Over the past 18 months employee wellbeing has played an increasingly prominent role for employers and this is something we have seen translate into the employee volunteering space too. At a time when people are feeling isolated and disconnected, volunteering offers employees the chance to give something back in an engaged and meaningful way to provide connection, purpose and assurance.
Volunteers work directly with the cause they care about and they can see the direct impact first hand; there’s a huge feel good factor attached to that. A recent study, Volunteering and wellbeing during the Coronavirus pandemic, published by the Wales Centre for Public Policy in June 2021, points to a strong correlation between ‘purposeful social connection to meet community need’ and ‘enhanced wellbeing’ which is backed up by a study by the Journal of Happiness Studies, published in March 2020, which compared the mental health of people who volunteered with those who didn’t.
Traditionally the organisations we partner with come to employee volunteering as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) investment. There is no doubt that how organisations contribute to their communities is still a significant part of their brand and values, and one of the key considerations when attracting new talent. But we have also seen a shift towards volunteering as a way for employers to show their employees that they are at the heart of the organisation. Many of our partners have used volunteering as a way of investing in and supporting mental wellbeing for their workforce and they can see tangible benefits in employee engagement and retention as a result.
On a basic level it can be seen in practical projects to improve the physical outdoor space near to their workplaces. Fresh air, exercise and a break from screen time are all well-known ways to boost mental health. Some employers take it further by engaging in projects which combine tangible community impact with personal development in leadership, project management, communication and team building. To be invested in is a powerful means to add to an employee’s sense of belonging and wellbeing. Feedback from volunteers shows that this permeates into increased positive feelings about the employer, colleagues and sense of self in their workplace.
Gemma Sharp is new business development manager at Volunteering Matters