Sharing Wellness in Your Nonprofit

When you think of wellness, what comes to mind? In the nonprofit world, low budgets, understaffing and an emotional environment can quickly lead to employee burnout. How can your organization make sure its employees feel supported and appreciated? When it comes to caring for mind and body at work, protecting yourself and your staff becomes essential.

Let’s start with what wellness in the work environment means. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines work health as “policies, programs and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being.”

As a nonprofit, you often care more about what goes on outside of your group than inside. Who can you help, what clients do you provide for, how can you raise more money? But caring for your employees first will establish a foundation for your charity to grow off of. It’s the age-old saying: “Before you help others, you must first help yourself.”

Think of this when approaching holistic employee and volunteer wellbeing and keep in mind the intersectionality of physical, mental and emotional health. Not sure where to get started? Check out these tips to ensure more satisfied, energetic and productive employees at your NGO.

Create a landscape of open communication.

Open communication in a workplace is vital, especially at a nonprofit organization. This means employees feel comfortable asking questions, voicing concerns and sharing opinions. Modeling this openness starts with management. Once openness has been demonstrated and reiterated throughout the organization, it will increase trust and mutual respect among employees, which encourages them to speak up and ask for help. This trust and respect will also establish a safe space when workers need to talk about personal mental, emotional or physical issues and how those may affect their work.

Organize a wellness committee.

A wellness committee can set the tone for the entire organization. Its main responsibility is to encourage everyone to take better care of themselves by providing healthy snacks, organizing regular social events and challenging individuals to be more active. If you’re a nonprofit on a tight budget, check in your community for inexpensive or even free resources people are willing to donate, e.g. a yoga workshop. Simple and regular opportunities for staff to make healthy choices will be beneficial long-term, both for the individual and the organization.

Get everybody up and moving.

We all have different physical abilities and interests. But don’t let that discourage you from planning and offering events which will get your staff up on their feet! Sitting in one space for too long can have serious consequences on the body, so make an extra effort to encourage employees to move. Organize an after-lunch stretching session or walk. Give staff the option of standing desks or provide a map with walking trails around the neighborhood. Get creative and make the options accessible as often as possible for volunteers and employees to feel good about what they do and just plain feel good.

Provide incentives for wellness challenges.

Some employees or volunteers might need a little extra encouragement to fulfill their wellness goals, physical or mental. Help staff members set goals early on, such as incorporating 10 minutes of journaling into their day or a 20-minute walk. Then, offer a small prize for those who meet or exceed their goals. If employees repeat a healthy habit for three weeks or more, they will be more likely to stick with it when the challenge has ended.

Encourage taking off needed time.

Even when we take care of our holistic health within the workplace, we still need a break from work every now and then. Encourage your employees to pursue activities outside of work which will fortify their identity and meaning in life. When it comes to work productivity, mental wellbeing comes first. When employees know they can take a day off when needed, they feel like they have more control over their own schedules and will do their best when they are at work.

Recognize and praise strengths.

Identify positive traits and strengths within employees for a shared language and to better understand the people working with and around you. Then, use these strengths as a way to recognize small and large achievements in the workplace. The best teams have a diverse group of people with varying strengths, experiences and workstyles. Celebrate these differences and give value to what each individual’s uniqueness.

Check in regularly and reflect.

Everyone should feel heard at your nonprofit organization. Regular communication will help others be aware of progress being made and issues which will undoubtedly arise in personal or professional spheres. Check in with staff members regularly and reflect with them to identify and handle problems before they become serious.

When your nonprofit encourages a healthy and caring philosophy, it will be visible in productivity and work relationships. Fostering a deep sense of health and wellness among your team will establish a strong foundation for the organization, which can spread into the community. Wellness is vital to a passionate nonprofit organization, so be sure to integrate it with your group in order to further your mission and grow your cause.

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