The virtues of volunteering

By November 13, 2016Blogs

I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.

Do you think that there’s a correlation between employee engagement and volunteerism? I don’t have any statistics to prove it, but I don’t doubt that there is.

A few years ago, I volunteered at a soup kitchen on the weekends, preparing large vats of oatmeal for Sunday breakfast. They probably didn’t trust me cooking the eggs! Even though I volunteered for only a few hours a week, that time spent giving back to others made my corporate job at the time more bearable.

Now that I work for myself, I have more control of my time. I started volunteering with Meals on Wheels a couple of months ago. Meals on Wheels is an organization that delivers food to primarily elderly people. I deliver food twice a month. I see the appreciation in people’s faces when they open the door. They often thank me for bringing the food, but I should really thank them. Volunteering for Meals on Wheels is easily the best part of my week. I feel so good after volunteering that I attack my work with pleasure.

For those of you whose companies don’t currently support volunteerism, particularly on company time, I suggest that you recommend it to your HR department. When I volunteered at the soup kitchen, I often saw groups from companies volunteering together. There are benefits to employees volunteering. What are they?

Productivity goes up when employees volunteer because they’re part of a team looking to advance a larger goal. At the soup kitchen, the goal was getting meals out on time. At work, oftentimes different groups are competing with each other. For resources, time, access to management – you name it. That competition doesn’t exist when volunteering. That sense of community translates to company togetherness and less conflict between departments.

There’s a sense of pride when employees from a company volunteer on behalf of that company, especially if the volunteer charity recognizes the company. The soup kitchen had an annual banquet to thank its volunteers. Meals on Wheels holds one, too. I can’t tell you heartwarming it feels to be recognized for your efforts. And if you’re being recognized on behalf of the company, you’re likely to be a proud employee and to work hard for the company.

I think the productivity reason alone should motivate companies to offer volunteer opportunities to its employees. Employees will know you really see the value of volunteering if you allow it on company time. Teams of company employees volunteering at the soup kitchen was a great idea. The soup kitchen I volunteered at served food every day, so there was always a need for volunteers. There are so many charities that need help. If companies promoted volunteerism to their employees, employee engagement would soar.

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