In Guest Blog, News


Beating Burnout in the Charity Sector

Marcela Heime: Ambassador for Health and Wellbeing

Stress and insufficient funding are adversely affecting the non-profit sector. A comprehensive approach is required to overcome these challenges, which includes collaboration, advocacy, strategic planning, and a focus on sustainability.

Highlighting the importance of managing stress at the workplace should be one of the top priorities in the charity sector. There has been a significant rise in the number of volunteers and workers who are struggling with workplace stress. The primary reasons for this are the high demand for services and teams that are understaffed. The staff also manage situations with stressed clients and users due to lockdowns, energy crisis, and the cost of living.

Pair of male hands held up against a face, covered in scribbles, representing mental stress.

Experiencing stress, anxiety, or feeling overwhelmed can greatly impact the lives of individuals and colleagues, as well as the workplace as a whole.

Simply following standard stress management techniques in a rigid and straightforward manner as many academic methods suggest, may not be sufficient. Instead, we should adopt a more empathetic approach towards these methods, ensuring that we are integrating them into our daily work life. We should also include them in our employee handbook, policies, and procedures, and use them as a tool to assist and support our staff.

Stress impacts five key areas of life: mental, physical, emotional, social and spiritual. As an employer, being aware and supporting staff in these areas can make a huge difference.

As an organisation it is your responsibility to provide policies that promote and educate employees on the importance of mental and physical health. This includes dealing with stress as well as areas such as sleep, nutrition, and recovery. Creating spaces with natural elements such as plants, and encouraging walk meetings can also be beneficial. Your policies and procedures should include and guide the employees and more importantly managers and leaders should lead by example.

“Around 60-90% of what a doctor sees on any given day is related to stress. It disrupts your sleep, your digestion and increases your risk of almost all diseases from type 2 diabetes to heart disease, anxiety and depression. But in our modern world where we’re running away from emails rather than tigers, reducing the influx of constant stressors is a lot easier said than done” – Zoe podcast,  Dr Rangan Chatterjee – Doctor & Professor, Podcast ‘Feel Better, Live More’, (200 million listens), Creator ‘The 3 Question Journal’. Author 5 Bestselling Books.

On the emotional side, the adoption of an empathetic approach by checking-in, and during your one-to-one meetings can facilitate a com prehensive understanding of an employee’s experiences and allow for a deeper insight into the gravity of their situation. This approach in turn enables line managers to offer more effective assistance. By walking in their employee’s shoes line managers can gain a greater understanding of their predicament and offer support that is well-suited to their individual needs. The efficacy of such an approach can play a critical role in fostering positive employee engagement and promoting a healthy organisational culture.

“Just under 9 million people in the UK – are not looking for or are not able to work. Recently the biggest growth has been among those reposting long-term illness, now at a record high of around 2.7 million. This decline in working-age health is causing concern among employers, politicians and policymakers.” – The Health Foundation podcast – episode 40: Why aren’t we working?

Focus on being proactive in building social connections with real intention among your employees. Seek support from other agencies that offer activities and events that can be beneficial to both your employees and theirs own teams. Create spaces that allow employees with similar hobbies and interests to connect and grow together. Also consider connecting with other charities to create a support network. Another option is to encourage peer support.

The NHS Employees Org utilise a scheme of Buddying System which states:Implementing a buddying system allows colleagues to connect and share experiences with team members, allowing for essential reflection and decompressing of challenging work situations. Having a buddy means your staff feel more connected, included and part of a team, as well as enabling colleagues to detect any early signs of work-related stress. This may be particularly beneficial for frontline shift or ambulance workers who rotate shifts frequently and may not have a group of colleagues they see regularly.

Three people siting on the floor of an office space, meditating.

Last but not least. “Spirituality” in a professional environment can refer to an organisation’s efforts to cultivate an environment that supports the spiritual needs of its employees and encourages their personal growth. This can be accomplished through various means, such as promoting mindfulness, providing opportunities for reflection, and facilitating open and honest communication.

Organisations can promote spiritual wellbeing by implementing programs or initiatives such as short meditation sessions, mindfulness training, or simple breathing exercises. A short breathing practice is free and could be a great way to start your weekly meeting agenda.

Why not begin by implementing a stress-at-work policy? This policy should clearly outline the steps you, as an employer are taking to manage stress in the workplace. It should be a working document that guides your organization in identifying, preventing, and managing stress across your entire staff.

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