Volunteering can be a win-win for employee wellness and community engagement.
VALERIE PHOLPITUKE , REGIONAL HEAD, COMMUNITY IMPACT & ENGAGEMENT, US & AMERICAS, STANDARD CHARTERED BANK
ON 2/3/23 AT 8:00 AM EST
The New Year has come and gone, and many may have already forgotten what they had resolved to do on January 1. But if that resolution was to volunteer more, now is the best time to start.
Volunteering can drop after the holiday season, and by February, some organizations lack the volunteers they had in surplus just a month ago. According to the Sightlines Project, only 26% of American surveyed volunteer, despite reports that many American view volunteering as worthwhile. Why such a disconnect? Most people cite time and conflicting work schedules as major barriers, but employees and employers would actually benefit if companies made employee volunteering part of the job.
Researchers have found donating our time and talent to others who need it can lower blood pressure, boost happiness and improve mental and physical health. Studies have also linked employee volunteer programs with more productive and engaged employees, all while helping a company meet its community engagement ambitions. With so much emphasis on employee wellness these days, company volunteer programs could be the perfect 2023 resolution to ensure we are all taking care of ourselves and our communities.
A Bridge Between Personal and Professional
As hybrid and remote teams further blur the lines between work and personal life, more employees than ever are taking their work home with them. But this increased flexibility also brings more opportunities to bridge the gap between personal and professional interests and make the workplace more fun and fulfilling. Companies can embrace these new opportunities by allotting time for their workers to volunteer for causes they care about.
From ‘traditional’ volunteering opportunities, like working at a soup kitchen, to something that aligns more closely with their interests, like teaching a free class: Employees benefit from helping others. Most employees have personal passions they may not bring to work. Volunteering lets us take advantage of skills we may not get to exercise in our regular day-to-day. Not only is it fun to engage more of our talents, but we feel more fulfilled, which helps us bring our whole selves to work.
I had a colleague who always wanted to be on stage but never had the opportunity. When the conversation about volunteering arose, they combined this passion with giving back to their community and decided to help out at a local theater. Volunteering got their foot into a door they had long desired to enter, giving them the courage to try something new and fun they always wanted to pursue.
For volunteering to benefit employees and the workplace, the entire organization needs to be involved. By allowing employees to donate their time during work hours, the workplace becomes an outlet for personal fulfillment without affecting personal time. In one survey, 89% of employees perceived companies that sponsored volunteer activities as fostering a better working environment, and 75% said volunteering was critical to their well-being. Company-sponsored volunteer programs rejuvenate employee morale, workplace atmosphere and brand perception.
For the past few years, I’ve worked with a colleague who makes beautiful centerpieces. She can utilize her three volunteering days (a benefit we’ve had for over 10 years) to buy the materials, bring them to work and raffle them off, with all of the money going to charity. People loved it, so when she found herself with an abundance of materials this past season, she decided to hold a workshop where she taught us how to make them. Everyone worked together to learn a fun new skill, and all of the pieces were later raffled off for charity. By allowing this volunteer effort during work hours, she amplified her typical contribution while sharing her gift with the team, who learned and grew from the experience.
Recruiting statistics continuously reinforce the narrative that employees care about community-conscious brands, and employers are starting to take notice. Older reports show that corporate responsibility can increase employee productivity and even revenue — while also demonstrating that some employees would consider a pay cut in exchange for working at a company that demonstrates social responsibility. With this in mind, some companies already offer employees paid volunteer time off.
A social responsibility program built around volunteerism can improve an organization at every level, all the way down to each individual employee. When companies promote volunteerism during the workday, they support employee personal growth and development while reaping key business benefits beyond workplace satisfaction. Employees who volunteer on company time also build key skills and cultivate stronger relationships with their co-workers. Meanwhile, the organization gains recognition for its significant impact on the community.
Volunteerism tends to spike between Thanksgiving and New Year and then drastically decreases for the remainder of the year. With company support, more people can keep up their motivation to do more good in more places. Leaders can start by embracing volunteering initiatives themselves and inspire the rest of the company with their beneficial impact — for the volunteer, those they help and the company that sponsors their volunteer activities.