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3 Org-Culture Practices that Promote Wellness and Balance

Alexis Perrotta profile image

Alexis Perrotta

A stack of stones.

Work-life-balance—a buzzworthy term that has gained popularity in this, the decade-long dawn of the always-on-the-grid mentality—is all about one’s ability and willingness to find a healthy balance between personal time and work.

While nonprofit professionals don’t always prioritize work-life-balance—we’re a passionate group of intelligent and energetic problem-solvers sometimes known for putting our own health and wellbeing at the bottom of the proverbial list—there are plenty of ways that your organization can help to ensure that you’re tending to your needs, and developing your out-of-work self, too.

Organizational culture can make or break your best attempts at managing the stress of your day-to-day. Here are some examples of benefits that you may find at an organization where employees are encouraged to find and maintain a balance.

Time away

Whole Whale, a digital agency that leverages web data and technology to increase the impact of nonprofits, proudly offers employees unlimited vacation. However, after implementing the policy, leadership found that some staff were not fully utilizing the benefit, and as a result, members of the team were experiencing some serious burn out.

So Whole Whale took it one step further; starting last year, they instituted a minimum 10-vacation-days-per-year policy, and they enforce it, too! According to Julie Leary, Whole Whale’s Digital Strategy Whaler, it has made a huge difference. “It has helped set the expectation that unlimited vacation time is really meant to be used.”

Cross-Cultural Solutions, an organization offering international volunteer and cultural immersion programming, is another organization with some creative time-away offerings. CCS makes sure that employees keep their passion for the work fresh by encouraging staff to participate in a week-long international volunteer program each year. Staff are given the option to take a week off without tapping into their PTO in order to get into the field and experience the mission of the org at its best.

Some other time-away options to keep an eye out for:

  • Earned sabbatical
  • Summer Fridays
  • Additional PTO earned in place of a fiscal bonus


Healthy practices such as yoga and meditation don’t always need to be relegated to the home or yoga studio.

Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse occasionally invites a local massage therapist into the office to help mitigate burnout. Because the work can be so challenging, Emerge! leadership really values the opportunity to help staff to relieve some of that stress.

“There is no magic solution. It is draining. With massage, compassion fatigue, or a general attempt to have a really active culture of fun in the organization we try so that not every moment is crisis,” explained CEO Ed Mercurio-Sakwa in this Nonprofit Times article.

At EL Education, a leading K-12 nonprofit, employees can subscribe to the popular meditation app, Headspace, for free. This allows staff to take a few minutes on the commute, during lunch, or any time during the day where things get a bit too hectic to find a little bit of zen.

Some other wellness benefits to keep an eye out for:

  • Gym reimbursement
  • In-office meditation and yoga

Team Events

In addition to their time-off policy, Whole Whale also tries to schedule at least one team event each month. In the past they’ve done team karaoke, kickball games, baseball games (go Mets!), volunteer outings, and (of course) happy hours.

“These help everyone let loose and get to know each other outside of the work zone. Building these connections makes us a better team!” says Leary.

Together-time can be anything. Happy hours, bowling, volunteer work, or a shared meal can go a long way in the effort to build genuine relationships and trust among employees.

Team Rubicon, an organization working to unite the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams, is highlighted for their team meals in this Nonprofit Times piece.

At Team Rubicon, shared meals may come in the form of an early, catered dinner or appetizers in an effort to get people to socialize around the office. “The idea is to get the staff to connect to one another, get to know each other more personally,” says Candice Schmitt, Director of Human Resources.

Some other team events to keep an eye out for:

  • Volunteer projects
  • Org-wide health and wellness challenges
  • Walking meetings
  • Flexible workspaces

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Alexis Perrotta profile image

Alexis Perrotta

As the Associate Director of Marketing and Communications at Idealist and a lifelong nonprofit professional, Alexis offers job seekers, game changers, and do gooders actionable tips, career resources, and social-impact advice.

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