Despite the official end of the recession, many Americans are still feeling the impact of workplace changes. A 2011 American Psychological Association survey found that two-thirds of American workers say that their employers have made cuts, such as salary freezes, layoffs and reduced benefits, during the down economy. Thirty-six percent reported that they were experiencing regular stress at work, and 49 percent said that low salaries were causing them stress. With employees expected to do more with fewer resources, volunteerism is an effective way to respond to changes in today’s workplace.
A growing body of research concludes that volunteering provides numerous health benefits. In an April 2010 survey released by UnitedHealthcare and VolunteerMatch, 84 percent of volunteers surveyed agreed that volunteering improves physical health, and 95 percent agreed that it also improves emotional health. Additionally, 96 percent agreed that volunteering makes people happier. Numerous studies have documented the connection between volunteerism and lower rates of depression, a decline in chronic pain, and even decreased mortality rates.
In addition to health benefits, companies benefit from employee volunteerism with productive, more satisfied employees and improved alignment with corporate missions and values. A 2009 Junior Achievement report called The Benefits of Employee Volunteer Programs states that some of the most measurable impacts are on the attitudes, productivity and job satisfaction of employees.
Brian May, partner with Accenture, says, “Volunteering with Junior Achievement and other local organizations allows our team to step away from the ‘day-to-day’ and rally around other things that are important to them. It is very rewarding for them to see the result of their ‘giving,’ especially when it is impacting kids. It is actually a morale booster.”
Many companies encourage employee volunteerism because they find it aligns well with corporate values and missions while benefiting the communities in which employees live and work. Sue Yoder, CEFCU vice president, said, “CEFCU believes it’s important to establish relationships by supporting and being involved in community activities. Volunteering benefits CEFCU because it gives employees an opportunity to give back to the communities that have given so much to CEFCU.”
Many studies have demonstrated the emotional and physical benefits of volunteering, and companies are increasingly realizing that promoting employee volunteerism impacts not just the employee, but the company as a whole, as well as the community being served. Consider visiting VolunteerMatch.org to find volunteer opportunities near you. Those who volunteer consistently report being happier, healthier and more productive on the job than those who don’t—all important outcomes in managing inevitable workforce change. As Robert Rosenthal writes in the VolunteerMatch blog Engaging Volunteers, “In the daily work of managing our organizations, it’s easy to overlook the magic that comes from linking with, supporting and nurturing a cause. A good fit between a volunteer and an organization can literally open a world of possibilities for both sides.” iBi