It has been reported in the press this week that over half of charity leaders (51%) feel stress and that this has become a concern over the past year. Concerns increase in line with the size of the charity, with 57% of medium-sized charities and 61% of large charities admitting that it was a growing problem.
The findings come from a survey by specialist insurer Ecclesiastical, which also found that funding cuts and increasing demands on staff have led, at least in part, to this rise in stress levels. The challenging financial situation facing the voluntary sector is the main contributor to stress, with charities citing increasing demands on staff (78%), lack of resources (75%) and reduced funding (74%) as the main drivers of the problem.
Vicarious trauma was also seen as a major contributor to stress, with staff having to regularly deal with people with difficult behaviours (66%) and being exposed to highly emotional and stressful situations (60%).
Ecclesiastical charity director, Angus Roy, said: “Working in the charity sector has always been a challenging career but austerity measures over the past few years have made it even more difficult as charities have had to manage on tighter budgets.
"This has had an impact on staff, with greater demands being put on them with fewer resources. Our research shows this has driven up stress levels and had a significant effect on staff recruitment and retention.”
A third of charity leaders in Ecclesiastical’s survey admitted that stress was an issue in their workplace, with the figure increasing to 51% at large charities. Of those charities that admitted stress was an issue, two in five (38%) said that it was affecting their ability to retain and recruit staff.
The increasing stress levels have also led to a broader range of insurance claims in recent years, including claims for personal injury, both physical and psychiatric, resulting from employees feeling overworked, under-supported or under-trained.
Charities have responded with policies to help the situation, with 77% of large charities and 72% cent of medium charities surveyed having introduced a wellbeing policy, however smaller charities seem to have lagged with only a third of small charities (33%) having followed suite.
Last month in the Russam newsletter we talked about wellbeing and ensuring that organisations have a wellbeing policy and strategy in place, this is clearly now an imperative.