Here’s a thing. Last week, a colleague asked for help with work/life balance, on the edge of burnout, desperate for support. Suggestions and support came rolling in- the comment thread had over 170 comments last I looked.
Suggestions seemed to fall into 2 main categories:
1. Treat burnout by delving into “self-care/self-comfort”.
Suggestions often include: exercise, nourishing food, hot baths, vacation, turn your email off after 5, get a hobby, set boundaries, etc.
These are alll good suggestions and in a perfect world, we’d all, already, be taking good care of ourselves.
BUT too many of us develop health conditions related to burnout and stress.
I myself went on anti-depressants for the first time (and overdue, to be honest) the SAME DAY I got fired from a Director of Development gig. Since then, my mental health and well-being has significantly influence my willingness to stay in toxic work environments or work with taxing clients.
Self-care looks different for each person, but taking the TIME to take care of ourselves, isn’t a luxury, in fact, it is a necessity.
2. Treat burnout by changing jobs and hoping that fixes the inequity which leads to burnout.
Inequity? Wait what? It’s just shitty hours.
And bad healthcare.
And limited PTO.
Or worse, generous PTO, but an organizational culture that discourages staff from using their PTO.
Add in too few staff for too many responsibilities, and you end up with high turnover rates, resentment, and challenges serving clients.
Now, I have also seen nonprofit directors embrace high turnover as a cost saving measure, in delaying filling a position in order to have more cash in a given month. Which is mean-spirited towards the employees which are picking up the slack for a missing department role, but also, stupid.
Does saving a little bit of money on payroll, make the resulting dip in productivity, morale, and well-being for the whole staff, worthwhile?
Equity starts and ends with payroll.
From listing the pay range in job descriptions, to offering solid, good benefits, to paying our people well, nonprofit organizations have a responsibility to treat their employees as well as we treat our clients.
If organizations can’t offer comparable benefits to the for-profit sector, we shouldn’t be suprised, when burned out nonprofit warriors defect to the corporate sector.
Furthermore, abuse within the nonprofit sector, particularly labor abuse, must continue to be exposed and addressed in our sector.
The emerging leaders of the nonprofit industry must call for transparency and higher standards for the treatment of ourselves and our colleagues.
We are worth more than having to work 2 or 3 jobs to support ourselves while we do nonprofit work.
We deserve to earn PTO and to take it ALL, without question!
We deserve to know what the pay range is before we waste our limited free time to apply for a job that we can’t live on.
We will advocate for better wages, better benefits and more respect.
Nonprofit work is essential.
We help the sick, we feed the hungry, we give voice to the voiceless, we make a difference.
Nonprofit workers are changing the world and changing the future of our industry.