Every day at Duluth Public Schools, our educators and staff show up to support the education and futures of 8,300+ students. We’re committed to empowering every student with learning opportunities for growth, creativity, and curiosity in preparation for a future in a global community. To live up to our own expectations and those of the families we serve, we need to feel at our best physically, emotionally, and mentally on a daily basis.
Tackling stress and burnout before employees burnout
The mental health and well-being of our staff suffered under the weight of the pandemic, which hit schools across the country exceptionally hard, including our 23 public education sites in Duluth, MN. Staff morale plummeted with the move to remote learning and then returning to the classroom amid safety concerns. Being responsible for one’s own health and well-being is hard enough, but protecting the health and safety of thousands of children is incredibly stressful for our teachers.
Their stress and anxiety ultimately escalated to burnout. People often think the only solution to burnout is to leave but this doesn’t have to be the case. We realized we needed to provide preventive tools and support to help our employees before they burned out.
Refocusing on workforce mental health amid a staffing crisis
Our biggest challenge is a staffing crisis—not just for teachers but for food service workers, maintenance workers, and other support staff. On top of record burnout and departures, many of our older staff are retiring, and there simply aren’t enough people entering the education field to replace them.
In this context, we intensified our focus on improving the mental health and well-being of our dispersed workforce and rebuilding morale and trust—a challenge for our department of two. We knew we had to do more to help people before they were sick and prevent burnout from happening in the first place.
Moving beyond our employee assistance program (EAP)
This would require thinking beyond our employee assistance program (EAP). Sometimes people are deterred from using our EAP because they think it’s for crisis situations only, and they aren’t in one or don’t want to admit that they are. Additionally, taking the time to find a therapist or have a therapy appointment often doesn’t feel feasible for them.
We realized we were missing a preventive self-care solution that would help our employees take care of their stress, anxiety and burnout on their own terms. They needed mental health tools that work with their hectic schedules—something they could access anytime, anywhere in just a few minutes between classes or at the end of a long day.
Partnering with Calm Business to fill the missing piece in our mental health benefits
We looked at another program but ultimately chose Calm Business for its strong brand. Our people already knew and trusted Calm, and they could choose from a wide range of content and tools to reduce stress, defuse anxiety attacks, and get better sleep. Equally important, our teachers and staff could access Calm in private, whenever and wherever they needed it. Calm Business was the missing piece of our mental health benefits puzzle.
We now include Calm in our new hire orientation to build awareness of the tools, and signing up is simple. Calm provides links and QR codes, enabling employees to enroll in just a minute or two.
Leveraging Calm Business CS team and engagement strategies to drive enrollment
Calm makes it easy for us to keep employees engaged in their mental health. After helping us launch Calm, our Customer Success Manager now meets regularly with us to come up with strategies and challenges to inspire employees to engage with the app. Our employees recently completed a Mindful Minutes challenge, for example, which encouraged them to “collect” 100 mindful minutes using Calm. The prize was a massage gift card.
I also receive a theme-based engagement strategy every month from Calm Business that includes communication templates and links to relevant content in the app. I’m often working on more than a dozen projects at a time, so Calm’s proactive approach to supporting us and our employees is a lifesaver.
And with Calm Business’s Partner Portal, I can track how we’re doing against our goals. I can see the number of employees who’ve enrolled in Calm and use the app regularly. I can also gain insight into how and when the workforce as a whole is using Calm content, and which content is accessed most. Above all, Calm is a great benefit that our employees are really taking advantage of: 43% of our eligible employees are enrolled in Calm, and 72% of those use the Calm app regularly to manage their stress, anxiety, burnout, and sleep issues. Senior leaders use Calm before meetings, and our teachers are using it in classrooms to help students relax and focus.
Finally, the portal lets me see direct feedback from employees about their experience using the app. Here are just a few of the testimonials from our teachers and support staff:
“I love having access to calming music for my students to listen to during work times. I love the mindfulness sessions I can listen to before school to help me get in a good mindset before my students walk in the door.”
“Shortly after I downloaded the app, my elderly father’s health began to decline…This stressful circumstance caused a phenomenal amount of anxiety for myself and my loved ones…the app has provided me with immediate support for my mental health that has been invaluable.”
“As a teacher, I have a million thoughts running through my head at bedtime. I use the sleep stories to help turn my brain off. I have tracked my sleep and see that I get more restful sleep than I used to.”
Repairing trust post-pandemic
In the aftermath of the pandemic, Calm Business has been an olive branch to help us reconnect with our teachers and staff and regain their trust. We can acknowledge their challenges with stress, anxiety, and burnout and show them how Calm can help. I receive emails from employees saying how nice it is to have an organization that cares enough about employee mental health and well-being to decide to offer Calm.
And it’s not just our employees who love Calm Business. Our school superintendent, HR director, and CFO see the impact Calm Business has made in the lives of our employees, and they’re fully on board. Our district recently renewed Calm Business, and we look forward to hearing more stories about the difference it’s making in the lives of our teachers and support staff and the students they serve.