If you are employed in the nonprofit sector you quickly recognize how demanding the work can be. The alignment of the cause to your values fuels your passion. While nonprofit work is admirable and altruistic, it can come at a personal price if you don’t exercise self-care.
GoodTherapy.org describes self-care as, “the actions that an individual migh take in order to reach optimal physical and mental health….Sometimes people attempt to meet the needs of family members, employers, children, friends, or society in general before meeting their own needs, and working to please and care for others often interferes with one’s self-care routine and can take a toll on a person’s well-being.”
Throughout my career, as a manager and executive, I have found too many nonprofit employees sacrifice their self-care for the work demands in the sector. Both the short and the long-term effect does not serve to benefit the employee, employer or our social cause. As executive leaders, we ought to do more to develop a culture of self-care for our employees and that starts with providing comprehensive employee benefit plans and giving full permission to all staff to use them.
Unfortunately, today’s environment is a mire of around-the-clock emails, text messages and performance pressure that creates a challenge for employees to enjoy work/life balance or even a ‘work-free’ vacation. Vacations are time earned and every manager should insist all employees have their time away from the work place free of constant interruption. Employers could do more to ensure vacations are not simply ‘out of office time’ but an opportunity for an employee to unplug from the work, rejuvenate mentally and physically and aid staff to return to work at their best.
Personal day benefits have become more common in the nonprofit sector, allowing employees to trade unused sick days to attend to personal matters. In my experience, employees work long hours well beyond a normal work week. Encouraging personal day use and being flexible about expectations around appointments (dentist, doctors, etc.) the manager can honour the individual staff contribution, build trust and create a culture of self-care.
Many health insurers offer massage therapy in employer health benefit plans, however few employees take advantage of the benefit. Proper massage treatment has proven to reduce stress, pain and muscle tension. Employers could enhance the employee benefit plans in addition to massage by providing their employees with float therapy, health club memberships, yoga classes and other wellness programs in and outside their traditional insurance coverage.
Nonprofits could take a page from the human resource strategies that are emerging in the for-profit sector and make greater investment in their employees’ wellbeing. As Millennials enter the workforce the private sector is responding by providing additional life-style benefits and creating cultures of self-care. By reviewing plans with insurers, collaborating with other nonprofits to share services (i.e. gym memberships, child care and wellness promotion education) and giving employees full permission to exercise their benefits, nonprofit sector employers can create healthier workplaces and employees.
I believe the result of exercising employee health benefits will help enrich the lives of our employees and create healthier, more vibrant communities for us all to enjoy.
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