Demonstrating the impact of staff wellbeing

How do you go about evaluating the value of staff wellbeing activities or initiatives? Try following this suggested process

Author details

Liz Worthen is the head of content at Optimus Education. Starting her career as a secondary school English teacher, Liz has since worked in education resource and CPD programme management. She has a particular interest in workforce development...

Why do you need to demonstrate the impact of staff wellbeing activities or initiatives? Reasons might include:

  • governors asking for a report
  • justifying cost or resource time
  • you want to know if something has improved
  • you want to know what interventions are most effective
  • you want to share successes with stakeholders.

It's reasonable to assume that you'd follow a similar approach to any other intervention, programme or policy. 

  1. Define your intended outcome.
  2. Establish a baseline.
  3. Put plans into practice.
  4. Gather evidence of impact.
  5. Evaluate and share your findings.
  6. Refine and repeat.

What’s your intended outcome?

It may sound obvious, but you can’t demonstrate an impact without knowing what you wanted to achieve in the first place.

What are you aiming to achieve by focusing on staff wellbeing and/or reducing staff workload? It might be one or more of the following.

  • Improve retention/reduce staff turnover.
  • Reduce staff absence days and cost.
  • Reduce number of extra hours staff are working (i.e. outside teaching/core time).
  • Improve staff morale and happiness.
  • Improve staff engagement and productivity.
  • Create a better work/life balance for staff.
  • Make our school more attractive for recruitment purposes.

Tempting as it may be to say ‘all of the above’, for the purposes of demonstrating impact to stakeholders, decide on your top one or two priorities.

Establish your baseline

To demonstrate change, you need to know what the situation was at the outset.

Example: staff retention

If your intended outcome is to improve staff retention, review your staff turnover for the last three academic years. Is there an average per cent you can use as a baseline?

Academic year Per cent teaching staff turnover Per cent support staff turnover Average turnover
Average over three years      

This might give rise to some useful follow-up questions, such as:

  • if your figures for the last three years vary significantly, is there a known reason for this?
  • is there a contrast in turnover between teaching and support staff?
  • are there particular groups more likely to churn? E.g. early career teachers (2-5 years)
  • are there particular groups more likely to stay? Can you identify common factors? 
  • where did leavers go? Can you access exit forms or interview information for further detail?
  • how does your staff turnover compare with other local schools, or schools like yours? How can you find out?

Note: the school workforce reports provide national data on teacher sickness absence and teacher 'flow', which could be useful for comparison. 

Example: improve staff morale and happiness

This is trickier as it’s more about perceptions and feelings. To establish a starting point, you could ask staff for their views on the current situation. A survey would be one way of doing this.

For some suggested questions, see the Optimus example staff wellbeing survey. Remember to:

  • check wording carefully to make sure questions or statements are unambiguous
  • keep it simple – you don’t want to add to staff workload with a long list of questions, or create stress with a complicated submission process
  • have a balanced rating scale e.g. ‘strongly agree’, ‘agree’, ‘neutral/no opinion’, ‘disagree’, ‘strongly disagree’
  • be clear about why you’re conducting the survey and how it will be used. If you say it’s anonymous, make sure that it is anonymous.

For more guidance and sample questions, see Writing a staff wellbeing survey: six tips

Conducting staff focus groups could give you the opportunity to probe further and identify particular issues or challenges.

Put plans into practice

Using the information gathered from your baseline investigations, decide what you’re going to do (or are doing already) to improve or change the current situation.

For ideas, see the list of suggestions at what do we do for staff wellbeing.

Your plans could incorporate a range of activities. For example, if your staff survey and focus groups revealed that teacher workload was the biggest cause of stress, you might plan to:

  • review deadlines for data collection, report writing and so on, to avoid 'clumping'
  • review what paperwork teachers are completing – is it all necessary?
  • use the workload impact assessment before introducing a new policy, project or initiative
  • overhaul your marking policy and practice
  • reduce time spent in meetings
  • invest in some productivity training
  • put an email curfew in place. 

What’s changed, and how do you know?

Returning to your baseline measure and asking the same question/s is one way of finding out if anything has changed. However, you may not want to wait a whole year to re-assess your absence rates or find out how many staff have resigned.

Look for evidence that fits with your specific objectives. Returning to the teacher workload example, your evidence of change and impact could include:

  • use of the workload impact assessment has led to a decision NOT to do some things
  • data collection processes have been simplified
  • attendance at the productivity training sessions
  • stories of change e.g. ‘Turning off email at weekends has helped me to spend more time with my family’
  • more live marking is taking place in lessons
  • fewer exercise books are being taken home for marking
  • staff car park is empty at 5.30pm.

Evaluate and share findings

Your next question is likely to be: which activities or interventions had the biggest impact? What do we need to make sure we continue doing, and what was less significant? 

As well as scrutinising your evidence, answering this will probably entail seeking further feedback from staff. Maybe another (short) survey, focus group or interviews with individuals. 

Think about how you want to share and celebrate successes. Of course you need to consider appropriacy and privacy, but successful wellbeing initiatives are a great story to share with stakeholders, your community and prospective pupils, parents and employees. (For more suggestions about sharing the impact of wellbeing activities, see Demonstrating the impact of personal development)

What  Why
Report to governors Demonstrate value, show how resources have been used, highlight improvements.
Social media posts Share ‘feel good’ stories, demonstrate your values in action and market your school.
Staff briefing Maintain staff engagement by sharing outcomes of activities, highlights, what’s coming up next.
School newsletter Keep stakeholders informed, communicate changes, seek feedback and celebrate staff achievements.
Presentation to senior team Keep staff wellbeing high on the strategic agenda. Share evidence of impact, lessons learned and next steps.


Further reading


Last Updated: 
18 Nov 2021