Not-for-profit staff are under continued pressure with research undertaken by Benefolk (previously The Xfactor Collective Foundation) revealing they are feeling stressed, anxious, exhausted, and frustrated often or always, with 39% saying their workload was often or always unachievable.
The Australian Scholarships Foundation has taken steps to emphasise the significance of sector wellbeing by introducing the “Outstanding Leadership in Wellbeing Governance” award. This award is a vital component of the Not-For-Profit Leadership Awards, which aims to recognise and celebrate exceptional leadership in governing for strong wellbeing outcomes.
The winner of the “Outstanding Leadership in Wellbeing Governance” in 2023 is Youth Projects. Based in Melbourne, Youth Projects provides front-line support to young people and people experiencing disadvantage, unemployment, homelessness, alcohol and other drug issues, and those looking to re-engage with learning and employment.
CEO of Youth Projects, Ben Vasiliou, says that the team, “pride themselves on their workplace wellbeing philosophy, which acknowledges work is just one part of someone’s life”.
By digging deep to understand their employees’ priorities, barriers and needs as “real people”, the organisation seeks to foster a psychologically safe workplace. The Youth Projects team have implemented measures centred entirely on the individual.
In this article we explore these wellbeing best practices that have supported healthy outcomes for the Youth Projects team.
Employee Wellbeing Strategy
Organisations that promote wellbeing make it easier for employees to manage stress levels while also maintaining a positive and productive environment. A wellbeing strategy articulates an organisation’s commitment to employee wellbeing and l helps embed well-being in the organisation’s overall vision and day to day activities.
People and Culture Manager at Youth Projects, Angela Gaylard shares, “Our Employee Wellbeing Strategy allows us to define and measure the success of our wellbeing initiatives, ensuring that employees’ mental health and wellbeing are prioritised.”
The six core deliverables are:
- creating a life-first approach,
- increased Employee Assistance Program (EAP) engagement,
- embedding wellbeing into Work Health and Safety (WHS),
- promotion of a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce,
- promotion of lived experience; and,
- nurturing a values-aligned culture.
Investing in a framework to support quality supervision
Youth Projects proactively invests resources and energy into the prevention of burnout, exhaustion, fatigue, and trauma in the workplace via a Supervision Framework that provides all leaders with tools that supports, enables, and provides guidance on supervision sessions and proactive rather than reactive performance-based conversations.
They have embedded a model where all employees are able to share their experiences, feel/be supported, and tap into the experiences of other team members in meaningful ways.
Multi layered practices
Judges of the 2023 “Outstanding Wellbeing Governance” award were impressed by the “thoughtfulness Youth Projects brought to Wellbeing Governance in their organisation”. They noted this dedication was demonstrated across a number of areas including the provision of additional wellbeing leave.
Youth Projects invests in giving additional personal leave days that give employees time and space to practice wellbeing. They also embedded a flexible work policy practiced across all areas of the business to ensure individuals can prioritise life over work.
Getting people back into the office post-Covid, and enjoying the work environment, continues to be a challenge for many organisations. At Youth Projects, they have strategically designed worksites to encourage a more sociable work environment.
All employees (the Board included) are provided access to mental health first aid training and other opportunities for continued development of self and peer support.
Unlimited EAP services
Youth Projects staff also have unlimited access to clinical psychologists, leadership coaches and mental health specialists in a way and time that suits them through a bespoke EAP service. People and Culture Manager, Angela Gaylard said, “This has seen EAP engagement increase to 33% of workforce (industry average of 6%) demonstrating a judgement free approach to accessing support services and proactively managing one’s wellbeing”.
Creating a sense of belonging
Within the workplace, Youth Projects place a strong focus on the prioritisation of lived experience across all layers of the organisation to proactively address the cultural and systemic conditions, and collectively reduce barriers that can lead to poor mental health outcomes. Youth Projects believes effective change can only be achieved in collaboration with the very real people that have lived the experience, with 83% of the team self-identify as having lived experience.
Independent advisory groups inform decision-making (including a Diversity & Inclusion Committee) and play a key role in driving change and fostering equitable access, and a fair, inclusive, and culturally safe environment for all employees. This has contributed to 82% of the Youth Projects team feeling like they can bring their true selves to work.
The WHS & Environment Committee drives wellbeing stewardship and best practice across the entire organisation – educating and empowering employees around the importance of wellbeing and tangible impacts of psychosocial hazards, and is comprised of executives, senior leaders, and frontline staff to ensure a holistic representation of the Youth Projects team.
Regular surveying tracks and measures wellbeing success (including Youth Projects’ “YP Talks” and “Great Place to Work” surveys) to benchmark engagement and capture a holistic monitor of mental health and wellbeing. Additionally, monthly reporting on EAP engagement themes enables dynamic interventions and prevention as issues emerge.
The Board’s commitment to wellbeing stewardship and best practice is evident through their actions taken to ensure that Youth Projects peoples’ needs are heard and being met. They regularly shadow shifts to observe and understand the living experience of the team in the workplace.
The Board, Audit & Risk Committee and WHS & Environment Committee, Audit & Risk Committee and Board consult regularly on noted risks, assessments, and real-time mitigation strategies for continuous improvement. Additionally, the Great Place to Work (GPTW) Working Group meets quarterly to review progress towards strategic goals relating to the Wellbeing Strategy, as well as engagement and inclusion metrics.
The judges of the 2023 “Outstanding Leadership in Wellbeing Governance” award were impressed by the thoughtfulness Youth Projects brought to Wellbeing Governance in their organisation. They shared, “This dedication was demonstrated in a number of areas, including the commitment to psychological safety, the high engagement with EAP, the value placed on lived experience, the provision of additional wellbeing leave, the board’s understanding of the organisation’s people through activities such as shadowing.”
Benefolk is partnering with us once again to support the Outstanding Leadership in Wellbeing Governance award category in 2024.