Amy McGarvey: Why organisations should engage in employer-supported volunteering (ESV)

People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. For some it offers the chance to give something back to the community or make a difference to the people around them, for others it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge. Research conducted by NCVO in the Time well spent: employer-supported volunteering report, published in June 2019, has shown that employer supported volunteering has an overall positive impact on employees’ wellbeing, as well as looking at how employers can support employees to engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.

Overall satisfaction to the survey is high among respondents, with around nine in 10 (91%) volunteers who gave time through employer-supported volunteering (ESV) in June 2019 – June 2018 reporting that they were very or fairly satisfied with their volunteering experiences; 83% said it gave them a sense of personal achievement and 71% of employer-supported volunteers said it improved their mental health and wellbeing.

Additionally, in positive examples of employer-supported volunteering, volunteer-involving organisations, brokers and employers in our research report that taking part in these activities helped volunteers feel connected with the organisation, prompting an interest to engage further with them, and that they feel valued for the impact that they have made.

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In addition to the benefits to employees themselves, ESV also provides an opportunity for both voluntary organisations and employers to strengthen their organisational objectives.

Employers can provide employees with volunteering leave, allocated time off work to carry out their volunteering activities, or arranging volunteering opportunities through partnerships with voluntary organisations.

Employers can further support employer-supported volunteering by making ESV as easy and flexible as possible; flexible arrangements such as volunteering near the office or remotely, and employers being more flexible about how employees are able to give their time, may support current and potential volunteers to fit volunteering around competing work priorities.

Employers can also ensure a broad range of opportunities are on offer to support different needs and preferences, and value a broad range of skills and experiences that employees can offer.

They can create a positive culture around ESV in different ways such as having ESV champions at different levels to support and legitimise ESV, and promote the values and benefits of volunteering through regular communication internally and celebrating the difference volunteers make to help boost the profile of ESV within organisations.

The overall impact of volunteering on individuals’ mental health and wellbeing is positive. Where employers are considering ways to increase staff wellbeing and morale, facilitating ESV can be a way to encourage staff wellbeing while also strengthening organisational objectives.

Amy McGarvey is research and insight manager at National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)