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Massages, Mammograms, and Dental Care: How One School Saves Teachers’ Time

Teachers in the United States are notoriously short on time. They work an average of 53 hours per week, compared to 46 hours for other professionals, according to a 2023 nationally representative survey of K-12 public school teachers by the RAND Corp.

Annually, they spend 200 more hours at work than their teaching peers worldwide, according to 2022 data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. And, among the 86 percent of 1,800-plus K-12 educators surveyed by the EdWeek Research Center last December who said they were considering leaving their job, about half identified “amount of workload” as the reason.

Long and demanding workdays, coupled with very little flexibility regarding when they can take off during the school year, leaves little time for teachers to do even some of the basic things that are critical for their personal health and wellness—like maintaining a daily exercise routine or getting to annual doctor’s checkups and preventive screenings.

But some schools are trying to ease that burden in creative ways, and not just during National Teacher Appreciation Week, which was May 6-10 this year.

The Lovett School, an independent, co-ed K-12 school in Atlanta, tries to get ahead of the cumulative effects of stress to teachers by providing some significant benefits to its employees designed to save them time and enable them to attend to their health and wellness needs. Funding for the benefits comes primarily from the school’s general budget (as opposed to ESSER funding, a grant, or other less permanent income stream), signaling the school’s commitment to them.

Many public and private schools might scoff at the notion of paying for extraneous perks out of their general budget or simply feel they cannot do it financially. Or they might consider those efforts less of a budget priority than student-centered initiatives around improving reading and other academic skills.

Still, some estimates put the toll of teachers’ unmanaged stress—which negatively affects their personal health and teaching performance—at billions of dollars to U.S. schools annually. When looked at that way, the up-front costs of time-saving health and wellness employee benefits may be worth considering, experts say.

“We really try to understand which benefits meet the needs of our employees,” said Chorlana Francis, the school’s head of human resources. “And we know that when teachers are finished with school at the end of the day, they’re trying to manage their time.”

Here’s how Lovett gets employee input on perks, and some of the time-saving benefits for teachers they’ve implemented to date:

Teacher feedback drives decisions around perks

At Lovett, employee feedback drives a lot of decisions around perks, especially those related to health and wellness—beyond the usual medical, dental, and vision insurance benefits that employers offer. “We make decisions based on employee feedback, not on what other schools are doing,” said Francis. “Employees consistently tell us: Don’t change the benefits.”

The school gets that feedback a couple different ways. It administers engagement and wellness surveys. It also hosts on-campus benefits fairs during school hours. This lets employees learn more about current offerings like the time-saving TextCare, a service that connects employees via text message to a care provider within five minutes for minor ailments.

During these fairs, the school sometimes brings in vendors to gauge employees’ interest in adopting new perks. Recently, employees tested out the services of Stretchlab, a one-on-one assisted stretch studio.

Expanding free, onsite massages and yoga

The school also offers employees free, onsite massage services. Given the popularity of the 15-minute massages, the school recently increased their frequency from quarterly to monthly. Free, onsite wellness classes (including yoga and pilates) at the end of the school day reduce the need for teachers to figure out when and how to squeeze exercise into their schedules.

Scheduling medical appointments presents a particularly big challenge to teachers, whose work hours tend to mirror those of many health care providers.

At Lovett, twice-a-year onsite dental and mobile mammography clinics (hosted by companies that accept employees’ insurance plans) eliminate the stress of scheduling these important services.

“It’s really useful for people when they don’t have to run to the dentist,” said Heidi Gray, who teaches 9th- and 11th-grade history at Lovett and has worked at the school for 23 years. “Educators have very specific demands related to convenience, because of our schedules. And I think Lovett has been good at identifying things that employees want.”

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