In our new hybrid work model, how do we make sure employees still feel connected to one another and to the organization? Dana Korch thinks employer-sponsored volunteering is a step in the right direction.
I’ve done a lot of volunteer work as part of my job lately. I don’t mean the voluntold type of “volunteering” that can happen when you’re unexpectedly signed up for a task by someone above your pay grade. I mean the feel-good stuff when you’re able to take time out of your workday to help a service organization support people in their community. I love those experiences.
Doing all that volunteering got me thinking. Employers and employees everywhere are struggling to sleuth out the best ways to work together now that the pandemic has ended the traditional in-office model. Maybe one easy way to address some of their issues is to spend more time doing volunteer activities.
Yes, I just suggested that an answer to working better together is to not do the work we’re paid for. Just hear me out.
People want to connect with one another
In a recent survey conducted by Indeed, a vast majority of people said one of the things they miss most from their office days is socializing in person. Those quick chats in the break room, or after a meeting, helped people feel connected and part of a bigger whole. Obviously, those spontaneous conversations aren’t happening much in the world of remote work.
In-person volunteering can help with that. In my Seattle office, we volunteer at Food Lifeline every other month. We meet to sort and repackage bulk food so it can be distributed to more than 350 food banks, shelters, and meal programs across Western Washington.
I’ve also had the opportunity recently to volunteer in Utah when my extended team finally got to meet in person. Along with the sessions that related to our jobs, we prioritized working together to help United Way of Utah County prepare activities for the kiddos who will be attending their family holiday parties.
In all cases, while we do that volunteer work, we connect with one another. We chat about our families, share recent adventures we’ve had, and discuss how much we do or don’t like beets. Sometimes we even talk about our paid work and happen upon solutions to things that had stumped us, but that’s not my main point.
As shown in a recent study conducted by professors at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, when colleagues volunteer together, they can begin to fill one of the holes left by the work-from-home revolution. They can get to know one another as people and not just employees. And that in-person interaction can help them feel like they’re part of something good.
Virtual volunteering casts an even broader net
In large enterprises, people work in different cities around the world, so it’s not always easy for them to collect in a single location to volunteer in person. But it’s still important for them to be able to connect with one another outside the norm of daily projects.
In those situations, virtual volunteering activities can be a great solution. Through Micro Focus INSPIRE, our companywide Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) program, we partner with Goodera to host online volunteering events and support thousands of nonprofits around the globe. Groups can make a difference in just one hour, as they work together from the comfort of their own homes.
I’ve gotten to know colleagues from other states over Zoom while we designed posters to promote social-emotional learning among minority youth. And I’ve met fellow employees from other countries as we made STEM-themed flashcards to spark the interest of young girls in the topics.
Virtual volunteering makes it possible for people to build connections through a shared experience, even when they’re not sharing an office or city.
It’s good for business, too
Increasingly, organizations are being evaluated for their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) values. Many investors prioritize supporting companies with high ESG ratings. Organizations are choosing to do business with vendors that have measurable ESG policies. And according to research conducted by PwC, 59 percent of consumers factor a company’s purpose and values into their buying decisions.
As a result, companies are putting more substance into their ESG programs. One way they can do that is by encouraging their employees to volunteer with groups that align to their ESG priorities.
At Micro Focus, we’re given four paid days off each year to volunteer. It’s separate from our other paid time off, and it’s not one of those idle offerings that looks good but isn’t really supposed to be used. Throughout the company, we’re encouraged to use our volunteer days—either by participating in one of the company-sponsored in-person or virtual volunteering activities, or by taking a day to support a cause we care about. And because they’re paid workdays, we don’t have to take time away from our families or other interests.
By making it easier for employees to volunteer, companies can support their ESG values and better position the business for success.
Volunteering is a win, win, win
When companies sponsor volunteering activities, employees win, companies win, and nonprofits win. Employees get the social interactions they’re craving and can build connections that make them happier. Companies are able to support their ESG priorities, which have a positive impact on their investors, partners, and customers. And nonprofits get the people power they need to further their causes and help their communities.
It’s truly a win, win, win. And that’s a pretty good thing for the future of work.