Wellbeing: What the FSI has learned

_ Alice Crowsley, the FSI _

Your staff numbers have shrunk but your organisation’s services have remained the same. You’re passionate about the cause you work for and want to do all you can to keep things running smoothly, but when you’ve taken on the work of three more people this can be a bit tricky.

The thing is, you don’t want to ask for help. It’s not that you’re stubborn, but you know that everyone else in your organisation feels the same way and you don’t want to add to their ever-growing list.

In a recent session the FSI team had with Claire Warner, we discovered that this was one of our weaknesses. We’re so aware of how much everybody has on their plate that we don’t want to add to anybody else’s workload.

So, we thought about saying no.

Saying no is quite possibly one of the hardest things to do under normal circumstances, let alone during a pandemic when you’re trying harder than ever to provide vital services. But, sometimes, saying no is the best thing you can do for both your work and your wellbeing. If you struggle with this idea, like I do, start with something small: a request to send out an email for example. Say, “no, I don’t think I can fit that in today, would somebody else be able to take that on?” Get used to saying it, allow others to get used to hearing it.

We also discussed what the phrase ‘work/life balance’ really means. It promotes this idea that the two should be equal, that work and the rest of your life should take up the same amount of your time. This actually increases the amount of time you feel you should be working, rather than decreasing it. We realised that when you take into account, weekends, bank holidays, annual leave, and evenings, work is only a tiny percentage of your whole life. So, a work/life balance isn’t quite the right phrase. Instead, let’s just call it a balance. Don’t think of it in terms of percentages or fractions, just make sure that work doesn’t go past what you’re comfortable with.

That’s far easier said than done, especially in the charity sector because you really care about what you do and the cause you help to support. You’re passionate about it, but it’s okay to take a moment away and focus on yourself. It’s okay to take a week’s annual leave as well, make it two! You’re not abandoning your cause by taking time for yourself, you’re allowing yourself to come back refreshed- able to see things with fresh eyes!

If you’re lying awake at night worried about what you didn’t manage to get done that day, try this piece of advice my manager gave me:

If you don’t have time to do the task, or you make a mistake, will it matter in a day? A week? A month? A year? Five years, even?

If it’s anything less than a year, put on a podcast, count some sheep and remind yourself that it will be okay in the morning. The next day, you can ask for help.

But while the things that go wrong seem to fester in the mind forever, remind yourself about everything you’ve done well, and take some time to praise yourself. You’ve had a super productive day, or someone sent you an email recognising something you spent a lot of time on? Save the email, write it down, praise yourself, keep it as a reminder for when things feel overwhelming.

The very act of having this conversation with Claire as a team meant that we were able to feel far more comfortable talking about wellbeing and mental health. It can be easy to say that wellbeing is being dealt with through various internal policies, but sometimes these don’t understand the exact needs of everyone in your organisation. By ensuring that you have these open conversations, your wellbeing procedures can evolve with your team. If nothing else, having an honest and frank conversation about your wellbeing gives you the opportunity to feel supported and appreciated.