The third sector, consisting of non-profit organisations and charities, plays a crucial role in addressing social issues and supporting communities. However, the demanding nature of the work, coupled with limited resources and high expectations, can lead to staff burnout, i.e. a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by chronic workplace stress.
Recognising the signs
Charity managers should be vigilant in identifying signs of burnout in their staff members. Common indicators may include increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, decreased enthusiasm, emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and a decline in the quality of their work.
Addressing root causes
It’s crucial for charity managers to understand the root causes of burnout. These can include heavy workloads, limited resources, high emotional demands, and a lack of work-life balance. By addressing these underlying factors, managers can take proactive steps to mitigate the risk of burnout.
Promote open communication
Encourage staff members to share their concerns and frustrations openly. Regular team meetings, one-on-one discussions and anonymous feedback mechanisms can create a safe space for employees to express their challenges. Don’t treat this exercise as a formality; actively listen to the concerns of your staff and take appropriate actions to address them.
Encourage healthy work-life boundaries
Prioritise a healthy work-life balance for all staff by promoting flexible working hours, providing adequate holiday entitlement and setting realistic expectations. Encourage staff members to take breaks and disconnect from work when their shift has finished.
Foster a positive work environment
Cultivate a positive work environment that values teamwork, collaboration and recognition. Encourage staff members to support one another, celebrate achievements, and provide constructive feedback. Promote a sense of belonging and foster a culture that values mental health and well-being.
Provide training and development opportunities
Invest in your people and consider sending them on professional development programmes and training courses. Empowering employees with new skills and knowledge not only enhances their performance but also shows that you value their individual growth and development.
Allocate resources wisely
Recognise the importance of adequate staffing and resource allocation. Overburdening employees due to limited resources can lead to burnout. You may think it wise, as a charity, to scrimp and save wherever possible; however, staffing levels should not be part of this.
Consider also that, if your staff member is signed off by the doctor, you will not only have to pay statutory sick pay (and maybe more, according to their contract) you’ll have even fewer staff to get the work done. It’s not worth the risk. Penny-pinching when it comes to working hours will always backfire.
Also ensure that employee workloads are manageable, and consider redistributing responsibilities or hiring additional staff where necessary.
Educate staff members about the importance of self-care and provide resources to support their well-being. These may include the offer of wellness programmes, access to counselling services and promoting healthy activities such as exercise, mindfulness and stress management techniques. Lead by example and also encourage your managers/supervisors to prioritise self-care.
Foster a culture of recognition
Regularly acknowledge, appreciate and value the efforts of your taff members. Recognise their achievements, milestones, and contributions to the charity’s mission. Celebrate successes collectively, both big and small, and provide opportunities for staff members to shine.
Encourage peer support networks
Establish peer support networks within the organisation or arrange third party mentors to support staff if you’re a small organisation. Encourage your employees to lean on one another for support, to share experiences, and to offer assistance. Peer support can create a sense of solidarity and help individuals cope with the challenges they face.
Staff burnout is a significant concern in the third sector, given the demanding nature of the work and charities’ limited resources. However, charity managers can play a crucial role in supporting their staff members and mitigating burnout risks.