I’m puzzled. And I don’t like being puzzled. I think I must have misread something along the way or got the wrong end of the stick. Somehow or other, and I don’t know how, the defining lines between workload and wellbeing have become very blurry indeed.
There was a survey knocking around recently that asked SBMs how funding cuts had impacted on their wellbeing. I did the survey (because I’m good like that, and there’s always the hope of a prize draw for a free bag of Maltesers at the end of these things) and the questions were all about budgeting, cuts and workload, nothing at all to do with what I class as wellbeing.
And it’s something I’m noticing more and more – how workload and wellbeing are becoming one and the same thing in the general ether. Of course I understand that there’s a link between the two, but it is possible to have a heavy workload without there being an immediate stress impact, and it’s just as easy for your wellbeing to be hugely impacted by many, many factors other than workload.
I love being busy – I like the challenge of ploughing through work, the rush to complete a task by the deadline and the buzz of a new project. And as long as the support mechanisms are in place for me to be able to do those things, I’m very happy firing on all cylinders, almost all of the time. I generally love my job and the work that it entails.
But it gets tough at times, and thinking back over the years to those thankfully few dark times, I can honestly say that every one of them has been about negative engagements with other people, and how they have made me feel, never about the work itself. It’s been about poor leadership, a weak boss suffering their own wellbeing issues, an undermining colleague, all of those, but also, a lack of understanding and acknowledgement of the vast complexity and skills required of the SBM/SBL role.
I don’t think I’d be alone in saying that as a profession, School Business Managers/Leaders work hard and fast, and that’s the fun, but we can also struggle to have our voice heard at times. Being the finance person means having to be the bearer of bad news, the one who says no, the killjoy, and sometimes even the executioner. We know that at times we’ll have to prepare disciplinary and dismissal papers. We’ll have to recommend roles for redundancy and to have very difficult conversations with good, well-meaning people who just aren’t in the right role. That we can do, that we do do on a daily basis. That’s the job, that’s our craft.
But wellbeing, to me that’s about being able to do those difficult things without guilt or recrimination, without becoming a bad guy in the eyes of our colleagues. About going home at the end of a difficult day feeling supported, valued and thanked for having done those difficult things. It might be about having a cup of tea made for us, or just a kindly word. For me, it’s about knowing that someone is keeping an eye on me, not just my work, and I value that beyond measure. I do stop and take time out sometimes (she says, whilst blogging about wellbeing on a Sunday afternoon…) but generally my volume of work isn’t a problem for me, my wellbeing is about who I am, not what I do.
So I may have got it completely wrong, who knows. Maybe wellbeing and workload are intrinsically linked for most people, and just not for me. I know I can be a bit rubbish at managing emotions generally – I tried balancing a heap of stones into an artistic pile to attain that sense of balance once – it didn’t work, in fact it fell over and hit my keyboard and I ending up with 27 consecutive ‘n’s in a finance report that should never have been there.
Anyway, I’ve ordered a scented candle now, so hopefully I’m back on the right track.