Published by CELA on 10 Sep, 2018

Spring is a great time to refresh and renew your environment at work. Do you need some inspiration to transform a space in your service into a sanctuary? CELA gets you on track.

Story by CELA writers Margaret Paton and Bec Lloyd.

A room with a view to wellbeing

Unlike schools, not every early learning service has a formal staffroom, but whether you have a reserved ‘adults only’ room or not you can still create a sanctuary with your team.

Just like schools, early childhood service staff benefit from a place where they can retreat at times, share camaraderie, hold meetings, and come away uplifted and refreshed.

In fact, some research shows that educators are more likely to benefit from professional development resources and training if it happens in a shared workspace like a staffroom, than if they take materials and courses home to absorb there.

Staffroom goals

Step one is to assess your facilities and this is where educators at some older, smaller services will already be grinding their teeth in frustration.

There many services with delightful, purpose-built staffrooms that might only need a tweak or two each year to make them more personal to the current team.

We have a 6-seater dining set, a desk, two fridges, a book case, 2 x 2 seater lounges, and an entertainment setup and a BBQ, and still have plenty of room and without disturbing the [lake] view.

Alina via Facebook

There are other services with staffrooms that we have seen described in online discussions as ‘cramped’, ‘a junk room’, ‘really unappealing’, or even ‘grim’.

Then there are services with no space set aside for staff at all – either because the facilities don’t have room (and are in a state where it’s not required) or because the team is so small it hasn’t been seen as necessary.

[If you’ve already got a room set aside just for staff, you might want to skip ahead in this story

to read about ways to make it a place of wellbeing and reflection!]

Small teams, big ideas

If you don’t have a staffroom on site, chances are you’re working in an older building with a relatively small team, perhaps including a director, one or two educators and a part time administration officer.

Typically you’ll have one small office space plus a kitchenette and/or utility room where you may store supplies and also hold meetings with parents, suppliers, community partners and regulators.

In a small team, too, you have fewer opportunities to be off the floor at the same time as any other educators during the day.

Get creative

This doesn’t mean you won’t each benefit by being able to sit down in a dedicated adult space from time to time, even if that is in a single comfy armchair in a corner away from the public parts of your building.  Perhaps there’s a nook under a stairway, in a bay window, or a corner that could be transformed as shown in these Pinterest collections (try searching Google or Pinterest for ‘small space ideas’ or ‘reading nooks’ for inspiration).

Cast a creative eye over your layout. Could you take some entry space over as a meeting room – grants may be available to help you with the cost of minor building work like adding a non-structural wall or you might be able to add sliding room dividers.

Have you got a quiet area outside you can put a bench seat or chairs/table? Some days sitting outside in the quiet is more relaxing than inside. 

Sass via Facebook

Failing that – look outdoors for a corner that could work as an adult sanctuary in most weather conditions.

Is there a sunny spot that could fit a small outdoor table and chairs, or just a bench seat for two? Can it be screened with tall pot plants or a lattice from the rest of the garden area so it makes a space for some reading time or chance to confer with a colleague?

Outdoor staff room
Is there an outdoor space where adults can meet or relax?

The regulations

Ours is the size of a closet!

Kate, via Facebook

The clearest advice we could find says staffrooms should be about 12 square metres – that’s the indicative requirement from South Australia’s Department of Education and Children’s Services design standards and guidelines for early childhood facilities.

However, the SA guide says the size varies depending on ‘specific circumstances and uses’. It also says staffrooms should be away from the entrance, have acoustic ceilings, carpet, have a half-glazed and lockable single door, an external or internal windows, have space for a fridge, sink, display board, cold and hot water (the latter set at 45oC) plus have a phone, fax and internet service.

Meanwhile, the NSW Child Care Planning Guideline for childcare facilities – released in 2017 to combine planning regulations with the NQF – only mentions ‘staffroom’ in a suggested layout for a service. It appears to be roughly 8sqm.

The Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government doesn’t mention staff rooms in its guidelines for child care facility planning and development. A 231-page national report, the Best Practice Guideline for the Planning and Development of Child Care Facilities, issued September 2013, doesn’t include the word staffroom either nor is it in ACECQA’s operational requirements.

Make it authentic

What functions does your staff room have? Is it also your educational leader’s office, the staff kitchen, the PD library, a supply storeroom, craft preparation area and information noticeboard area?

Is the space used for one-on-one meetings with the director, or for members of the public and parents?  If so, how authentic does the space feel as a sanctuary for educators?

You can make the space more welcoming and productive by agreeing as a team what it should be used for, and when.  If rooms are limited, perhaps there can be a rule that director meetings take place in the staffroom only before lunch and after hours. If the space is cluttered by too many uses, perhaps a bench outside can be used for craft prep and the information notices.

Making the space authentic to staff means canvassing their ideas and finding common ground for how your staffroom area is used.

I like the idea of a big table that fits everyone on break to provide an opportunity to share ideas offer input and share conversation about their morning. Fresh smells, maybe a water feature would be relaxing for background noise. Pictures of their family. Plants, I personally love the lucky Chinese vines/bamboo. Coffee and chocolate.

Carena via Facebook

Say it with words

Notice or message boards and staffrooms go together, so check out Pinterest’s best pins on staffroom ideas for inspirational text prompts. Lighten up with an ‘educator themed’ joke of the day pinned to a noticeboard.

A large format calendar is a given – use it to note staff birthdays as well as work-related info.

Many services use their staffrooms to share ‘kudos’ or inspirational notes.  These can be sticky notes that parents and/or educators write on with little messages of support, appreciation, and celebration.  Some services place these where everyone can read them, others keep them to the staffroom if the content is likely to be more about personal challenges and triumphs.

Making it comfy

Here are some additional suggestions we’ve found to add fresh life to your service’s staffroom with their practical or calming applications:

  • a fruit bowl
  • coffee machine and a range of different teas
  • filtered water station
  • foot and leg massager/foot spa
  • quiet corner for staff to get some ‘alone time’
  • a found-object or nature bowl – they aren’t just for children!
  • coat and hat stand or hooks
  • cubby holes for bags and backpacks
  • phone charging station with a range of cable fittings
  • over-ear headphones (they can be cleaned) to listen to music or podcasts privately
  • open shelving to easily see what’s where
  • light reading material as well as professional references
  • digital photo frame of a mix of photos that celebrate staff
  • as large a sofa as possible, or armchairs and beanbags
  • a feature wall in a different colour
  • rotation of artwork by educators
  • equipment to play quiet music or relevant podcasts (or anything but Baby Shark!)

I put some colouring-in and a pack of colour pencils to help the educators relax as I hear it’s very therapeutic…sometimes you need that!

Bhavani via Facebook

Move over for a makeover

Some staffrooms are fitted out with designer furniture to match an overall branding scheme. Others have a ‘government grey’ or ‘hospital green’ aesthetic that is functional but not uplifting, while some have workable but dated furniture. However, even well-equipped staffrooms may have room for a more personal approach or some changes to reflect the current team. Look around: where are the opportunities?

Just as we said earlier about authenticity, a staffroom makeover is a chance to discuss your team’s style as part of your professional working relationships.  Maybe you want a more homely feel – can you trade in the boardroom table for a dining setting instead? Or maybe you want a more professional look, so here’s a chance to hit the flatpack furniture stores for affordable office chic.

We have two lounges and a little nook with a fluffy rug, beanbags and little [stools].

Emily via Facebook

Whether you want to deal with furniture or not, you can always make a big difference on a small budget with artwork, natural objects (think interesting rocks, flowers, plants), clever storage systems, fresh curtains or blinds, and the option of floor and table lamps rather than overhead fluorescent tubes.

One of the most-craved additions to a staffroom makeover seems to be soft furnishing.  If you can’t fit a sofa, can you install an armchair or even (if your team’s backs and knees can cope) a couple of adult size bean bags? Pinterest offers these “jaw dropping” makeovers as just a few examples of transforming your staffroom with any size budget.

We have a table to eat at, coffee machine, fridge, microwave, a large whiteboard where notices and our roster can be put up/written on. Some inspirational posters as well.

Marly via Facebook

So, whether you have a designer lounge or a Harry Potter-style cupboard under the stairs as you staffroom, don’t limit your creativity in making it a sanctuary.

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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