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How To Achieve Work-Life Balance, Prevent Burnout, Retain Nonprofit Employees, And Increase Productivity

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This is part one in a two-part series from Madison Gonzalez on the importance of helping employees achieve work-life balance. 

Helping Nonprofit Employees Achieve Work-Life Balance Isn’t Optional

Work-life balance. You’ve probably heard it mentioned many times before. Many of us may roll our eyes or chuckle at the thought that we could achieve it. Just on the work side of things alone, most of us in the nonprofit industry are managing full or more-than-full workloads.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “94% of state and local chambers say businesses in their areas are finding it difficult or very difficult to find workers.” Another shocking static: “There are fewer than one available worker for every job open. This is the lowest the ratio has ever been.”

As you can imagine and/or may have felt the effects of yourself, this puts extra pressure on the remaining and available staff to stretch themselves to wear more hats than they already were. 

The result of overworking is burnout; and burnout benefits no one—including the people we want to help. If we want to prevent or reduce nonprofit burnout, retain employees, increase their satisfaction, and move our missions forward, we must help them work toward a better work-life balance.

“Employers who are committed to providing environments that support work-life balance for their employees can save on costs, experience fewer cases of absenteeism, and enjoy a more loyal and productive workforce,” says Chris Chancey, career expert and CEO of Amplio Recruiting.

If your organization’s budget is already tight, this may require some creative thinking. What kind of hybrid work models, volunteer programs, and outsourcing options are available? Do you know where your employees are stressed? Do you know what would make them less stressed at work? What self-care training, wellness-related programming, and other resources can you provide to ensure your team remains strong and steady?

Remember, not everything has to be done at once. If you’re experiencing burnout, try to focus on work when you are at work and home when you are at home. And if that’s not possible, be as gentle on yourself as possible. If you’re managing employees, focus on making forward progress to help your employees and don’t lose heart when your progress feels incremental.

When thinking about burnout, I recommend starting with some of these potential stressors:

  • Hiring and retention. If you’re short staffed, there’s a very good chance your employees need more resources (time, for one) to get their work done.
  • Increased accessibility through Zoom, Teams, Outlook, and digital communication. Even if you’re not explicitly asking them to be more available, your employees may feel like they need to be, which can make it feel impossible to “turn off” at the end of the work day.
  • Strained co-worker relationships. When communication is harder, it’s easier to miscommunicate. Are your employees experiencing more conflict than usual?
  • Financial hardship. Consider the ways in which your employees might be struggling financially. Are there things you can do to help them manage this stress? For example, if your employees are commuting and are struggling to keep up with rising gas prices, can you start a mileage reimbursement program for commuting?

Although you may not be able to provide direct support in these areas, it’s good to keep in mind that your employees are dealing with pressures at home too. These might include:

  • Childcare issues
  • Financial stressors
  • Mental and physical health issues
  • Loss, grief, trauma, etc.

We all know that it can feel impossible to leave work at the office (wherever that is these days) and vice versa. How can you best support your team so that they can feel like they can fully disconnect and recharge when they’re not at the office? Think about this on a holistic level.

Personally speaking, I’m a big believer in the concept that we were put on this Earth to enjoy ourselves and help each other. That’s something that’s on my mind when interacting with others and when checking in on myself.

In the nonprofit industry, it’s easy to get swept up in the giving mindset without checking in with ourselves and our own needs. Please know that you are just as worthy of happiness and relief as anyone in your family or anyone you are seeking to help in your work.

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  • Ken Wilson

    Another good article on the effects and causes of burnout. From this article: “Burnout is preventable. … Keep the yoga, the resilience training, and the mindfulness classes — they are all terrific tools for optimizing mental health and managing stress. But, when it comes to employee burnout, remember — it’s on you leaders, not them.” Harvard Business Review “Burnout Is About Your Workplace, Not Your People” by Jennifer Moss December 11, 2019 Link to the article:
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