Follow up questions
We do a similar thing to the temperature check (share a positive and a challenge) at weekly team meetings. How can we best replicate this with volunteers who can’t all meet at the same time?
Subject to an organisation’s policies, this could be undertaken via a digital platform such as Teams, Slack or even a WhatsApp group. Asking people to share a couple sentences, an audio clip or video clip every week in a dedicated thread or channel. The Form Score app (https://www.formscore.today/) is essentially an app version of a temperature check. It provides graphics which you can share with colleagues/teams/others. Depending on the digital platform being used, we’ve also seen people include temp check scores in their profile status (although this has reduced over recent months as platforms without this feature are adopted e.g. Microsoft Teams). Where none of the above is possible, it is likely a case of seeking to share how your volunteers are doing in team meetings given the information from your last catch up and similarly cascading how staff members are doing to your volunteers in those catch ups.
Have you got any tips for engaging about mental health and wellbeing with volunteers who are reluctant to talk on the subject or don’t see how it relates to volunteering?
Including some basic mental health literacy and signposting in inductions / onboarding can make a real difference to how mental health and wellbeing are considered/embedded culturally.
Key messages being:
- We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health.
- There are a number of things that can impact our mental health and wellbeing – some can be the pressures of work/volunteering, others might be the pressures of home
- When we experience stress and experience poor mental health this has an impact on our behaviours and our performance – we might struggle to concentrate, struggle to make decisions, become withdrawn, become uncharacteristically outgoing, feel tired, have low mood. These impact our ability to carry out our volunteer role and potentially reflect poorly on the charity if the impact on performance is significant.
- With this in mind, it is not only in our own best interest but in the best interest of the charity to ensure we practice self-care, that we identify and look to proactively address sources of (workplace) stress.
There remains significant stigma around open conversations around mental health and role modelling good behaviours yourselves and from senior leaders goes a long way. Talk about the challenges you’re facing and how you’re feeling, but also look to share the support and tools you have found useful. A number of CEOs over the last 18 months for example have talked about what has supported their wellbeing over the pandemic.
Again, mental health literacy plays a part in people’s confidence to have MH discussions. Look to share materials that a volunteer can read in their own time, privately. Particularly in male dominated industries mental health events are often poorly attended when launching MH initiatives, however, print materials such as flyers positioned in quiet/low traffic locations will fly off the shelves – there is an appetite for the content, but a level of discomfort in attending a public event/poorly articulating ones’ self. Wellness Action Plans can similarly provide volunteers some of that private preparation time in advance of a conversation with yourself.
If a person is reluctant to recognise their poor MH with organisational performance e.g. “I don’t think I need to invest in my own MH,” it might be useful to frame in the context of the benefit to the charity:
Poor mental health costs UK employers billions in absenteeism, turnover and presenteeism (attending work but not performing at 100%) every year. Whilst there is not an equivalent estimation for volunteers it will be of a similar amount. This activity ensures value to the charity is maximised/costs aren’t incurred.
HSE requires organisations to complete stress risk assessments just as it does a standard/physical risk assessment. This activity ensures our compliance with legislation.
Some useful links
HSE management standards (key sources of workplace stress): https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/
Andrew supports the ambitions of the Thriving at Work Leadership Council in driving employer action across the UK and oversees delivery of the Mental Health at Work website and Mental Health at Work Commitment. The Mental Health at Work Commitment is a simple framework for organisations to improve and support the mental health of their people. It builds on what we know: based on the Thriving at Work standards, pulling from the pledges and standards that are already out there, using up-to-date research, from UK employers and mental health experts. To date over 1300 organisations have signed the Commitment.
Over the last three years Andrew has led the Time to Change Employers Programme, Blue Light (Emergency Services) Programme, Mentally Healthy Universities Programme and Mind’s work with the Midlands Engine Mental Health Productivity Pilot supporting a wide range of organisations of varying size, across multiple sectors and across the UK. He is passionate about working with organisations to develop their wellbeing and mental health programmes, campaigns and initiatives and the role of communications as a catalyst for social change.
Recorded 1 December 2021
AVM event ‘A Hybrid Approach to Managing Volunteers’