I see stress, inside the mountain!

With apologies to Ed Sheeran, I thought it was interesting that NZEI have recently launched a barrage of media releases on how stressed school principals are. This comes hot on the heels of recent publicity on an apparent shortage of teachers, particularly in Auckland.

In the back of my mind is the admission from a Worksafe official back when the new Health and Safety at Work Act was passed, that one of the first issues likely to hit the courts would relate to workplace stress. One has to wonder, therefore, whether a “staged” claim for workplace stress might not appear from the education sector sometime soon

Stress generally, is our way of reacting to any kind of demand or threat. The body responds to these external influences by making the nervous system release “stress hormones” that start a physiological reaction. We all know there is “good stress” and “bad stress”. I stress out members regularly by telling them if they come to conference I’ll put them up on the stage to address the assembled crowd! Bad stress is the one to watch out for though. Particularly if that stress is prolonged. The latter is known to contribute to physical health problems, such as heart and blood pressure issues, depression and mental health issues, skin disorders and so on. Not good.

This is why we make an issue about watching out for the signs of stress in our staff. And making sure we respond when we do see it starting to occur. Mood issues; sick leave usage; withdrawal, evidence of fight or flight responses are all good indicators of stress in your team. Keeping on top of stress in your team will help you to maintain a better working environment and will save you time and money in the long run.

But……….what happens if you’re the one feeling stressed. Barking at staff for minor things. Always grumpy. Tired. Not finding my jokes funny anymore. This is the stress I find most worrying in our sector. Centre owners and managers are amongst the most isolated positions in our sector. You’re not part of the team. You’re the boss. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel stressed. Just in the last few days I’ve heard from a number of centre managers definitely stressed as a result of the Ministry’s latest view of the 50% ECE teacher requirement. So many things in this sector can “do your head in” if you let them!

I strongly recommend centre owners and managers ensure they have a network they can call upon for advice, to vent, to seek support from and give support where warranted. Calling the ECC for advice is one thing, but having someone you trust you can call or meet with is critical. This is one of the reasons we started the ECC Centre Managers’ Network meetings. It was to provide a safe, social forum for centre managers to support one another, share information.

So, will we see stress emerge as an issue in the courts? This is bound to happen. Hopefully not in our sector and, from my point of view, most especially not involving you.

Peter Reynolds

Chief Executive Officer

Early Childhood Council

Phone 0800 742 742 option 3

DDI 04 471 0392

Mobile 028 2582 2322

Skype peter.ecc

Website: www.ecc.org.nz

Have your say