What Makes a Good Work Atmosphere?
Effective communication goes both ways. You, as a manager, need to communicate clearly with your practitioners so they know exactly what they are doing and what’s expected from them/ Similarly, your practitioners need to communicate clearly to you about what’s happening in your setting, so you have a comprehensive knowledge of the day-to-day workings and are fully prepared with all the needed information if an issue arises.
To allow for effective communication you need to ensure that your practitioners are listened to so they feel valued and comfortable enough to come to you with any issues or queries, knowing they will be considered carefully and not dismissed.
You should also make sure that you are open with your team, showing you are honest and trustworthy. This will build their trust in you as a manager.
Understanding and Compassion
We’re all human and we all make mistakes. How we deal with them is the important thing. If you have made sure your practitioners feel comfortable enough to come to you about issues or mistakes, don’t betray that trust by then refusing to understand reasons, context or mitigating factors. Obviously, if a practitioner has seriously messed up then disciplinary action should be taken, but if it’s an easily fixed or explained mistake, try to see why it happened and be understanding with your team. They’ll have more faith in you for it.
There are also circumstances outside our control, such as illness or bereavement. Even though being short-staffed is not ideal, treating these incidents with compassion rather than seeing them as an inconvenience will make your team much happier in their work life and much more likely to work harder, rather than resenting you as a cold, unfeeling manager.
A little goes a long way in terms of rewarding your team. Sometimes we can fall into the practice of speaking up if something’s wrong and trusting that, if you’re not pointing out issues, everyone knows they’re doing a good job. However, highlighting someone going the extra mile or celebrating a successful week in your setting will boost morale and make your practitioners feel more valued. Early years practitioners aren’t valued enough in society, so we need to make sure we’re appreciating each other as much as possible.
EY settings can be extremely busy and, sometimes, it’s necessary for your practitioners to put in extra hours. However, this should never be expected and should never, ever be seen as the norm. If you want your team to respect you and their roles, you also need to respect their life outside of work and understand that your setting is not the only thing in their life.
Independence and Freedom
Trusting your team isn’t just about knowing they will do a good job; entrusting your practitioners to have more agency over their own lesson activities and management of the children in your setting shows you believe in their abilities. Having freedom over their own workload, and avoiding micro-management, will help practitioners feel more valued and capable. Obviously, as the manager you still have the final say, but a happy, independent team without feeling that you’re breathing down their necks will mean a happier work environment for everyone.
In the midst of making sure the children are fed, watered, safe, happy and meeting their developmental targets, it’s easy to get bogged down by work tasks and forget to enjoy yourself. We wouldn’t be working with early years if we didn’t enjoy some of the sillier things in life, and children often provide us with hilarious moments. Give your practitioners time and space to chat and build relationships together, as well as enjoying the more ridiculous moments that can happen when working with under-5s!
Ultimately, a good work atmosphere means higher morale for your practitioners and, as a direct result, happier children. Our main focus is to make sure that the children in our care enjoy their time in our settings, and one of the best ways to ensure that is to have a good work atmosphere and a happy team.