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Sustainable Self-Care Strategies to Consider

Updated: May 6

We’re not sharing a list of self-care tips in this blog. This is not something you can “hack".

Many of the self-care blogs and articles we see focus on the individual. They offer tips for self-care that attempt to heal burn-out and anxiety due to the stress of daily life and work.

But what if we focused on the root causes of burn-out and anxiety? Though we’re big lovers of meditation, yoga, and massage around here, they do nothing to address the work-environments that often jeopardize our mental health.

We spend about two-thirds of our waking hours at work. If our work environments aren’t positive, supportive, people-focused and a place where folks enjoy being, we’re not giving our team members even a fighting chance at managing their stress and anxiety.

This is the nonprofit sector. A sector where we’re supposed to care about people more than in other sectors. This is what we do. We are trying to make a positive impact in the world.

We need to lead by example and create the best working environments we can. Providing little perks here and there is great, but are they going to make fundamental changes to the way our staff feels about work? We’re in the business of looking after people and we often focus that effort solely on our clients. We need to consider our teams in this equation as well and practice what we preach.

We must create environments where people feel

  • respected

  • heard

  • included

  • valued

This requires big changes in many workplaces. It requires a real investment. It can start with small steps like more meaningful interactions with our staff and colleagues, and can evolve to more intentional, bigger impact strategies that can turn the office into a dream work environment. How do we make work a great place to be?

Think how things could be if everyone on our teams loved coming to work. Think of the impact that could result in a team that loves being there every day. And, think of the impact that we could make in the lives of our colleagues. Ultimately, this all trickles down into the quality of the work we do.

We also need to lead by example and show, as leaders, that we are also taking care of ourselves. We need to practice what we preach. Good and bad self-care are both contagious.

To transform an organization and create the kind of working environment we all dream of takes work, investment, energy, reflection, and intention. It won’t just happen. But we need to unite as a sector and be accountable to each other. Because in the end, it will pay dividends; our teams won’t burn out as often, people will be more energized and motivated, retention will be stronger and people will love coming to work. In the end, taking care of ourselves and our teams is reflected in the quality of work we do. We need to put people before profits and before impact. Funny enough if we do this, we end up raising more money and having a bigger impact.

To begin, we need to:

  1. Pay people better! The work our teams are doing is life-changing stuff. They deserve to be paid well. We ALL deserve to be paid well. Give people annual pay raises, discuss how their career can grow at your organization and STOP PAYING PEOPLE ON TEMPORARY CONTRACTS! Sorry, got a little heated there, but seriously… It is the best investment you can make.

  2. Provide benefits, vacation funds, paid leave, parental-leave support, and bonuses. If we’re going to continue to support the community, we need to retain the best folks to do this work. More than ever we compete with the for-profit sector because many companies have Corporate Social Responsibility and other programs that help employees feel that they’re giving back. We’re no longer the only sector doing good.

  3. Really care for our teams. People need to feel included and that they’re an integral piece of the organization. Team culture is built one small interaction at a time. Allow people to make mistakes and encourage them to embrace this as learning. If people feel like they’re under-valued, dispensable or replaceable they will leave. We need to put a door stopper in this revolving door for talent. It starts with treating people with respect

  4. Invest in people. This means making a professional development plan for every member of staff and follow through. If we value our teams, then that means we invest in them and believe that it is our duty to support their growth.

There is no ‘one-off’ remedy, tip-sheet or ‘hack’ to creating a sustainable, healthy and positive work environment. It requires sustained effort and genuine investment over time. We can no longer accept the idea of ‘hurting ourselves to help others’.

The onus is on all of us to step up our game. We're not saying it's easy to just pay people more, especially when you are grant to grant or struggling to make payroll. However, we all need to work together to make this happen: nonprofits, funders, boards, and government. We need to support fair wages within the nonprofit ecosystem for more sustainable impact at all levels. It's not easy to pay people more but it's worth it.

We need to do better.

What would your dream work environment look like?

What can you do TODAY to start creating your dream work culture?

What methods do you use to create meaningful self-care?

We’d love to know your thoughts. Please share them in the comments.

This blog is a collaborative piece by EPIC team members Michael Prosserman and Tina de los Santos

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