And that’s just the beginning! There are all kinds of things that you can do to give back to the community and raise awareness or money for an issue you care about.
Last week was National Volunteer Week. It was a week where many non-profit organizations thanked their loyal volunteers for all their hard work, while many volunteers shared stories about their rewarding experiences.
Increasingly, we’re also seeing regular businesses incorporating volunteering into their company culture – and they’re realizing some pretty amazing benefits!
1. Happier & Healthier Employees
There’s a growing body of research suggesting that those who regularly volunteer experience a wide variety of physical, mental and emotional health benefits.
For example, volunteering has been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain, heart disease and depression, while also reducing stress and improving overall mental health. For older employees, studies have also found that volunteers have a lower mortality rate than those who don’t volunteer, even when you take into account factors like the participants’ health.
One 2013 study reported that 76% of U.S. adults who volunteer say that volunteering has made them feel physically healthier, while 78% say that volunteering lowers their levels of stress.
Why would a business want happier, healthier employees? Because health and happiness create a ripple effect of positivity that includes increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and even improved customer satisfaction!
2. Encourage Team-Building
The company that volunteers together, stays together. That’s an expression, right?
Think of it this way. What’s a better use of valuable employee time: participating in “the Great Egg Drop,” or giving back to the community? Many of the typical team-building activities are, let’s face it, a little bit hokey. Whether they have their merits is a discussion for another time. But there’s no arguing that volunteering has intrinsic value all on its own.
While companies can hire someone to come in and spend a day running workshops and conducting personality tests, there’s a lot to be said for getting out of the day-to-day work environment and uniting coworkers in a common and worthwhile goal. Volunteering builds camaraderie and promotes empathy. It connects coworkers and it connects communities. And hey, it’s less expensive and in many ways more meaningful.
3. Boost Employee Satisfaction
We’ve all been talking about “work-life balance” for so long now that the phrase has lost meaning for many of us. And in this brave new world, the separation between work and life has become increasingly hard to define.
The result is that both employers and employees are expecting more from each other. With mobile technology we’re constantly connected, and employers are encroaching more and more on the personal. Employees, meanwhile, are looking for employers that reflect their values and help them to express their own.
By incorporating volunteering into a benefits package that prioritizes work-life balance, companies are recognizing that their employees have passions outside of the office and are supporting them in the pursuit of those passions. Bakers and bikers alike are encouraged to show off their skills for a worthy cause. They’ll thank you for it with their loyalty – employee retention is directly tied to how people feel about their work-life balance.
4. Enhance Your Company’s Reputation
Think of it as a win-win-win scenario! Have employees blog about their volunteer experiences, or take some pictures of your colleagues in action and share them via social media. Depending on the size of the project, you may even be able to drum up some local news coverage!
This kind of a boost to your company’s reputation can have a positive impact on your recruitment initiatives and in some cases can even result in more sales. What’s not to love about that?
The Moral of the Story
Volunteering is a gift that keeps on giving. So whether you hold direct sway over your company’s culture – as an HR employee or as a small business owner, for example – or you’re just one employee trying to make a difference, it’s time for a shift in perspective. Start thinking about volunteering as an investment: in yourself, and in your company’s success.
We’re a mid-sized Toronto software company with a super-sized heart! Every employee gets two volunteer days a year to be used however they like, and many employees use these days as an opportunity to bond with their coworkers. In addition, we have plenty of volunteering and charity events taking place year round. Last week, for example, we participated in Corporate Clean-Up Day at a local park. Maybe we’ll see YOU there next year!
A version of this post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.