When good intentions aren’t enough

Combating workplace stress in the Third Sector

So many of us see stress as a fact of modern life, whilst it continues to affect personal and professional productivity and well-being. The Third Sector is no exception in the current political and economic climate, with 79% of staff saying stress is a fact of life in their work and 46% saying they feel stressed all, or most of the time.

There are some issues that affect this sector in particular, including:

  • Frequent, unpaid working hours.
  • Lack of job security – due to short term commissioning and high competition for ever-decreasing funding pots.
  • Dependence on an unpaid and/or casual workforce.
  • Organisational structures meaning decision making and change can be slow and power is often devolved by default, rather than design.

It’s no surprise, that these and other factors often result in high staff turnover, lack of productivity and in some cases, mental health and wellbeing problems. Of course, the impact of high staff turnover for example, can compound the amount of stress workers experience. This is particularly true for those leading teams of paid or unpaid workers, who frequently feel the pressure of meeting targets and outcomes for funders, with ever-changing levels of resources.

One thing that’s often not recognised, is that the strong personal values of the people who work in the Third Sector can also lead to increased workplace stress. Both paid and unpaid staff in the sector often have a strong identification with their work. As our values drive our behaviour and decisions and help form our personal identity, it’s hardly surprising that the current political and economic challenges facing the Third Sector, can feel like an assault on a person’s very being.

As a coach, I believe leaders and managers within the Third Sector need to accept that ‘caring about the work’ isn’t enough. They need to actively take practical steps to regain control for the benefit and wellbeing of themselves, their teams, their organisations and ultimately the communities they serve.

BrightBird provides practical, result-focused coaching and training on Personal Resilience, Stress Management and Work-Life Balance. Check out our brochure, or contact us on 07714 855757 for a no-obligation chat if you’d like to know more about how we can help you reduce stress and increase staff wellbeing and productivity in your business or organisation.


DUDMAN, J., et al. (2015) Revealed: How the stress of working in public services is taking its toll on staff. The Guardian. [Online] 10th June 2015. Available from: https://theguardian.co.uk. [Accessed: 11th May 2017].

OPEN LEARN. (2016) Causes of stress in the voluntary sector. [Online]. Available from: https://www.open.edu/openlearn/ocw/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=50114&section=1.2# [Accessed: 11th May 2017]