Key things to help you everyday

Volunteering – staying busy and finding purpose in challenging time​s

Mental health has been one of the big themes in our conversations with village professionals this year. When you consider the year we’ve had, it’s hardly surprising.

Time and time again village professionals have expressed concerns about the mental health of members of their communities, and this has made us think about our own experiences in villages.

For us, the happiest people in villages were always those with a sense of purpose.

This can come in many forms, be it caring for a pet, managing a communal veggie patch, participating in a club or even helping out a neighbour.

But another route that is often overlooked is volunteering.

Volunteering linked to mental health

In the July 2020 issue of Greater Good Magazine, Elizabeth Hooper identified a link between volunteering and mental health.

“New research suggests that volunteers aren’t just helping the communities they serve. People who volunteer actually experience a boost in their mental health,” she said.

While there are some initiatives that can’t be undertaken during a pandemic, many organisations are offering opportunities to volunteer remotely from home.

And these are perfect for staff or residents who could use a pick-me-up!

Friends For Good offers friendly ear to listen

A great example we’ve recently become aware of is the Friends for Good program.

Friends for Good is a Not For Profit driven by volunteer to help fight loneliness with a FriendLine, which is basically a phone line anyway can call for a chat.

This is a great option for villages – not just for potentially lonely residents, but for staff members who’d like to volunteer their time to help someone in need.

You can learn more about Friends for Good here.

Staying busy, finding purpose

A busy village is a happy village.

In our experience that has proven so very true.

If you have a resident or staff member looking a little lost and lonely our advice would be reach out, discover their interests and suggest they get involved in something they enjoy.

Volunteering isn’t the solution to every problem – but it can be a great way to find joy and a sense of purpose in these challenging times.

Covid-19 Key things to help you everyday

Take a deep breath – Time to focus on team and self-care.

I speak to many village professionals on a weekly basis and in recent weeks I’ve picked up a change in tone from panic to calm, to a sense of weariness.

After months of changed working environments, having to adapt and adapt again and continually stretching both personal resources and finances village teams are becoming weary.  

A conscious understanding of how you and your team are responding to this crisis/pandemic is vital. 

As my great colleague at Human Psychology Samantha Young most recently shared, “We all respond differently to crisis. Some of us switch into ‘action’ mode and become more transactional in how we interact with others. Some of us go quiet and withdraw.”

So how can you be supporting your team and importantly yourselves amidst this ongoing uncertainty?

Samantha offered the following options that focus on the basic human needs of fulfillment, belonging and security.

Make your community a safe place to work

Are your employees concerned about the cleanliness of the environment they are working in?

Make sure you have appropriate reminders and resources to reinforce guidelines around cough/sneeze etiquette (into a tissue or elbow), social distancing reminders, hand washing practices, and staff not coming into work when they feel ill.

Update policies and procedures

Having clear policy and procedures to deal with work in a pandemic situation is vital.

Are you able to accommodate flexible working arrangements? If so what are the parameters around that? Will you be encouraging your team and self to have more regular annual leave?

Do you need to review KPI’s and performance measures? 

What additional policy do you need to encapsulate the emergency management act regulations and restrictions – recording of temperature, tracing records (i.e. physical contact with others), hygiene requirements, laundering of uniforms, etc?

Also, consider what new forms of communication policy needs to be in place? Considering things like media responses and use of electronic messaging ahead of time can save a great deal of stress.


Do what you can to take the pressure off your teams.

Recognise that we are all human and that we will all be more distracted right now.

Set expectations about failure, uncertainty, and interdependence. Ask people to speak up.

Here are some conversation starters:

  • We’ve never faced anything like this before so there are a lot of gaps in what we know.
  • We need to hear from everyone. If you’re worried, please speak up.  

It’s also important to practice active, frequent and honest communication and keep everyone informed about important issues and changes. Try to host gathering/meetings sometimes without an agenda with no order of business but to share feelings or concerns.

Mental health

Revisit how and what you can do to support your teams and own mental health.

Does everyone know how to or need to be encouraged to access the Employee Assistance Program?  Share local mental health service details. 

Normalise the conversation around mental health and well-being in team meetings and offer opportunities for suggestions around how to assist each other during this time.

Be a little more conscious and sensitive of the impact the crisis maybe having on out of work life. Many staff are unsettled or uncertain during this time, so it is important to ensure everyone feels safe, informed, and supported.

Caring during a crisis

In times of crisis, every interaction we have is telling a story about our leadership.

Being vulnerable is one of the most courageous things you can do as a leader. Engagement is going to require concerted effort and attention from leaders to build and retain trust and engender a sense of purpose and worth in their teams.

Samantha shared, “Leading during COVID-19 will require sustained energy in the face of disappointment. Passion to try again and persistence to press through obstacles. Boldness during uncertainty and endurance when it is tempting to quit.

“Belief precedes hope so give people something to believe in. Connect effort and sacrifice to the big picture. We are in for a long and bumpy ride through COVID-19. Now more than ever, we need brave leaders, dealers of hope, who can inspire, engage and genuinely care”.

If you need support don’t hesitate to reach out to the DCM Institute team at