Volunteering can have a significant impact on a person’s health and well-being. It can reduce stress levels, improve mood, help people stay active and give them a sense of purpose. In fact, 94% of people who volunteer say that volunteering improves their mood. Psychologists even call it a “helper’s high.” Because just like a runner’s high after a workout, giving back releases endorphins in the giver’s body that leads to a feeling of exhilaration followed by a sense of calm. So it’s no surprise that there is an overlap in the goals of workplace wellness programs and employee volunteer programs (EVPs).
EVPS can kickstart a powerful cycle that promotes the health of not only the recipient and the employee volunteer, but also the employer and community at large. As more companies realize all the benefits of encouraging volunteerism, there are a ton of inspiring companies doing it right. There are a variety of ways to implement these types of programs, from elaborate to simple. Here are just a few examples:
- Salesforce lets its employees take as much as 56 total paid hours (seven days) for volunteering per year. Salesforce also awards $1,000 grants to employees who complete all seven days, to donate to the nonprofit of their choice.
- Employees at CSAA Insurance Group travel to Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks 10 times a year to help rangers with maintenance and beautification projects. They get a paid day off on a Friday and spend the weekend volunteering and camping in the parks, plus they can bring their friends and family with them.
- TD Ameritrade makes it as easy as possible for employees to get involved by hosting company-sponsored events benefiting four core programs: American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics and United Way. TD Ameritrade provides every employee with eight hours of paid volunteer time each year. TD Ameritrade also has set up a match program to match dollar-for-dollar every employee donation to the United Way and the American Red Cross.
Another company that categorically embraces volunteerism is State Farm, which has been involved in creating safer, stronger, and better-educated communities through philanthropic and social investments. For them it’s much more than donating money – their goal is to inspire and empower people to get involved in their communities to create a positive, sustainable, and measurable social impact. Their Neighborhood of Good® website serves as a platform for people to volunteer for causes important to them in their neighborhoods.
Their latest efforts center around an EVP called 100 For Good. This initiative actually started with a challenge by State Farm CEO Michael Tipsord for employees to login 100 acts of good between now and the State Farm 100th Anniversary in 2022. As part of the process, they share and track their volunteer experiences through an online portal.
“While this campaign is new, we wanted to do something that aligned with our DNA and culture. State Farm employees and agents for years have been all about doing good in the community, and volunteering and really in the business of helping others. So this idea was really about celebrating the good that we are doing.” said Lori Manning, HR Director at State Farm.
And since everyone likes a little friendly competition, by encouraging employees to track their efforts, it’s actually inspired and motivated them to do more acts of good.
“It’s made me be very intentional about looking for more fun little things and ways that I can have a positive impact on our community,” said Lori.
Lori believes that if doing acts of good becomes a habit, just like drinking water or getting your steps in, you feel better about yourself. Then you bring that positivity into your personal life and your work environment.
During an episode of the Inspiring Healthy Workplaces podcast, Lori shared a story about how her own team made a difference in a small way. At the end of a team dinner, there was some leftover food. But instead of throwing it out, she boxed it up so she could share with some of the homeless people she passed on the way home. After her colleagues found out what Lori was doing, they joined her in boxing up the food. As she handed a young gentleman a box of sliders, his face lit up. While this was such a simple act, it made a difference to the man and it also made her feel good. The next day, Lori shared the story with her peers, which in turn made them feel good. This one act of good also created a deeper connection among co-workers.
These volunteer experiences also served as the inspiration for a new State Farm commercial. “On the Board” depicts a friendly competition between two employees. The story is brought to life through acts inspired by real deeds performed by State Farm employees and agents. They do activities ranging from neighborhood cleanups, to wildlife conservation, charity fun runs, and supporting the fight against cancer. Told through an escalating friendly competition between coworkers, it shows them going to greater lengths to top each other’s good as they work to meet the 100 acts goal.
As you build out your employee wellness program activities, don’t overlook all of the incredible benefits of volunteering. Find ways to encourage employees, whether that means giving employees the chance to volunteer during work hours, flextime, matching donations, or even establishing a recognition program. By integrating wellness and volunteer opportunities, you’ll have a chance to make a more substantial impact – both in your community and the health of your employees.