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Workplace Wellbeing in the Charity and Not-For-Profit Sector

Posted by Claire Stradling

It has been recently reported that 7 out of 10 employees have admitted to suffering from stress, financial strain and other personal issues over the past five years. It has become all the more important that employers, including those within the Charity and Not-For-Profit sector, know and understand the prevalence of mental health issues in the workforce and do what they can to create an open culture where employee mental health is addressed and understood.

Due to increased awareness regarding mental health, we know that at least 1 in 4 people will experience mental ill health at some point in their lives, that stress is the number one reason for employee absenteeism and, crucially, that many often feel unable or afraid to speak about their mental health openly in the workplace. However, this year as a nation, we have seen the highest amount of policy focus and public awareness regarding mental health than ever before - undoubtedly steps in the right direction.

It goes without saying that one of the key issues facing any employer is the retention of their valued workforce - an issue that unfortunately is only amplified in the charity sector, due to the plethora of other issues compounding the struggle to keep a hold of top talent. One way in which organisations can ensure the retention of their top talent is by focusing on the mental health and wellbeing of their workforce, by creating an open culture and putting in place frameworks to understand and support employees.

The Challenges of Supporting Employee Wellbeing in the Third Sector

Working in the Charity and Not-For-Profit sector does offer a number of benefits that give it the 'feel good' factor and a competitive edge when it comes to wellbeing and positivity about work over other industries. One of the most obvious benefits is the opportunity to contribute to a worthwhile cause and actually make a difference in the world. Knowing that the work done by charities benefits so many people is often cited by our clients as one of the biggest draws of the industry, and one of the main reasons people decide to work for an organisation in this sector. In many cases, this ultimately results in a sense of positivity and self-fulfilment, which has the potential to improve one's wellbeing.

This is great news for HR professionals working within the sector. Everybody knows a happy workforce is a productive one and this is a charity’s greatest asset! The third sector has known this for some time and it is certainly the sector which acknowledges and recognises most the issues of mental ill-health, and its early embracing of the concept of office wellbeing is really paying dividends whilst other sectors scramble to catch up.

However, work in the third sector does have its challenges when it comes to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of employees. Issues or problems at work can often be heightened in the Not-For-Profit sector, as employees tend to be more emotionally engaged with their job and the cause they are working for. As well as this, the reliance of many charities on networks of volunteers, part-time employees and people who work remotely also brings up its own wellbeing challenges, as well as what Maurice Wren describes as a "churn mentality" in the voluntary sector, which leads to feelings of job insecurity.

Yet, as a general rule, organisations in this sector have a smaller budget and therefore less manoeuvrability when implementing initiatives to improve employee wellbeing. There are initiatives that large, private sector companies may be able to introduce for their companies which just aren't possible for charities and Not-For-Profit organisation, such as private medical care and counselling, or complex frameworks to support employees financially. The unpredictable and unreliable nature of funding in this sector means funding for staff wellbeing and development often competes with the pressure to invest all resources into supporting vital charitable work and this, in turn, means that organisations need to rely on effective, but cheaper initiatives to support employee wellbeing - which doesn't come without challenges!

Despite this, charities and Not-For-Profit organisations, again and again, find creative and effective ways to improve wellbeing in the workplace. They offer fun and relaxed office environments - with some organisations allowing pets in the office which is proven to reduce stress and provide a happier working environment - flexible working arrangements including mental health and 'duvet days', and support networks within the organisation itself, to name but a few. This sector still remains ahead of the game in understanding, showing compassion, and supporting employees' mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. 

Here at Pro, we pride ourselves on our commitment to the welfare of our employees. Pat Keogh, our Managing Director, founded Pro-Recruitment Group in 2007 with the vision of creating the best workplace for employees, which, in turn, he believed would equate to a successful business. Our approach to wellbeing is reflected in our 4.6 out of 5 Glassdoor rating and some of the stand-out benefits that we offer here at Pro, put in place with our employees' wellbeing in mind, include flexi-time, 'dress for your diary', free tea, coffee and fresh fruit, corporate gym membership, private healthcare, return to work meetings and a "buddy system", and the creation of a fun culture and family-feel atmosphere.

We regularly meet with and speak to a range of HR professionals from the Charitable and Not-For-Profit sector, and time and time again wellbeing does seem to be at the top of many charities agendas - although, of course, there are always improvements to be made across the board when it comes to people's mental health and wellbeing.

For more information on this article, contact Claire Stradling, Manager of the Charity and Not-For-Profit team here at Pro who specialise in recruiting Finance, HR and Marketing roles in the Third sector.



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