Putting together the puzzle of mental health
Talent Published Date, 2022

5 Ways Your Nonprofit Can Better Support Employees During Mental Health Awareness Month – And Beyond

Created By: Shaby T. Rosales
May 23, 2022

The talent landscape is changing fast – today’s workforce does not have the same drivers and motivations they held a few months ago, let alone prior to the pandemic. As millions of people continue to quit and change jobs, employees are demonstrating that their needs have evolved and they are holding their organizations accountable. Employers taking a holistic approach to employee mental health, wellness, and work-life balance – in addition to pay equity, professional development opportunities, and pathways to growth – are emerging as employers of choice. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it presents a great opportunity to take stock of how your organization is supporting its workforce.

According to a recent study by Gallup, only 24% of employees believe that their organizations care about their mental health and well-being. During the pandemic, employees had time to reflect on how their work affected their mental, physical, and emotional health. Questioning the ability and capacity to become the best version of oneself gained momentum, and workplace benefits and offerings were at the forefront of the answer. The stress of the pandemic and the subsequent burnout inspired many to pursue personal interests and passions. The Great Resignation isn’t just about quitting a job; it is about prioritizing one’s needs and personal goals, leaving organizations that are not aligned with this and migrating to those that are.

Supporting employee mental health must extend beyond traditional means and include a holistic and comprehensive approach to employee wellness. Understanding the interconnectivity between mental health and well-being to physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual enrichment will help reinforce the support employees receive from their organizations and will drive greater retention.

So how can organizations create a holistic approach to employee mental health and wellness? Follow these suggestions to better dedicate time, energy, and resources:

  • Plan Down-Time. “Burnout” was a phrase heard with increased frequency at the onset of the pandemic, but had been known long before among frontline professionals within the nonprofit sector. As we move into the summer season, consider closing the office early (or altogether) on Fridays, as feasible. Dedicating an all-hands approach to down-time at an organizational level allows all employees to gain bandwidth and a ‘break’ from their ever-growing task list. 
  • Be more transparent. Using the summer to reset your organizational priorities or undertake new initiatives is a great way to advance progress toward your goals. Offset potential disruption to workflow that can coincide with these changes by communicating with greater transparency. Sharing your rationale, decision-making process, philosophies, and attitudes towards certain priorities can help your employees internalize and make sense of changes prior to experiencing them. This will reduce agita and anxiety and help foster a sense of inclusion and belonging, increasing overall employee satisfaction and wellbeing.
  • Make space. The pandemic, and the newest generation of workers, have helped instill the importance of bringing one’s true authentic self to work, disrupting the previous adage that your private life and personal beliefs are left at the door of your office. Team members no longer feel the need to “shape-shift” and making space for open conversations and expression allows employees to process socially – something that has been happening organically around the watercooler can now be brought into the fold and made an intentional part of a holistic wellness plan.
  • Get creative. Instead of relying on traditional mental health and wellness resources, implement some of the new trending options. Go virtual with a team meditation session or sound bath at the beginning of each week. Consider giving your employees memberships to mental health apps that they can listen to on their way home after a stressful day. Take your team to a local comedy show. Think outside the box and ask your team to do the same – engaging them in the process of coming up with new and innovative ways to be supported is guaranteed to yield interesting results.
  • Encourage healthy living. A common theme among nonprofit professionals is putting so much of oneself into their work and others, often neglecting to satisfy or prioritize their own health. Support your team by encouraging ways in which employees can take advantage of healthful options while at work. Consider signing up for an in-person adult intramural sports league and have some nostalgic fun playing your favorite sports while you get in shape. Test out group orders from local juicing companies and start your day with a green juice instead of coffee. Hire a masseuse to come into the office and allow employees to take a wellness break between meetings.

A simple way to summarize the points above: go beyond the traditional and get creative. Employees want to feel a real investment from their organizations, and it starts with supporting who and how they are. Use this month as an opportunity to show your employees exactly how much they are valued and appreciated. Go beyond pizza parties and donuts in the breakroom and implement employee wellness initiatives that are meaningful, inclusive, and holistic.

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