Mental health Awareness and wellbeing in the VCSE workplace

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The World Health Organisation defines good mental health as ‘a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.’   

Wellbeing in the VCSE environment 

A recent survey by Third Sector magazine highlighted the unique demands that working in the charitable sector creates. It found the following: 

  • 94 per-cent of charity workers suffered from stress, exhaustion and burnout during 2020. 
  • Respondents reported being overwhelmed because of work demands.  
  • 91 per-cent felt a commitment to the charity’s mission drove them to work longer hours or take on more than they could cope with.  
  • Many cited a pressure to perform, not wanting to let colleagues down, or their personal drive and commitment. 

You can register and log in to read the whole report here.  

The impact of COVID-19 

The past year has been especially challenging for everyone and compelled many of us to change the ways we live and work. In the voluntary sector COVID-19 has led to changes in working practices and service delivery because of social distancing and remote working to keep everyone safe.  

80 per-cent of VCSE staff in the Third Sector survey identified:  

  • Covid-19 as an additional stress factor  
  • the difficult balance of home and work whilst homeworking  
  • increased work due to colleagues being furloughed  

Many were, naturally enough, concerned about their service users.  

How can a VCSE organisation support the wellbeing of its staff and volunteers? 

Many organisations have faced rising demand for services, reductions in income, and having to furlough staff. Some have lost staff or volunteers to illness, shielding, or self-isolation. At the same time there are anxieties about future sustainability and the personal challenges this presents. In this fast-changing environment, charities have had to find new ways to stay connected with staff and volunteers to understand how the pandemic is having an impact on their lives and how best to support them.  

Wellbeing is essential then so that people can deliver the best service to beneficiaries, as well as look after themselves. Promoting wellbeing is not only good for individual staff and volunteers, but also for organisations’ effectiveness and productivity. Wellbeing at the workplace is shown to be linked to greater satisfaction, engagement, higher levels of morale as well as increased resilience. And, for organisations, people are - or should be - the most valued resource.  

A wellbeing policy 

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills offers a Worker wellbeing and workplace performance discussion document here

Many business advisers recommend developing a standing policy that is committed to ensuring employees’ wellbeing based on:   

  • encouraging employees to seek work-life balance 
  • considering requests for career breaks and sabbaticals 
  • providing medical assistance to employees 
  • encouraging employee fitness 
  • promoting dignity at work 
  • minimising the stressful impacts of work 
  • managing sickness absence effectively 

Examples can be found here and here.

Useful resource links 


Back to Mental Health Awareness Week… 

Why this year’s theme of ‘Nature and the Environment’?  

Evidence from the Mental Health Foundation’s research shows that access to nature has been an important way in which people have supported their mental health during the lockdowns. Protecting the environment is a social justice issue that has huge implications for our collective mental health, both now and for future generations.    

However, while the evidence is clear that access to nature is crucial for our mental health, nature is not equally accessible for everyone. The Mental Health Foundation will be exploring further the importance of nature to our mental health and the barriers that exist to everyone being able to enjoy its benefits. 

Mental Health Awareness Week is a chance for people to talk about all aspects of mental health, with a focus on providing help and advice, whether at work or home. Find out more here