Can giving employees time off to volunteer really increase productivity?

4 March 2021

In 2019, a study revealed that British workers are 8-14% less productive per hour than workers in the US, France, and Germany, with 30% of respondents admitting they could get more done at work. So it’s no surprise that employers are looking for ways to improve employee performance.

The strong correlation between positive physical and mental health and workplace productivity is becoming more apparent and is the catalyst for investment into employee wellbeing. Many businesses are implementing employee volunteer programmes because of the benefits that volunteering can bring to communities, businesses, and employees. 

Can employee volunteering improve workplace productivity?

Employee volunteering is where a company gives employees paid leave during working hours to support a local charity or non-profit organisation; commonly adopted as part of a business’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy. Some companies will choose the volunteer opportunity on behalf of their employees, while others allow employees to choose their own cause.

As we know, volunteering can benefit people in many ways, from learning new skills to making new friends. But with organisations investing in CSR, they want to see a return on that investment, such as increased community impact or enhanced employee productivity. 

While increased productivity is a proven benefit of employee volunteering, it’s important to understand that it is a by-product of other positive effects of volunteering. Let’s explore this further. 

How better mental and physical wellbeing boosts workplace productivity 

1. Lower stress levels and reduce anxiety

Heavy workloads and never-ending deadlines can quickly turn the workplace into a high-pressure environment, and, of course, high pressure can lead to stress. 

Studies show that work-related stress and anxiety cause employees to lose focus. This negatively affects memory, concentration, and the ability to process and implement new information. These factors can cause both mental and physical exhaustion, resulting in poor motivation and productivity amongst employees. 

Volunteering can provide a welcome break from the daily grind and relieve stress. Some companies are reluctant to give their teams the time off to volunteer in fear that it will set-back their deadlines – when in fact, taking time to volunteer can help employees step back and take a break in a really meaningful way.

Volunteering is said to to reduce stress by enabling people to shift their focus from their own worries to helping others. It allows your employees to put their own problems into perspective and feel a sense of purpose through making a difference to someone else’s life. A change in mindset empowers employees to tackle their workload in a stress-free way and work more productively than before.

Skills-based volunteering is proven to be particularly successful for increasing employee productivity and can improve job satisfaction by 47%. Utilising existing skills to help others not only acts as a reminder of why a person chose a particular career but is a rewarding experience that promotes positive feelings toward the workplace. It also encourages employees to seek professional development to further their knowledge.

2. Build stronger workplace relationships

Teams that have a good relationship outside of the workplace are likely to have a better team dynamic in the office, and volunteering provides the opportunity to get to know each other better. 

Team volunteering days encourage your employees to get to know each other away from a formal environment and collaborate on fun, fulfilling projects; it promotes a productive interaction between colleagues, which is transferable to the workplace. The shared experience of helping others and contributing to an important cause brings teammates closer together and creates positive conversation. 

Colleagues with meaningful relationships feel happier and have better team morale which ultimately increases workplace productivity. This is a win-win for employers and employees alike. 

You should be aware, however, that one-off team volunteering days are rarely the kind of support that charities really need. Longer-term team projects such as assisting a non-profit organisation to run a creative marketing campaign or plan a fundraising event are likely to be far more valuable all round!

3. Boosts mood through fun and fulfillment 

Volunteering is both fun and fulfilling, especially if your employees can participate in activities that match their individual interests. Everyone is different so instead of creating a ‘one size fits all’ employee volunteering programme, give room for individuality with your CSR. For example, if an employee loves animals, they could benefit from volunteering at an animal sanctuary; or if they enjoy writing, they could find a skills-based opportunity advantageous, such as blog writing. 

Research shows that helping others releases endorphins, similar to when we exercise, that make us feel happy. Better mood equals a better attitude! This new and improved outlook will return to the office with your employees, all contributing to enhanced productivity. 

Skills-based volunteering is proven to be particularly successful for increasing employee productivity and can improve job satisfaction by 47%

4. Builds self-confidence and provides a sense of purpose

Volunteering is great for building confidence, and increased confidence helps people become more productive. Your employees’ confidence will grow through learning new skills, sharing knowledge, and achieving goals. All of which are regular outcomes of volunteering projects. 

If a person believes that they can complete their work to a high standard, this automatically makes them feel more productive. They have the motivation to get stuck into the task and trust themselves to do a good job. 

Volunteering also gives people a sense of purpose. This emotion is most apparent when people can contribute to a cause that’s important to them; for example, a volunteer may want to help a charity that supports a health condition if they have a friend who is living with that particular medical issue. 

When people can work with a cause they value, it brings a sense of happiness because they really understand the difference the project could potentially make to someone’s life. Again, this positive impact on mental wellbeing can help to improve performance and productivity in the workplace.

5. Improves physical wellbeing

Sitting at a desk all day, surrounded by paperwork and glued to a screen can take its toll on anyone, and it can sometimes be tricky to find the motivation to exercise after a hard day’s work – none of these things are good for our physical health!

So why not give your employees the chance to get active during the working day by volunteering? The benefits to physical wellbeing vary depending on the volunteer activity in question. For example, an outdoor activity will have more benefits than virtual volunteering. Evidence suggests that volunteering can help lower blood pressure through increased physical activity, while other studies show that volunteering can also ‘lessen symptoms of chronic pain and reduce the risk of heart disease.’

A good state of physical health will contribute to your employees’ overall sense of wellbeing and as we’ve already discussed, a positive state of mind motivates your employees to be more productive.

Are you ready to invest in employee wellbeing?

So there you have it – five ways that volunteering can positively impact employee productivity, and most importantly, how an employee volunteering programme can improve your team’s physical and mental wellbeing. 

These days, making a profit isn’t the only thing that matters in business. It’s important to create an attractive company culture and a nurturing environment that allows your employees to thrive. Businesses that prioritise staff wellbeing will have happy, motivated teams with great employee retention.

Employee Volunteering with Social Good Connect 

If you are interested in an employee volunteering programme for your company, get in touch with our friendly team to see how we can help. Our search and match platform will connect your employees to their ideal volunteer opportunity. 

Written by Holly Moore

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