When we hear the word, “volunteer,” many of us instantly consider the recipient who will benefit from donated time and support rather than the advantages to the person giving away his or her time. After all, the long-held belief that volunteering is, “the right thing to do,” has been the backbone of the non-profit and support community. Yet numerous studies looking at volunteering have shown that there are key employee health and overall business benefits associated with volunteering that go far beyond a moral obligation.
Team building has become all the more important in our post-pandemic world. Relationships between work colleagues may require an intentional effort to rekindle connections, and volunteering is a great way for employees to get to know each other in a new setting. It can also be a wonderful opportunity for different departments/teams to interact with others and build trust. Creating shared meaningful experiences can lead to an increased sense of camaraderie within the workplace.
Reduced Stress, Improved Mental & Physical Health
Many peer-reviewed research studies have shown a clear connection between volunteering and improved mental and physical health. Volunteering helps us feel more socially connected and reduces feelings of loneliness and depression. Physically, volunteering can reduce blood pressure and hypertension.
According to a recent paper from the Mayo Clinic, “Volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, relaxed feelings by releasing dopamine. By spending time in service to others, volunteers report feeling a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect. Reduced stress further decreases risk of many physical and mental health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety, and general illness. In addition, a Longitudinal Study of Aging found that individuals who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not, even when controlling for age, gender, and physical health.”
Leadership & Skill Development
Volunteering can be a catalyst for leadership and skill development. With many teams continuing to work remotely or on hybrid schedules, it can be challenging for organization leaders to identify rising stars and those with untapped abilities. Volunteering can provide an opportunity to evaluate and identify hidden leaders within a team as employees often volunteer together in a location different from their daily work environment, and they will likely be tasked with work that is very different from their normal duties.
Younger Employees Look for Deeper Meaning
Employees today, especially younger employees, seek meaningful work within companies that take a stand on social issues and care about the community. In today’s competitive workforce, where employers are struggling to attract and retain employees, adding a volunteer layer can help fulfill that employee's need while providing a deeper connection with their colleagues and company, improving both recruitment and retention rates in the process. By organizing structured opportunities for employees to volunteer together, a company can demonstrate that it cares about the community in which it does business and puts a value on staff who wish to give back.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
In recent years, many companies have made public commitments to address social and racial inequities. Volunteering with organizations that work to improve challenges like housing insecurity, food insecurity, access to green spaces, and mental illness (among others), can be an effective way for a company to demonstrate to employees, customers, and the broader community their commitment to DEI issues. Additionally, volunteering can expose employees to some of the adverse experiences people are facing every day in our own community, creating greater empathy and understanding of the less privileged populations.
Our community's needs are tremendous. Many amazing and impactful nonprofit organizations across the Region are doing important and necessary work but may lack adequate resources and staff to sustain it. By volunteering, a company and employees can make a truly positive and direct impact in the community.
Furthermore, well-intentioned individuals may be interested in volunteering but aren’t sure how to get started or are limited in available time. Companies that include time off to volunteer as an employee benefit are empowering their employees to engage and support their community.
While “it’s the right thing to do” is still a compelling motive behind volunteering, taking a look at the many individual and business benefits from the act can lead to an even stronger Region and a happier, healthier workforce.