Remote working leaving around a third of charity workers 'burned out'

Just under a third of charity staff are “burned out from the demands of intense remote working” amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a report has warned.

The Charity Digital Skills Report 2021 has looked at the state of digital skills and expertise among charities over the last, pandemic hit, year.

This covers a period where services and fundraising have swiftly pivoted online and staff have been asked to work remotely, to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

But the report found that 31% of staff say they are burned out by intense remote working and 38% of charities say they have found remote working “challenging”.

The report has been compiled by Zoe Amar Digital and Skills Platform, who urge charities to ensure they improve remote working so “colleagues’ wellbeing is a priority".

“Whether it’s limiting the amount of time staff spend on video calls, mandating time off or changing expectations of colleagues, this will make work much more effective, productive and motivating for everyone,” they say.

The report also highlights the acceleration of digital change among charities amid the health crisis as well as other challenges they have faced.

It found that 83% of charities had started offering online support to beneficiaries in response to a surge in demand. This includes 78% of charities using digital to reach new audiences.

How charities rate their digital skills has improved markedly but many still rate themselves as 'poor', the report found. This year 28% rated their digital skills as poor, compared to 40% last year.

Meanwhile, the proportion rating themselves as having “excellent basic digital skills” has almost doubled, to 56%, compared to 29% last year.

The proportion of charities with a digital strategy in place has also improved, up by 11% to 60%.

Just over two thirds (67%) see digital as a priority for their organisation, with a similar proportion planning to invest in their digital infrastructure.

Digital exclusion

But another challenge charities are facing is around digital exclusion, says the report.

Just over half (52%) of charities are worried about exclusion some people and groups face as the voluntary sector adapts services digitally. Around a quarter (24%) are concerned that their audience is not online.

Almost half (45%) of charities are having to provide their users with devices, data or support to get online. A similar proportion want core digital costs included in funding applications, with the report calling for funders to “up their game” in supporting charities improve their digital capabilities.

Elsewhere, the report found that for the third year running charities say a clear vision for digital from their leaders is the biggest priority.

“There have been some very positive developments as we look to emerge from the pandemic, said Zoe Amar Digital director Zoe Amar.

“Basic digital skills are improving, and we are now seeing more charities taking a strategic approach. Charities are also making digital more of a priority generally and are planning to invest further in the coming year.

“However, digital inclusion, burnout from remote working and poor IT are still key barriers. Furthermore, digital fundraising, data use, service development and developing an online presence are significant areas for development.

“Across the sector, foundations need to be put in place, including skills, infrastructure and taking an inclusive approach to technology.”

Gilly Challinor head of network delivery at digital support charity CAST added: “The past year has really highlighted and exacerbated the digital divide, where people who were already online prior to COVID could continue to access many charity services.

“But those people who were previously digitally excluded could no longer access the crucial face to face support from charities that they had relied on before.

“Ensuring charities can reach the most vulnerable communities when digital service delivery is on the increase is a pressing need. As the sector moves to digital service delivery more and more, we must intentionally watch out for people we could be leaving behind."

The rise in home working and use of technology by charities during the Covid-19 pandemic has boosted efficiency and “eliminated a lot of wasted time”, according to a report released earlier this year.

But this Covid-19 Impact Monitor full report for 2020 also found the pandemic had dramatically reduced staff morale.

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