Supporting Charity Workers’ Wellbeing – The Ultimate Guide

At The Anti-Burnout Club, we understand that working for a charity is both extremely rewarding and a lot of hard work. It can sometimes feel stressful or overwhelming, even when you’re working for a cause you feel so passionately about. 

According to research from Ecclesiastical, who surveyed 450 charities on the health and wellbeing of their teams, 66% of charities are concerned about staff burnout. This has risen exponentially since the beginning of 2020 as many charities saw an increase in workload which has led to an increase in stress levels.

We have created this workplace wellbeing guide specifically for the charity sector and charity workers, to help address some of the common issues currently impacting mental health and wellbeing.

Common Mental Health Concerns in the Charity Sector

Statistics show that charity workers and the sector as a whole are currently struggling with a rise in mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and stress. Research conducted by Third Sector found that 94.3% of charity workers had felt stressed, overwhelmed or burnt out over the past year.

The mental health wellbeing of charity workers is having a big impact on the sector as a whole, with a reported 44% of those surveyed considering leaving due to burnout. This could have a knock-on effect on other employees and service users, with fewer people available to carry out the important work charities do.

Anxiety and depression have also risen, with concerns about the pandemic being a key factor. Working from home, isolation, lack of work-life balance, and general health problems have also been a worry for charity workers.

Improving Staff Wellbeing in the Charity Sector

It’s clear that some huge strides need to be made for those in charity work, so within this guide we break down some useful ways of measuring and improving staff wellbeing and where else to find mental health wellbeing support.

You can also download our in-depth Wellbeing Pack for Charity Workers and Volunteers with step-by-step guides, templates and tools you can begin implementing right away.

Starting Conversations Around Mental Wellbeing

It can be difficult to open up conversations around mental wellbeing, however, according to Time to Change, the majority of employers say that getting their employees to share their personal experiences of mental health problems with one another is an incredibly powerful tool. 

One key way to start these open conversations is to encourage senior employees to speak out about their own mental health, to lead by example. When even just a few people begin to discuss their mental wellbeing, it cultivates a more open and honest workplace culture where people feel more comfortable discussing their mental health.

Conversations can be started at an organisation-wide level, but also on an individual level, and Q&A panels, group discussions, and peer-led wellbeing groups can also help to facilitate this. Giving people the time and space to discuss any mental health issues they may be facing with wellbeing leads, HR, or other appropriate departments is also vital.

Within our Wellbeing Pack for Charity Workers and Volunteers, we have listed out some Ice Breakers and other conversation starter topics to help during group discussions too.

Measuring Wellbeing 

Understanding where your employees are now, and regularly measuring their wellbeing, is key to ensuring that the changes you bring in are making a difference! We highly recommend starting off any wellbeing initiative by taking stock of where your team are right now and this can be done in a number of ways:

  • Looking for key indicators of poor mental health wellbeing in the workplace, such as a rise in absences and sick days, complaints about unmanageable workloads, or a high rate of staff turnover
  • Sending out an anonymous questionnaire to find out how people are feeling about their working environment and current stress or wellbeing levels
  • Organising a group activity and opening up an honest discussion around how people are feeling right now
  • Organising one-to-ones, where possible, to discuss issues your employees may be facing on an individual basis

There are also various tools that can be used to measure wellbeing, some of which we have included in our Wellbeing Pack for Charity Workers and Volunteers, and others that can be found on the Authentic Happiness website by Penn University and through The Health and Safety Executive stress indicator tool.

Not everyone will want to discuss their concerns one-to-one or have their names attached to their survey responses, so make sure there is a way of measuring wellbeing that gives your employees anonymity. 

Creating Wellness Action Plans

It’s a good idea to encourage employees to create their own Wellness Action Plans. The Wellness Action Plan (WAP), inspired by Mary Ellen Copeland’s Wellness Recovery Action Plan® (WRAP®) is used around the world to help people manage their workplace wellbeing.

These can be used as a personal tool for the employee themselves to use, as a way of opening up conversations in the workplace, and sometimes even as a way to come up with new ideas as to how managers can support their teams better. Usually, Wellness Action Plans are personal to the employees themselves, but in some cases, they may wish to share theirs with management, HR or wellbeing leads.

You can download our Wellness Action Plan template here or create your own. If creating your own template, generally it should include space for questions around:

  • Current working arrangements, including any support or adjustments they may have or need
  • What makes them feel mentally happy and healthy at work 
  • Any situations that may trigger poor mental health at work and/or early warning signs
  • How these situations or triggers may be managed in the workplace
  • What may have worked (or not worked) to improve their mental wellbeing in the past
  • How poor mental health may impact on their work (if at all)
  • What steps they may be able to take to manage any stress or mental health issues at work
  • What help or support they may need from management during these times

You may also wish to make a Workplace Wellness Action Plan or Employer Action Plan that covers findings from your surveys or conversations, what you’ll be doing to encourage better wellbeing in the workplace, and where people can find support should they need it. 

A small group of charity workers providing relief

Encouraging Time for Wellbeing in the Workplace

Studies have shown that work-life balance tops the list of what employees want from their employers, and so encouraging time for wellbeing in the workplace is an important step to take. Here are some ideas of how this can be done:

  • Insisting on regular breaks
  • Full lunch breaks to be taken away from desks/work
  • Avoid working outside of designated hours (eg, no calls or emails outside then)
  • Encourage employees to take their full leave entitlement
  • Duvet Days/Mental Health Days
  • Group wellbeing sessions/workshops/events during working hours 

Embedding this work-life balance into the culture of your company is key to it sticking, so that means everyone from senior management down needs to be on board!

Talks, Workshops and Events for Mental Health Wellbeing

A popular way to open up conversations and improve wellbeing in the workplace is through talks, workshops and even events. As charities, we understand that budgets can be tight for this kind of initiative, so here are some budget-friendly ways to approach this:

Run Your Own 

We have included guidance as to how you can run your own talks, workshops and events in our Wellbeing Pack for Charity Workers and Volunteers. We are also happy to discuss how we can help wellbeing leads or management run their own talks and workshops.

Volunteer/Peer-Led Events

If you are creating wellbeing groups within your charity, then you may ask for them to run their own events. Just be mindful that this will obviously be extra workload to manage for the volunteers, so ensure they have the time and space to facilitate this.

Free Courses/Challenges

We also run free courses and challenges at The Anti-Burnout Club that your team may like to get involved with! Check out our free resources page here.