Nonprofit managers typically have a number of responsibilities under their purview. From liaising across departments and managing teams of paid staff and volunteers, to balancing budgets and forecasting coming year fundraising targets. With all of this, it may seem like there isn’t space to add another thing to manager’s plates. But building a culture that is supportive of your employees’ overall health is critical to a functioning, productive team. Physical health is just one aspect of this and most nonprofits can do more to support employee mental health.
Building a supportive culture is not only the right thing to do, it also is a cost savings and can ensure operational continuity. In surveys, employees who say that they can speak openly with their manager are more likely to stay at a job for a longer period of time. These employees build institutional history and strong internal and external relationships for your nonprofit. Turnover is also expensive. Open positions cost the organization in productivity and hiring can be costly if a search firm is retained.
As many nonprofits operate remotely, we are forced to grapple with the collusion of personal and professional. Few nonprofit employees will have private offices in their home from where to operate. This means they may struggle with presenting a professional persona or preventing the natural interruptions of their home life from seeping through. Some ways nonprofit managers can be mindful of employee mental health while working from home include:
- Let employees know they don’t always have to have their camera on for zoom calls.
- Not every former meeting needs to be a video meeting. Just like there were meetings that ‘should have been an email’, many video conferences should really be a conference call.
- Invite all employees to utilize an organizationally-branded virtual background for zoom calls. This creates consistency of appearance to external stakeholders and also helps employees maintain a sense of privacy from their home space.
- Acknowledge that while working from home there will be interruptions like gardeners and other city sounds, animals and children, or perhaps a roommate or spouse also working remotely. Make a point of identifying the calls or video calls that really do need an uninterrupted, professional environment and communicating that expectation, and be open to the realities of your employees’ lives on other, less critical, calls.
- Where appropriate, lean into the meshing of personal and private. If something is in the foreground of a video call, like a mug, ask about it. But don’t ask about things in the background that are not intended to be in direct sight.
Beyond the basic work from home etiquette, nonprofit managers should also encourage their employees to utilize their vacation days and can even offer suggestions or promotional partnerships for how to enjoy them safely. This could be a discount for takeout from a local restaurant, for example. They can also encourage work/life balance by not sending emails outside of work hours and not expecting responses to them over weekends or time off. Most importantly, managers should model this behavior to create a supportive culture and prioritize employee mental wellbeing.
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