Patricia Chaney

How To Fit Volunteering Into Your Wellness Program

Nearly 90% of employees say companies that sponsor employee volunteering have a better workplace culture. So, it’s better for your employees — but is it better for their health as well?

For a growing number of businesses, developing an effective wellness program is a key way to save on health care costs and promote a healthier, happier and more engaged workforce. So, how do volunteering and wellness mix? A wellness program doesn’t necessarily have to include a volunteering element to promote employee health; however, adding volunteering opportunities to your existing roster of wellness activities can have numerous benefits for your staff and your business.

Volunteering and Wellness Benefits

Does volunteering promote wellness? The answer is an overwhelming yes. Plenty of research has linked volunteering or service projects to health benefits. A recent review of some of those benefits reported that people who volunteer have:

  • Better physical and mental health

  • More life satisfaction

  • Higher self-esteem

  • Fewer symptoms of depression

  • Longer lives

People who participate in service activities may also be able to handle stress better. That’s important, as many people say work is one their top sources of stress. Reducing that burden while giving back seems like a win-win situation for everyone.

But participating in service projects doesn’t just benefit individual employee health; it can also improve the overall health of your business. Millennials make up a large portion of the workforce, and finding meaning and value in their work matters to this generation. Showing that you care about the surrounding community can bolster morale among your employees, making them feel better about coming to work every day. Plus, when you sponsor local charities or participate in volunteer days, you establish your company as a local partner.

Incorporating Volunteering Into Your Wellness Program

It’s simple and inexpensive to introduce new service projects to the workplace, and you can adjust your plan based on what works for your company. Try some of these ideas to get started.

  • Offer paid volunteer hours. Make volunteering a full employee benefit. Consider offering a set number of paid hours per month or year that your employees can use to volunteer during normal work hours. Get employees involved in choosing charities or serving as ambassadors to lead projects and sign-ups.

  • Sign up for group volunteering sessions. Food banks, soup kitchens, animal rescue organizations and other charities allow groups to come and volunteer together. Reserve a group block once a quarter at different charities and allow employees to sign up for the volunteer date. This also serves as a team-building exercise.

  • Host drives or special events at work. You don’t have to travel to volunteer; just ask local charities about their needs and get employees to contribute items and pack bags to be donated. Fill backpacks with supplies for back-to-school events, create toiletry kits, fill grocery bags, sponsor a family at the holidays or collect pet food, all from within your office.

  • Join a race or staff events. Large-scale events like 5Ks and community festivals put on by local organizations require many volunteers to run smoothly. Encourage employees to sign up to run a race or serve as volunteer staff.

Consider rotating your service projects across two to four organizations that align with your employees’ interests and your company values. You can also check with your local parks and recreation departments to get more ideas for community benefit projects, such as park cleanups. With so many links between volunteering and wellness, service projects are a smart addition to an effective employee wellness program.

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