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Nonprofits

Five Ways to Prevent Nonprofit Employee Burnout

If you’re involved in the world of nonprofits, employee burnout is no new topic. Because the world of nonprofits can be so hands-on and challenging, there are many factors that lead to this burnout across employees. The important thing to note is that burnout can in turn lead to larger issues like health problems and high turnover rates. Many times, nonprofit employees can find themselves feeling stretched too thin, paid too little, and torn between staying at the job they are passionate about and caring for themselves. As a nonprofit, there are some steps that are necessary to take to prevent employee burnout. We’ve outlined five steps you can take to ensure your employees are maintaining balanced lives and feel encouraged in the workplace.

Prevent nonprofit employee burnout by recognizing early warning signs.

At the Alliance for Nonprofit Management Conference in 2015, a nonprofit executive told stories about situations when early signs of burnout were not addressed. In one particular story, a nonprofit leader ended up having a near-fatal heart attack because they did not recognize the early signs of burnout. They had simply pushed themselves too far.

What are some warning signs of burnout?

  • Exhaustion and fatigue (either mentally, emotionally, physically, or altogether)
  • Frustration and irritability
  • Inability to pay attention or concentrate
  • Lacking motivation
  • Withdrawing from coworkers
  • Having conflict with others outside of work
  • Not taking care of yourself
  • Being unhappy

While these aren’t all the signs of burnout, these are some signs to keep in mind. While each job can cause burnout, regardless of whether or not you’re working for a nonprofit, employees need to be in tune with themselves before, during, and after a job to notice changes in their behaviors, attitudes, and physical health.

Prevent nonprofit employee burnout by encouraging self-care

While time off should be encouraged, just one day isn’t going to solve the issue of burnout for employees. The thing is, even when an employee is off work, often times they are still checking their email, communicating with co-workers, and worried about responsibilities. We’ll cover ways to prevent this as well, but it is imperative to encourage employees to fully disconnect during their time off.

Other ways to encourage self-care is through education on stress management. Nonprofits can also offer small breaks throughout the day, room in the office to decompress, information on counseling and other mental health care, and opportunities for time spent working outside of the office environment.

Prevent nonprofit employee burnout by creating systems that work.

As mentioned above, employees often find it hard to completely disconnect even during time away from work. This might be due in large part to the fact that they feel solely responsible for the tasks they are completing. While individualized work plans and dispersed job responsibilities are necessary, is your entire team able to stand-in for an employee in a crunch?

If not, this is something your organization should consider looking into. Because of high turnover rates and burnout in employees of nonprofits, your organization should make it a priority to put systems into place that allow duties to transfer seamlessly. There should be outlined ways to complete tasks so that if an employee is taking time off for self-care, they can rest assured knowing another team member is handling their responsibilities that day. There are many ways to create these systems and put them into place, and only you and your nonprofit will know how to best integrate them.

Prevent nonprofit employee burnout by involving leadership.

If you are a nonprofit leader, do you feel as though you’re in tune with how your employees are feeling in regards to their job? While personal details can and should stay personal, job happiness plays a huge role in life outside of work. One way for leaders to step in and help prevent burnout is by holding regular check-in meetings or debriefs. Schedule time on a regular basis, bi-weekly or monthly, to really sit down and discuss the employee’s overall well-being. You can tackle issues that have arisen at work, struggles they’re having with their responsibilities, and be able to note if any large changes in their overall attitude and performance have occurred.

Being available for your employees and offering them the tools they need should an issue arise is a great way to keep leadership involved and support employees. Leadership can also work hand in hand with human resources, or a similar position, to ensure that employees are being educated on the resources they are provided through employment.

Prevent nonprofit employee burnout by encouraging connection.

Burnout can have a huge affect on our personal and professional lives. You might find its easier than you think to begin to separate yourself from coworkers, friends, or family if you’re feeling burnt out physically, mentally, and emotionally from work. As an organization, promote connection to your employees. Promote time to build camaraderie as team as a way to increase the workplace moral and inspire connection within the office. Encourage employees to take time to spend with family and friends on special occasions and note if you notice they have retreated or there has been a change in their interactions with others.

It’s important to recognize that employees in a nonprofit role are in a unique position. They’re working hard for a cause they care about, and because of their passion, they may not always take the best care of themselves. Is there anything you would add when it comes to ways to prevent employee burnout?

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