In recent years, in no small part due to the ongoing pandemic, mental health and wellbeing have been brought to the forefront of discussion within education. This push towards a school or trust's responsibility for staff wellbeing was the basis of discussion in 'Putting Staff First' by John Tomsett and Jonny Uttley. The book calls for schools and trusts to work strategically to improve working conditions for all staff members. Similar sentiments were echoed from the Department of Education's Education Workforce Wellbeing Charter last year, which outlined their commitment to developing a long-term strategy for improving staff wellbeing and mental health. Even before COVID-19, signs of poor wellbeing were evident in our Staff Wellbeing and Working Conditions Report in 2019. In this research, we discovered 46% of teachers had considered resigning in the past three months. So in this post, we thought we'd look at how teachers and school leaders can learn to support teacher burnout - as curated from others in the education sector. 

How To Identify What Burnout Looks Like 

It's useful to note that there is a difference between burnout and stress. For instance, stress comes and goes, whereas burnout is often long-term and can affect the individual's general outlook on life more adversely. Do you know what combination of feelings burnout usually refers to? Well, the WHO summaries workplace burnout using the three following attributes

1) Exhaustion: Burnout can often cause people to feel too depleted and exhausted to continue with their work. 

2) Cynicism: When experiencing burnout, individuals can also start to feel detached from their jobs, leading to negativity and a cynical view of their profession. 

3) Inefficacy: Burnout can also lead to a negative self-image at work leading to thoughts of incompetence and ineffectiveness. 

What Does Burnout Look Like in Teachers? 

If left unaddressed, Mental Health UK advises that burnout can cause further harm to your physical and mental health in the future and even leave you unable to meet your job/life's demands. For instance, when teachers become stressed and fatigued, they are likely to lose their sense of purpose and withdraw from their work. This withdrawal from work can also be felt by their students, who over time also begin to become less engaged.

Signs of Burnout in Teachers 

Education Corner recommends there are many telltale signs when a teacher is starting to feel burnout, including: 

 • Caring less about student discipline and classroom management  
Lower standards for students and self
Constant fatigue  
Failure to properly plan
Increased negative attitude towards school and students 
Not having colleagues to talk to 
Being bored of the job* 
Lack of physical or emotional energy 
Not being understanding of students and their situations 
Feeling anxious about going to work 
Constantly feeling overwhelmed by their workload
Lack of meaningful professional development  


Signs of burnout in teachers 

1) Caring less 2) Constant fatigue 3) Failure to properly plan 4) Increased negative attitude 5) Not having colleagues to talk to 6) Being bored of the job 7) Lack of energy 8) Not being understanding of students 9) Feeling anxious about work 10) Constantly overwhelmed by their workload 11) Lack of professional development

* Interestingly, according to Education Corner, burnout in new teachers causes them to be overwhelmed and stressed with the demands of their job. Older teachers tend to feel bored as a result of burnout. 

What Usually Causes Burnout in Teachers?

There are often many stressors that lead to teachers burning out, such as: 

1) Work Overload


This image features a graph from Edurio's Staff Wellbeing and Working Conditions Report 2019. The questions the graph shows data on is teacher's response to the question "How often do you feel overworked?"

0.3% said never, 3.7% said rarely, 31% said sometimes, 44% said often and 21% constantly.

Education Corner reports in their article on teacher burnout that teachers are often tasked with doing more than they can possibly do in a typical workday. In our 2019 Staff Wellbeing and Working Conditions Report, we found that two thirds of teachers stated that they constantly or often feel overworked - as seen in the chart. 

2) Work-life Balance: 

Following the point above, a lack of separation between work-life and homelife can result in teachers having to do more work at home and outside of school hours, leading to burnout due to a lack of work-life balance. At the end of the day, it’s best if teachers can leave work at school in order to properly benefit from time away from work. 

3) Unclear Professional Development: 

Regarding teacher burnout, We Are Teachers contemplate how a lack of professional development can hinder teacher wellbeing and performance. If teachers feel like their time and skills aren't amounting to a fulfilling job role or general further career development, they can feel burnt out as their efforts produce no clear achievements.  

4) Little Support from School:

Education Corner remarked that if communication breaks down between leaders and teachers, teachers often feel more burnt out as they don't have their school's support.

5) High Emotional Demands:

According to the School of Education, another reason for added stress can be the need for teachers to care for students' emotional needs on top of their academic needs. This can be emotionally demanding and can lead to burnout.  

What Steps Can Teachers Take to Improve Their Own Wellbeing? 

Regardless of why burnout occurs in teachers, all types of stress and poor wellbeing have an all too real impact on teachers' day to day lives. In a teacher's blog on Mind UK, one student teacher commented on how work-related anxiety had affected her: 

"I've cried alone in my car these past few months more times than I can probably count." 

If you're a teacher looking for recommendations or suggestions to help you be more mindful and improve your wellbeing, this section below is for you. ​​Of course, we're not suggesting these tips alone will change your life; we've simply collected information from other education or mental health organisations to make it easier for you to take small steps towards improving your wellbeing. 

1) Learn How to Check-In and Manage Your Own Wellbeing 

As Education Support writes, teachers need to take the time to learn about their wellbeing and know when to 'check in' before they're burnt out. Meditation App, Headspace, refers to this as an opportunity to 'press pause', stop, look around and notice how tired or burnt out you are. 

Both Education Corner and Education Support advise teachers to make sure they take time for themselves and learn how to take charge of their wellbeing. This can be different depending on the individual, but ultimately, they advise that teachers shouldn't lose themselves in devotion to their careers and make sure they do things that make them feel physically and mentally happy. From watching your favourite TV show, creating (and sticking) to a gym schedule or spending more time with family, any of these can help. 

2) Question the Impact of Your Work

In her book, The Weekend Effect, Katrina Onstad argues that we live in a "cult of overwork", and being a workaholic is often celebrated as a virtue when it shouldn't be.

For example, a teacher's personal account from an Education Support article states:

"Before my breakdown, I did everything I thought I had to do to succeed; yet too much of that work had little impact on student outcomes. Learning to question the purpose of tasks and other requests has helped me to reduce my day-to-day workload." 

3) Learn How to Say No 

Education Support remarks that learning the power of saying no was essential for teachers' health, wellbeing and even sanity

Saying ‘no’ may sound like a simple action to take if it improves your wellbeing, right? However, according to Vanessa Bohns (a professor of organisational behaviour at Cornell University), "We have an instinctive need for connection to other people—it's essential to our survival. We worry that saying no will break these bonds."

But Education Corner argues to save yourself from burning out, especially as a teacher, sometimes you just have to say, "Sorry, I can't do that". 

5) Take Mental Health Days 

Sometimes you just have to accept you need to take a day off to get better. As Time Out for Teachers states, teachers making sure they take time off is not only better for their mental health but also for their students and wider school communities' wellbeing. 

6) Leave Work at School

Education World argues it's vital to make sure you leave work at work, giving you more free time after the school day. While they acknowledge that this is tough for most teachers, it can be constructive when dealing with emotional exhaustion. 

7) Write Down 6 Highlights of the Day 

Teaching English recommends writing 6 highlights down a day to help combat your brain dwelling on the day's negatives. Doing this each day, you train yourself to focus on the positives and what works in your role instead of fixating on the problems. 

What Can School Leaders Do to Reduce Teacher Burnout? 

In the next section, we’ll be looking at ways school leaders can support their staff, mostly teachers. Yet, some advice can be applied also to support staff.

Looking after your staff members' wellness is no easy task, but it is essential to foster thriving learning environments. Improving teacher wellbeing is not only beneficial for your teachers and pupils Mentally Healthy Schools recommend it's also crucial in order to retain and motivate staff. In our Staff Wellbeing and Working Conditions Report, we echoed this sentiment, stating: 

So, gathered below are recommendations for school leaders which can help improve their teacher wellbeing and prevent burnout. 

1)  Increase Teacher Autonomy:

Giving teachers more autonomy can improve job satisfaction and retention. The United Kingdom's National Foundation for Educational Research recently identified strong links between teacher autonomy and retention. Its findings suggest that involving teachers in activities that highlight their independence can significantly affect their morale and motivate them to stay. For example, school leaders can involve teachers in goal setting rather than imposing goals on teachers. Additionally, education leaders can consider giving teachers more control over the curricula they select and their teaching content.

2) Survey Teachers—And Listen to Them: 

An account from Headteacher Jenny Rigby at Meadow High School in Hillingdon uncovered how they improved mental health and wellbeing in their school using a work-life survey to help pinpoint areas that were most important to their staff for improvement. 

"Once we get our survey results in, we set up small working parties for the areas that score very low. For example, one of the early problems we unearthed was poor communication between staff which meant many people felt out of the loop."

3) Schedule Planning Time for Teachers: 

As teachers' responsibilities grow, so do their work hours—time that for many teachers crosses over into personal time, eating away at hours they desperately need to decompress and relax. Edutopia advises that school leaders can help alleviate this stress by scheduling planning time for teachers to prevent them from working out of hours. 

4) Model and Support Wellness: 

According to Katy Farber, a professional development coordinator, teacher stress levels can be on par with those of emergency room doctors and nurses. So, school leaders need to set an example towards the importance of wellness and self-care.  

5) Celebrate Teacher Accomplishments:

School leaders should celebrate teachers’ and support staff’s accomplishments by championing their hard work. Education Corner says this can even be something as simple as a quick email exclaiming what a great job a teacher has done.

5) Lighten the Load: 

Many support staff and teachers burn out because they're spread so thin for way too long until they can't take anymore. However, leaders can help with this by stepping up their support for staff in any way possible. Consider if there could be opportunities to allow for more planning time, flexible schedules and chances for teachers to talk to their peers to build a sense of community.

7) Improve Professional Development: 

Education Corner recommends that school leaders offer professional development opportunities to help teachers plan meaningful and purposeful careers. 

8) Provide Tips for Stress Management:

Education leaders can help teachers manage their stress and overall wellbeing. Teachers can avoid the hopelessness and emotional drain that often leads to teacher burnout with the proper support and guidance. School leaders can advocate for this by encouraging a better work-life balance and time away from work in the evenings

In addition, workshops, counselling, and training sessions can offer teachers mechanisms to help them become more aware of stress levels and provide them with the right tools to deal with them. 

What Steps Can You Take Next to Prevent Teacher Burnout? 

We hope these recommendations can serve as discussion starters within your schools or trusts regarding teacher wellbeing. In addition to this, we welcome you to share suggestions or case studies of school improvements your trust has implemented to promote staff wellbeing. 

If you're a teacher or would like to guide a teacher to help, don't wait for a crisis. Call the following helpline, 08000 562 561 or text MIND in partnership with Twinkl. Further support can also be found on the BBC website.

At Edurio, our Staff Working Conditions and Wellbeing survey also provides opportunities for leaders to understand how staff feel about aspects of their lived experience in the workplace, which could affect their wellbeing. If you'd like to find out more about this survey, please get in touch via