Good teacher work-life balance is essential for teacher effectiveness. Through my 25+ years of teaching, I had noticed that when I listened to teachers, the thing that seemed to be the biggest challenge was teacher work-life balance.
A study by Max Roser of Our World In Data shows that there are more than 80 million teachers in the world but a survey I conducted recently indicates that 70% face significant challenges with their work-life balance.
Having found some great solutions myself, I decided to survey teachers for more specifics, late November 2020.
Out of 450 teacher respondents, we were able to include new teachers and those teaching for longer periods. Two-thirds of the teachers have been serving for more than 5 to 20+ years.
Respondents were drawn from a wide range of English speaking countries. Representatively 38% were male, and 62% were female. A sub-stratum (n=200) were also asked to indicate if they had domestic/or child care responsibilities. 65% had kids at home to look after.
Survey Title: ‘Discover the 3 Biggest Challenges Facing Teachers When It Comes to Work-Life Balance’.
A few specific issues came up over and over again. In no particular order, they are:
“Seven out of every ten teachers are less than happy with their current situation”.
71% of the 450 respondents said ‘Time with loved ones’ was the major difficulty in trying to gain work-life balance. 56% reported that keeping marking up-to-date was their major issue and 50% had too many extramural activities to do. 5% gave other reasons like having time to myself, balancing diverse needs, too many students, differentiation, lesson prep, too many school demands, researching topics, and making resources. One respondent said they had no big challenges.
Not surprisingly, 60% of the respondents reported using to-do-lists, the ever-ready safety net. 60% used a diary of some kind. Since we are all supposed to use planners and school calendars for events, it is perhaps surprising that they seem to use no tools at all.
25% reported not using anything really and just hoping for the best. 1.5% used other things like notepad, daily charts, electronic reminder, online reminder, and scheduling their time in some way.
Teachers do not seem able to fulfil their job requirements in the official working hours.
70% of the 450 respondents said ‘Time with loved ones’ was the major difficulty in trying to gain work-life balance. 56% wanted to reduce the hours spent on school work. 52% reported that keeping marking up-to-date was their major issue, and 50% wanted me time.
5% gave other reasons like having time to myself, balancing diverse needs, too many students, differentiation, lesson prep, too many school demands, researching topics, and making resources. Only one in 450 respondents claimed they had no big challenges.
Work for teachers is seriously interfering with family time. Additionally, more than half appear to find it hard to keep up with planning and marking.
Half also deem that school extramural activities significantly impact upon their time for core teaching and marking, thus adding to the burden. It would be preferable to keep to basics in primary teaching.
72% are less than happy with their teacher work-life balance that they can achieve at the moment. Whereas only 28% are happy with the work-life balance they have been able to obtain.
So, seven out of every ten teachers are less than happy with their current situation.
I believe that teachers would feel more valued if school leaders took the time to walk around the school at least once a week if not more; to find teachers doing something good and praise them specifically for that valuable piece of teaching.
From the above results a large proportion of surveyed teachers report that even though they may have access to calendars, to-do lists, and other classroom management tools the challenges they face are seriously eroding their family time. Plus leaving them behind with important areas such as planning and marking.
The figures confirm that the majority of teachers face:
1. Significant barriers in achieving time with the family.
2. An overall workload or organisation which prevents them keeping up with their marking and planning within industrial hours, commonly made up by working many more unpaid hours. Thus, making the 40 hour week become a 60+ hour week.
3. Lack of access to efficient tools which will enable teachers to reduce out of hours load, and restore some or all of their teacher work-life balance.
SPECIFIC RESOURCES ARE required to help teachers redress a distorted work-life balance. The goal must be to empower teachers the better to organise and manage work priorities. Given that almost half did not indicate the use of common tools (to-do lists, diaries, calendars), then this would imply that many of the current tools on offer are inadequate or unattractive.
Further, half of the teachers that do use these common tools are still clearly suffering the same challenges and work-life impairment. Fresh, integrated approaches are needed to ensure teachers can manage more of their performance in the official work hours and have more time and enjoyment with family or for personal interests. My research shows this to be true.