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  • Writer's pictureNonprofit Learning Lab

Organizational Wellness: The Case for Building Collective CAREpacity

Lan will be presenting a workshop titled "Carepacity Building: Strategies for Organizational Wellness and More Inclusive Cultures" at the Nonprofit Lab in Philadelphia on March 21, 2024! Use our discount code friend50 for $50 off your registration!

The concept of organizational wellness has taken on new significance. With remote work and hybrid models as norms against a complex and volatile socio-political milieu, organizations are rethinking their approach to creating healthy and inclusive workplace cultures. At the heart of this evolution lies a simple truth: the strength of our organizations is deeply tied to the well-being of our people and our teams.

We've all heard the saying, "You can’t pour from an empty cup," and in the realm of social change work, it rings especially true. Yet, I’m sure each of us knows one, if not more, social change workers who give on empty and run on fumes on a far too-regular basis.  (Are you looking in the mirror?)

Whether we're collaborating in person, juggling hybrid setups, or embracing fully remote work, the importance of prioritizing collective care cannot be overstated. Self-care on its own is a myth, and is an ineffective temporary salve unless organizational leaders consider the context in which it is administered.  

This is why collective care becomes critical to true organizational wellness.  

Community Resource Exchange’s CAREpacity was born of a belief that well-being is impacted on multiple levels and is both an individual and collective responsibility. Our capacity to care for ourselves and each other is driven by a strong sense of self as well as a deeper connection, concern, and empathy for those we work with. It's not just about taking care of ourselves in order to meet deadlines—it's about recognizing the importance of team dynamics and organizational culture in caring for the whole person—mind, body, and soul—in order to achieve an even greater good both in and out of the office.

CAREpacity integrates practices for self-care, collective care, culture building and organizational development in order to foster environments where everyone's needs and strengths are acknowledged, where open communication and support systems are the norm, and where each team member plays a pivotal role in the communal success of the mission and each person’s part in it.

Central to this thinking is the notion of psychological capital—the dimensions of mental health that serve as the foundation of a prosperous organizational culture. By investing in the psychological well-being of employees, we not only enhance individual performance but also bolster the resilience and success of organizations as a whole. Nurturing psychological capital equips leaders and teams to face challenges with confidence and seize opportunities for growth.

But individual investments or practice can be complicated. It's hard to appreciate a “full cup” when the container is fragile and prone to breakage, or its contents are consistently depleted or lost with rapidity.  Individual well-being requires a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion practices (DEIA) that honor the diverse perspectives and experiences of every team member and their accessibility to self-care. Embracing DEIA practices enriches our decision-making processes, fuels innovation, and ensures that all circumstances are not only considered but valued and respected when we take into account what restores and recharges our staff. By creating an environment where everyone feels included and empowered, we unlock the full potential of our teams and create the CAREpacity necessary for a more unified success towards mission effectiveness.

Organizations can consider the various dimensions of well-being—physical, mental, emotional, and social – to help prioritize their choices in fostering CAREpacity. Supporting our employees in achieving balance across these dimensions not only enhances their quality of life but also boosts their performance and engagement at work. Whether it's offering flexible work arrangements, providing resources for mental health support, or fostering opportunities for meaningful social connections, investing in holistic well-being is essential for cultivating a vibrant and connected workplace culture.  

And let’s not forget the opportunities to provide consistent sanctuary to prevent all those empty cups in the first place and help reinforce their constitution. Adjusting organizational behavior and policy in order to foster an environment for greater CAREpacity can include starting meetings with mindfulness sessions, sponsoring surprise gratitude gatherings, and instituting collective pause days for the entire organization or teams to unplug. And for the organizations with missions and services who cannot have their full staff unplug, give those essential workers their day - take on their tasks (as best you can) and allow them their respite and restoration.

As we continue to navigate the reality of hybrid work environments, there's understandable concern about potential cultural erosion. However, organizational cultures can fray even when teams work side by side every day. Proximity doesn't automatically equate to connection. That's why it's crucial to recognize that the act and art of gathering is more than just completing day-to-day tasks and scheduling face-to-face meetings—it's about fostering genuine connections and building social bonds that transcend physical distance. A great deal of our work as consultants and coaches is often about facilitating psychologically safe spaces for teams and leaders to develop the skills to connect on a deeper level.

Our success lies in recognizing and valuing the interconnectedness of individuals within the context of their teams and organizations. By fostering empathy and perspective-taking, prioritizing collective care to enhance access to self-care, and embracing equity and inclusion, organizations can create spaces of belonging where everyone can more authentically and wholly contribute their best work. This is what CAREpacity building hopes to achieve. When we take care of each other, we all succeed, and our organizational missions and the causes we serve are all the better for it.


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