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Early Insights from Sector-First Study Expose Alarming Sector Burnout

Image Source: Emma Vought, Medical University of South Carolina

Amid the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic, early insights from the RESET 2020 National Impact+Need September Survey indicate many social sector organisations are finding that in addition to the financial strain caused by COVID-19 restrictions, staff and volunteers are feeling increasingly anxious and stressed.

The survey closes next Friday, but preliminary analysis reveals staff wellbeing and mental health are major challenges for many not-for-profit organisations and charities.

To date, 77% of participants have said that since 1 June, the pandemic has had a negative impact on employees, while 27% rated the management of staff and volunteer mental health and wellbeing is having the greatest impact on their ability to provide usual services.

This is reflected too in two of the seven indicators of personal mental health experiences. 43% of the people who have responded so far say they currently feel anxious and stressed at work. This is in stark contrast to the 10% of participants who had experienced those same feeling before the pandemic. 35% of participants also said they felt overwhelmed and that they were not taking as good care of themselves as they did prior to the pandemic.

Julia Keady, CEO of The Xfactor Collective, which is running the RESET 2020 study, said employees in social-purpose organisations run a higher risk of burnout and stress at the best of times, and the pandemic is increasingly adding a lot of pressure on an already overworked sector.

“These initial findings are very concerning, and we need more organisation leaders to take the survey, so we can see if it’s the case across the whole sector,” Ms Keady said.

The results to date indicate the sector is fatigued, with a 31% increase in respondents reporting they feel frustrated, cynical, or exhausted at work since the pandemic began – one of the many wellbeing indicators that will emerge from this survey interval.

“It’s incredibly tough to stay motivated when you’re operating on reserves, especially when there is no end in sight. We know this data will be key to the various advocacy efforts in our sector at the moment, to champion for the right support for our sector,” said Ms Keady.

The purpose of the study, which is funded by Equity Trustees Sector Capacity Building Fund, is to understand the ongoing and evolving impacts of COVID-19 on the social sector, and inform funders and leaders about where the sector needs support to be able to continue to do its work, which is more important than ever.

The survey is still open, and The Xfactor Collective invites staff, volunteers and board members of social sector organisations to participate in the study. The survey closes 30 October, with results made available freely to the sector through Seer Platform – an interactive online portal – towards the end of the year.

Kristi Mansfield, Co-Founder and CEO of Seer Data & Analytics, a specialist business member of The Xfactor Collective said this is an extraordinary opportunity to get new data that is accessible and useful for the whole sector.

“As a sector, we all want to build back better after this pandemic, and to do that we need good quality data to inform the support needed,” she said.

“At a local level, people need to have the best tools available to lead the recovery. Data will empower communities to prepare strategies for delivery of new services, align efforts between providers, target the spending and secure funding and get the biggest bang for their buck. So, the more responses we have, the better.”

To explore the results and dataset from the first part of the National Impact+Need Research Study in May, head to the Seer Platform. You can also download the first report.

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