Charity leaders urged to set up online support networks to cope with emotional pressures

Charity leaders need to prioritise online support networks through apps such as What’s App to tacklethe mental health challenges they face amid Covid-19, says Trussell Trust CEO.

Emma Revie says that a WhatsApp group of fellow charity CEOs has been a vital support structure for her as she leads the charity as it looks to meet a dramatic increase in demand for its food bank services.

She has also sought help as charity leaders cope with the strain of home working and lack of face-to-face interaction with colleagues.

“There has been no time to sit, reflect and collaborate and do all the things we would normally do when we are making big decisions (amid the pandemic). We’ve had to act fast and act on instinct. It’s been a challenging time,” she said.

“How do I hold it together at work and avoid going home and breaking down in a puddle? For me I go onto the WhatsApp group and break down in a puddle there. They offer such encouragement.

“At the beginning of the pandemic we were WhatsApping on a nightly basis. It was a safe place to go ‘oh my goodness’ and celebrate one other.”

Revie was speaking at the Charity Times Leadership Conference this week during a session called ‘How to be an authentic leader and take care of yourself in the process’.

She urged charity leaders not to think of emotional support from peers as “something extra you do in your own time”.

“In my experience it has been core in me being able to do every job I’ve done as chief executive. Find out who is your gang. Who is it you can learn from and who are the people who will hold you up and the people you can be truly honest with about how you are struggling with things.”

Mental health

Also on the panel was Simon Blake, chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England.

He recommends that charity leaders, particularly those home working, to have work life boundaries in place. This includes turning off mobile phones and making sure you spend part of your day away from work.

“I have a dog and also a horse rider and runner,” said Blake.

“I try and do something at the end of the day without my phone, whether that is going for a run, going for a walk or just insuring that I don’t have the ability to look at anything. We get so used to having a phone on at the same time as the computer. The temptation is to look at it,” he said.

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