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The Many Ways that Volunteering Impacts Employee Wellbeing

Daniel Swersky

When people look back on 2022, they’ll likely remember it as the year that employees took back their voices. With trends like “quiet quitting” and the “Great Resignation” affecting much of the corporate landscape, businesses have been forced to take seriously how employee well-being can impact their bottom lines. With that in mind, Daniel Swersky explains that some teams have begun implementing volunteer opportunities through their companies.

While it may sound like added work, research has shown that volunteering can directly increase happiness and mental well-being. By encouraging employees to work together for the better good, rather than for the company’s profits, employers can help their teams bond and experience a shared sense of responsibility.

Creating a Space for Personal Passions within the Workplace

A global study conducted by Mercer in 2018 found that employees most desired three things from their careers—flexibility, purpose, and a focus on their well-being. Most people wanted to feel that their personal lives were not being eclipsed by their work lives; that they could continue to explore their interests and hobbies despite their careers.

In a post-COVID world, hybrid work settings have become a norm, allowing greater flexibility than ever before. Yet, many employees still feel that their companies lack a strong focus on purpose and well-being. Offering volunteer opportunities bridges that divide by introducing a chance for employees to bring their passions into the office.

So many people have personal interests and projects that they struggle to integrate with their corporate lives. Yet, by allowing employees to make volunteering a part of their jobs, companies can create a safe space for workers to express their true selves. This undoubtedly creates a sense of greater purpose in life and breaks down the tired expectations of a dry, sanitized office space.

Daniel Swersky

Volunteering Improves Mental Health

Researchers have explored the positive impacts of volunteering for several years, with one such study from the United Kingdom exploring its benefits for mental health. The study explored household data over a 20-year period, finding that those who had volunteered for an extended period were significantly happier than those who didn’t.

The exact mechanism for why this could be so isn’t yet clear, but it’s believed that the combination of social integration, greater purpose, and a sense of helping others helps to reduce feelings of depression and hopelessness. When applied to a business landscape, the same effects could help employees feel happier with their careers and more appreciated in life.

Likewise, volunteers have been found to have more confidence than non-volunteers, which can directly translate into better performance in the office. By taking on the role of a supportive member of society, volunteers often develop a sense of pride in their work that they carry into all aspects of life.

The Bottom Line

2022 was the year that Americans remembered to work to live, not live to work. With a renewed focus on employee wellbeing, companies are now embracing volunteer opportunities as a means to improve happiness and satisfaction for their staff. This could have a direct impact on how businesses operate and improve the overall corporate landscape.

Volunteering and the Pursuit of Happiness

Danny Swersky

Years of corporate culture have transformed what was once a heartfelt way of giving back to local communities into little more than an accolade for future CVs. Yet, in light of ongoing global issues, volunteer groups have reestablished themselves as vital and necessary parts of society. Danny Swersky says that for those involved, it’s more than just a line on a resume—it provides a sense of purpose, community, and even happiness.

Research has even gone so far as to study the benefits of volunteering, not just for recipients but for the individuals who dedicate their time to the needs of others. The findings are clear volunteering is a crucial step toward the pursuit of happiness. To understand why this is so, Daniel discusses how volunteering contributes to positive mental health and creates a sense of unity.

Volunteering as an Ethical Act

It is of course required of a man that he should benefit his fellow-men — many if he can; if not, a few; if not a few, those who are nearest; if not these, himself.” – Seneca On Leisure 3.5

Philosophers have pondered for thousands of years what it means to be truly happy. While some have argued that joy is rooted in senseless abandon, others have maintained that mindfulness, strict moral codes, and personal exploration are necessary to finding contentment. For the Stoics, though, altruism was an ethical duty, and, without it, no man could find happiness.

This philosophy has been echoed throughout the years with psychologists, sociologists, and philanthropists all arguing for the benefits of social outreach. According to their works, by giving of themselves, volunteers experience a greater sense of place and purpose that fosters contentment in their lives.

It’s the ethical sense of doing what’s right to help a fellow human that generates warmth and care through society. And, according to researchers, this has a direct impact on mental health and happiness.

Danny Swersky

Connects People from Diverse Backgrounds

Behind the purely ethical benefits, researchers have also explored how social connection through volunteering helps to create a greater sense of inclusion. This is especially true for older volunteers who may feel isolated from their communities. By working with others to support those in need, volunteers are able to build new relationships that span different ages and backgrounds.

People from all walks of life can come together, share their experiences, and unite to offer greater support to the disenfranchised. This promotes a sense of understanding and a greater appreciation for the plight of others, as well as fostering a new outlook on otherwise divided communities. Taken all together, this can contribute to feelings of living a fuller life.

Final Thoughts

Volunteering should never be seen as a way to gain favor in the corporate world. Instead, it should be treated as a way to give back while only receiving the happiness and satisfaction of doing the right thing. By understanding how volunteering can contribute to mental health and contentment, we can all appreciate the importance of social outreach in our daily pursuits of happiness.