Staff health and wellbeing: Part 6 Weighty issue
What is being done nationally and at individual nursery level to tackle staff obesity? Charlotte Goddard, Nursery World reports.
Supporting wellbeing doesn’t have to be an expensive or complex exercise, says Linda Baston-Pitt, chief executive of PurpleBee Learning. ‘One of the keys to developing positive habits is to start small, start simple and keep it constant by building small habits into the day,’ she says. ‘In the same way we work towards maintaining a consistent approach to wellbeing practice with children, we need to also apply the same principle to staff wellbeing.’
Ideas that settings have incorporated include:
■ Changing energy-sapping end-of-day meetings, when people are tempted to share comfort food as a treat, to breakfast meetings including a healthy breakfast.
■ Offering healthy snacks such as a fruit bowl at team meetings and as lunch options – and explaining the benefits.
■ Creating a wellbeing board. Settings can use the board as a positive learning opportunity, sharing interesting facts like kiwi fruit can improve sleep, says Baston-Pitt. Make the board interactive by inviting staff to post a note or a photo to share what they tried, how it helped them and how it made them feel.
■ Give staff control by enabling them to reflect on and assess their wellbeing. ‘Many settings use this as part of planned regular wellbeing catch-ups with staff to discuss what’s working well, and where they are struggling,’says Baston-Pitt. ‘They can decide upon some simple steps that they can commit to trying out that will improve that area.’ Red Hen Nursery’s Jane Harrison adds, ‘We make sure we are talking to staff about whether they are able to eat sensibly. We can’t tell them what to do, but we can ask if there is anything that can be done to help – maybe if they don’t have time to cook when they get home, they can get a slow cooker or batch cook so they have something in the freezer.’
Katie Draper completed her PANCo qualification at the end of August with PurpleBee Learning.
We found in our setting that drinking fluids was the main issue,’ she says. ‘If you are dehydrated, your brain is not working properly, you feel very tired, and you are not as adaptable to children saying “Can we do this?”’
While children had water bottles, the staff team were not drinking enough water. ‘Now we all have named water bottles; the first person through the door in the morning fills them up, and they go in the pocket of our pinnies all day,’ she says.
Any work around staff diet and nutrition must be undertaken with sensitivity, says Draper. ‘It is important to make sure you are not targeting anyone,’ she says. ‘You don’t want someone sitting there thinking “I am the biggest one, is this because of me?”. You need to make clear that the underlying reasons behind changes are so everyone can work to their best capacity.’ Long hours can encourage early years workers to make unhealthy choices, she says. ‘People turn to sugary snacks to get through the day, then their energy crashes. Healthy eating is not about losing weight or having a slim workforce, it is more about making sure everyone is feeling their best and able to- do their job to their best capacity.
We are all good at being so busy all day we might neglect ourselves – a lot of early years workers are mothers who are not looking after themselves. The setting policy requires staff to eat healthily in front of the children, acting as role models. Draper has shared her knowledge and learning around nutrition with the team. ‘Ideas are coming from them, so it is not just someone telling them what to do,’ she says……..