about if this was a good thing, how do we ensure our work life balance and what is our school’s expectations of ‘working outside of school’. Whether you work in the UK or internationally, ensuring your own well-being and the well-being of your staff has to be a fundamental aspect of your school ethos and I believe our Ed Tech principle of mobility, utilised through our new devices, can support staff in this area.
The issue when discussing work-life balance and our right to disconnect, is that your view on what constitutes a healthy work-life balance might not look the same as someone else’s. Some of my colleagues want to finish their teaching day, ensure they are ready for tomorrow and then leave school knowing they don’t need, want or more importantly are expected, to check their emails or continue working until they arrive back at school. This for them is what a healthy work-life looks like, a clear compartmentalising of ‘work’ and ‘home’.
But for others this is not how they maintain their work life balance. On days with no after school commitments they like leaving work when they can, taking advantage of the daylight (admittedly not always possible during a Dutch winter!) to enjoy activities that help ensure their work-life balance. I am one of these type of people and the mobility offered by our Ed Tech strategy and new device is enabling me to do this. I don’t particularly like to run or cycle in the dark or late in the evening because I was still at school doing things I could have done later that evening when the sun (yes it we do sometimes see the sun here) goes down. I know colleagues that want to be at home to see their children and are comfortable working later in the evening if needed; spending quality time with their families when their children are awake is what is important to them.
Our Ed Tech strategy being implemented at its best. Mobility in productivity: Coffee, lunch, a spot of work and catching up with the NBA all in one sitting.
With a principle of mobility and a device that enables me to access my school user space, answer emails, complete marking and prepare lessons outside of school, I ensure my well-being, but I do this with no expectation that anyone else needs to achieve their work-life balance by doing the same. This ‘no expectation’ outside of school is the fundamental principle we must adopt to help create better well- being in our profession. There can be no expectation that any staff member works (or needs to out of necessity, rather than choice) out of hours, but if they choose to, we now have strategy and device that will enable them to do this to facilitate their work-life balance.
Having worked in six different schools in four different countries, I have to say The Netherlands is the best I’ve seen for considering the impact of work on the employee. I also believe the introduction of the Ed Tech strategy above, coupled with the right device to deliver this strategy, will ensure that all staff have the ‘right to disconnect’ and ‘right to connect’ in whatever way best suits their life choices.
As a profession we need to address the workload expectations we place on each other, but perhaps from a position of ensuring choice rather than expectation. Our new Ed Tech strategy and device is a positive step towards achieving this.