The four words leaders must remember – ‘self care, self aware’

Kristiana Wrixon
Kristiana Wrixon

Head of policy, ACEVO

Earlier this year ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) launched a leadership framework which was co-produced with a group of our members and comprises six core competencies that every active leader needs. One of these competencies is ‘self care, self aware’. Leaders should take into account individuals’ self-care and well-being (including their own), and how this impacts the culture of the organisation they work for. Passion is one of the defining features of people working in civil society organisations but good leaders should be able to ignite passion in themselves and others without burning out. As Jenny, our head of leadership and governance, often reminds us, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’.

ACEVO’s vision is for civil society leaders to make the biggest possible difference. I know that some leaders can feel, or be made to feel, that working for as hard and as long as they can is the way to best serve their beneficiaries. But neglecting our own or our team’s well-being will always end up costing more in the long run. Healthy, well workplaces result in less frequent staff turnover, less stress or sickness related absence Dealing with staff absences Sometimes, an employee might need time off to manage their mental health. These resources can help your organisation to cope. View toolkit and higher productivity.

A boss and her employee have a one-to-one meeting.
Behaviour modelled by those in the most senior positions often trickles down to the rest of the organisation.

Focusing on staff well-being isn’t necessarily about costly enrichment programmes but making sure the basics are done right. Regular one-to-ones, annual appraisals, regular feedback, clear delegation and flexible working arrangements are all foundations of a well workplace.

For CEOs we know that too often these basics don’t happen. 35% of CEOs responding to our Pay and Equalities Survey 2019 told us that they don’t have a regular appraisal, and 22% do not have a current set of objectives or a statement of delegated authority. We also found that on average CEOs work 10 additional hours per week – almost one and a half days over a standard five.

Behaviour modelled by those in the most senior positions often trickles down to the rest of the organisation. If, as a chair or CEO, you are not prioritising your or your immediate line reports’ well-being, staff care and support, then it is likely that this will be reflected at least in some way in the culture and behaviour elsewhere in the organisation.

We are trying to open up conversations about topics that previously may have been put in the ‘too uncomfortable’ or ‘too hard’ column.

Earlier this year ACEVO and the Centre for Mental Health released a report called In Plain Sight: Workplace bullying in charities and the implications for leadership. The report shone a light on the experience of people who have been bullied in a charity workplace and made six recommendations to create safer systems, processes and cultures. The report showed that bullying behaviour is an issue at all levels, and has a huge impact on the mental health of individuals. People that have experienced bullying told us they had experienced situational depression ​Symptoms of depression and their effects on employment PDF At least one in six workers is experiencing common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. This report addresses some key questions about how depression can affect work. Free By: The Work Foundation View resourceand anxiety​Workplace anxiety and work-related anxiety Web page Anxiety can be caused by issues inside or outside the workplace, and it's worth employers making efforts to look out for signs that an employee might need support. This page from Acas has a range of tips.Free By: Acas View resource, panic attacks, and struggled with sleep deprivation​Sleep and recovery: a toolkit for employers PDF Sleep is essential for good health and wellbeing: better sleep is the biggest single contributor to living better. This toolkit has insight and advice for employers to address the increasingly damaging sleep-loss epidemic.Free By: Business in the Community View resource.

Three colleagues discuss their experiences

Preventing bullying behaviour and mental health in the workplace are interconnected, not just because bullying behaviour can cause people to experience mental ill health, but because both fall under the wider umbrella of an ‘inclusive well workplace’. Across ACEVO’s policy work, we are trying to open up conversations​Start the conversation Video One of the first, and easiest, things you can do to start improving mental health at work is simply to start a conversation. In this video, people from various industries talk about the importance of talking to someone.Free By: Dorset Mind View resource about topics that previously may have been put in the ‘too uncomfortable’ or ‘too hard’ column. This isn’t because ACEVO has all the answers, or because we are doing it all right, but because we think that we can achieve greater change through transparency and by developing a culture of shared learning. ACEVO is committed to the following actions to improve its own practice:

By having more conversations about workplace culture and creating mentally well workplaces I hope that the voluntary sector will become a more inclusive and healthier place to work. In turn this will enable us to do more for the people and causes we serve.

About this website

Your guide to mental health at work

Whether you work with 10 people, 10,000 people or just yourself, paying attention to mental health in the workplace has never been more important.

Find out more

The Mental Health at Work website will close on 30 June 2024.

If there any of our toolkits, stories and resources that you may want to refer to later, we recommend you download them now.

The Mental Health at Work Commitment, the Interactive Guide and some key supporting content will move to Mind’s website after this date.

Find out more in our FAQs