Burnout, Resilience and Nonprofits: The Latest Research, Trend, and Insights | Beth's Blog

Burnout, Resilience and Nonprofits: The Latest Research, Trend, and Insights

Happy Healthy Nonprofit, Leadership, Resilience

Photo by Norbert Reimer

My book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit, was published a month before the presidential election. In the wake of some of the most stressful times for nonprofits and activists that I work with, many are seeking out ways to reduce burnout, practice self-care and build empathetic relationships and supportive policies in the workplace.

Here’s what to watch in 2019:

  • Building a culture of wellbeing in the nonprofit workplace is more popular than ever: Organizational culture has become your nonprofit’s brand and it really matters more than ever when it comes to sustaining high performance.  There is now enough evidence from research that stressful workplaces are counter-productive to impact.  Radical transparency, powered by movements like #metoo, have shined a light on toxic nonprofit workplace cultures for all to see and can wreak havoc with an organization’s reputation and ability to succeed. In 2019, many nonprofits (and others) will be focusing on building an organizational culture of wellbeing that emphasizes kindness, community, resilience, and more.
  • Simplify Complex Work Environments. Recent burnout research and trends reveal that work environments are becoming more overwhelming and complex. It is leading to higher burnout rates in many industries, not just the social sector. Research is also showing that younger generations, so called “Millennials,” appear to be vulnerable to work burnout that other generations. The solution is to simplify complex work environments that can help people be more resilient coupled with professional development that helps individuals build resiliency skills.
  • More nonprofits will adopt workplace policies around flex-place, flex-time, four-day work weeks, and minimum vacation time: The traditional work week format of all employees coming into the office from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday is changing. More and more organizations are instituting non-traditional workplace policies in an effort to reduce burnout and increase productivity, including shorter work weeks (four 10-hour days per week), working at home, or different schedules. Remote work is also becoming more popular, along with a desire to improve virtual meeting skills.  As more evidence emerges around the link between vacation time off and productivity, more organizations are looking at strategies to ensure that employees actually take their vacation time.
  • Micro Moments of Self-Care During the Day: Nonprofit leaders will continue to recognize that self-care is not a luxury, but a part of doing the job. Leaders are bringing self-care practices into the workplace by weaving it into their day as micro breaks.  And not just breaks that last a few minutes, it is just important to encourage staff to take their lunch break according to this new study. Here’s a many more examples of how to nonprofit professionals can take a mini-break during their day and increase, not decrease productivity in 2019.
  • Getting enough sleep is essential, but too much can be harmful: The bad health effects of too little sleep are well documented. But too much sleep is not good for your health either. Looks like the new optimum amount of sleep is now 6-8 hours, based on this new, large scale study.  Inspired by success of Arianna Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution, an entire an industry promoting good sleep hygiene has popped up in the last few years, including products like white noise machines to ice cream that you eat before bed to make you sleepy. One of the more popular sleep products, although with little science behind it, is the weighted blanket. (And yes I swear by mine.)
  • Technology is eroding our health and wellbeing:  There have been more and more reports of Silicon Valley insiders going to great lengths to disconnect from social media and their mobile phones. These insiders are the same engineers who designed and built different features in social media platforms that created our behavior addictions.  Makes you wonder what they know that the average user does not? There have been many more studies,  like this one from Pew, that have looked at the connection between technology and  a decrease in our wellbeing.  With a rise in public attention on the harmful impact of too much screen time and companies like Apple adding features like screen time 2019 and Facebook’s dashboard, 2019 will be the year of technology wellness.  Some companies are offering cold hard cash incentives to quit your mobile phone.

  • Technology is enhancing our health and wellbeing: There is a flip side.  Increasingly technology tools – from apps to devices – are being used to monitor, improve, and enhance our health, happiness, and wellbeing.  An extensive study released earlier in 2018 by Kaleido, “Modern Wellbeing,” shows how technology use is increasingly growing in impact to our minds, bodies, communities, and physical spaces. Just one example is that technology devices are putting our health data in our hands (or wrists) and allowing us to better partner with our doctors.

There is a growing recognition and research that suggests people are starting to take a step back from the 24-hour digital life we have now and realize the mental health issues from being constantly connected to work and the ill effects of a toxic work culture. In 2019, there will be a continued interest and focus for nonprofits to get impact without burnout and be happier and healthier changing the world.

If you are planning on attending the Nonprofit Technology Conference, I’ll be doing a session on “Activating a Culture of Resilience,” please do join me.

(A version of this blog post was also published on Global Giving Nonprofit Trends)

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