Sustaining early childhood educator work-related well-being: Perspectives from early childhood organisational stakeholders

Helen Logan, Charles Sturt University, Australia (
Tamara Cumming, Charles Sturt University, Australia (
Sandie Wong, Macquarie University, Australia (

Background: The capacity of early childhood educators to function well at work is critical to providing high-quality programs for children. Yet, researchers and policy makers have been slow to investigate influences on educator wellbeing from the perspectives of organisations that employ them. Investigating these perspectives can contribute to improved work environments through reduced absenteeism, turnover, injury and accident rates and high levels of employee morale and motivation. Ultimately, it can contribute to the health of educators and sustaining the early childhood workforce.

Aim: to investigate the knowledge and understandings of key personnel, responsible for educator well-being in ECEC organisations.

Method: Individual semi-structured elite interviews of approximately one hour in duration were completed by the first author with senior managers of nine large early childhood organisations. These organisations have responsibility for over 22,000 early childhood educators, Australia-wide. The decision to utilise semi-structured interviews was based on the notion that this flexibility would give access to specialised knowledge that is difficult to obtain from texts alone. Interviews were transcribed in full through the use of a professional transcribing service. Transcripts were analysed using conventional content analysis.

Results: Four themes were identified in the data from senior managers about educator wellbeing. The first theme related to the importance of recognising educator health and safety as a key priority in organisations and the supports required to ensure physical and emotional safety. The second theme focused on operational issues for management and its challenges, especially for staff who are centre directors. The third theme of invisibility identified the complexities in educator’s work in providing services to children and families which can have an impact on educators’ personal wellbeing and may not easily be evident to others in the workplace. The final theme focused on building supportive work environments, including aspects of workplace design and staffing practices.

Conclusions: Senior managers’ responses to educators’ wellbeing through the provision of resources was valuable and affirming, however, it can divert attention away from structural and organisational climate issues that compromises educator wellbeing on a larger scale. This research indicated an absence of coordinated and embedded attention to educator work-related wellbeing in policies, practices and regulatory requirements.

Implications for children: Educators love it when you come to childcare. They look forward to each day when you arrive and hope you are happy to be there. But just like you, they want to have fun and feel safe at childcare too.

Implications for families: Educators enjoy working in childcare. However, just like many of you need to be safe and supported at work, educators need to be safe and feel their wellbeing is supported, in order to care for your children. Unfortunately, not all childcare services promote the wellbeing of their educators. Improving educator wellbeing at work will lead to happier, healthier educators to care for your children.

Implications for practitioners: Educator well-being is a two-way responsibility between you and the organisation in which you are employed. Because it’s a shared responsibility we need to talk about it together.

Key words: educator wellbeing; early childhood organisations; wellbeing; professional voices; adult work environments; elite interviews.

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: