Working for a good cause is no excuse for poor conditions
Director of Planning and resources, NCVO
Our sector is full of people who work tirelessly to create a better world for the people they serve, whether that means providing companionship to older people in their communities, keeping open a warm, safe space for homeless people every single night of the year or campaigning for more government action on climate change.
But this dedication can have consequences. It can result in too much pressure, unhealthy working environments, and ultimately in poor mental health and wellbeing. And the statistics tell us it does. In 2016, the Guardian found that only 43% of charity employees said they were happy or very happy in their jobs – far less than the national average of 61%. Charity staff were 25% more likely to have experienced stress than those in other sectors. Recent research from the Centre for Mental Health and ACEVO showed considerable issues with bullying and harassment in charities.
We’re often limited in the time and money we can put into supporting our staff.
We deal with unique challenges in the voluntary sector. The nature of the way charities operate means that contracts are far more likely to be short term and pay can be less competitive than in other sectors. We’re also often limited in the time and money we can put into supporting our staff. All these things can contribute to poorer mental health and wellbeing in our staff and volunteers. Working for a good cause can sometimes be used as an excuse for these poor conditions.
We mustn’t let this be the case.
We have a responsibility to never put the wellbeing of our people at risk in order to achieve our mission.
There are some things we cannot change about the nature of working in charities, and a focus on delivering our mission is part and parcel of our work, but there are most definitely things we can do to ensure that the mental health of our staff and volunteers can still thrive.
The Mental Health at Work website has resources and information that anyone working in a charity, but especially leaders and HR professionals, can use to support their workforce. It has material specifically designed for those working in charities and targeted at both larger and smaller organisations, including lots of ready-to-use practical resources and toolkits for time-poor managers which don’t need big budgets to implement.
We must take stock of what makes a good volunteer experience.
We also know from our research report Time Well Spent that volunteers can benefit hugely in terms of their mental health from volunteering, but we must take stock of what makes a good volunteer experience to make sure this is always the case. Volunteer managers can also make use of the Mental Health at Work website.
In order to be the best we can be as organisations which fight for social good, we must be made up of staff and volunteers who are happy and healthy. We have a responsibility to never put the wellbeing of our people at risk in order to achieve our mission. I encourage everyone who works with and in charities to use and share the Mental Health at Work website.