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Volunteering encourages connection and improves employee health

November 8, 2022

Researchers have known for years that our physical and mental well-being improves when we donate our time to helping others. And when we do this through company-sponsored volunteer programs, performance-related outcomes like job satisfaction and commitment to work tasks are also boosted.

Stanford Graduate School of Business professors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Sara Singer analyzed survey data from hundreds of companies in the UK to discover the mechanisms by which volunteering improves both employee health and company outcomes.

Released in the “Journal of Environmental and Occupational Medicine,” the study suggests that company-sponsored volunteering works on two fronts:

  • Increasing social bonding among co-workers
  • Creating a sense of identification between employees and employers

According to the authors, the findings can help companies understand how to create better volunteer programs and encourage more employees to participate in them.

“Volunteering is one way to do it, but you can create opportunities for social bonding through work teams. And there are other ways of building identification with businesses, like branding. Employers shouldn’t take away just that they have to have robust volunteer programs, although we hope that they do. They should also take away that they should work on efforts to build coworker ties through creating great teams and social activities for their employees.”, Singer explains.

“If Stanford lets Sara volunteer but that volunteering occurs with Sara doing it on her own, you will not get the advantages of social bonding. If you want to get the advantages of social bonding, then you want to have volunteer programs where people volunteer as a group or as a team, as opposed to just saying, ‘Go off and spend some time working on Planned Parenthood,’ or whatever. That would not get you the same level of benefit as saying, ‘We are going to organize collective volunteer activities in which we are going to work together’ — which of course is going to increase social bonding as opposed to doing it by yourself.”, Pfeffer concludes.

Source: Stanford Graduate School of Business