HR specialists already know that the appropriate financial reward has become more of a hygiene factor – a necessary but not sufficient condition for maintaining employee motivation. We also know that factors such as independence, constant learning, a sense of belonging but also a feeling that their efforts make sense, are important motivating factors for employees. To meet these needs, companies have created various programs of “engagement” or support for the level of active participation of employees in the “life” of the company. An “engaged” employee is satisfied, motivated, and identifies at least partially with the company and its objectives. Elements that contribute to the creation and maintenance of such a state among employees are multiple. An example can be the involvement of the company in the life of the community in which it operates but also the psychological benefits that this involvement can bring to the employees who participate as volunteers.
the role of volunteering
Volunteering is defined as support given to other people without expecting to receive anything in return. Nearly 40 studies indicate a strong positive correlation between emotional benefits and time spent helping others in need. Thus, involvement in volunteer actions makes us feel more satisfied with our own lives, more connected with our peers, and less depressed. These benefits seem to be constant even when we look at different geographical, cultural and socio-economic contexts. In other words, it doesn’t matter much if you live in northern Europe or America, what skin color or income level you have. Chances are high that getting involved in volunteering will help you feel better.
HELPING PEOPLE HAS POSITIVE EFFECTS ON VOLUNTEERS
Generous behavior can increase the level of happiness but it does not have to be so. When we think about the benefits that involvement in volunteer activities can bring, studies show that these benefits are due to the presence of the following elements *:
Volunteers feel free to choose who they want to help and in what way
The positive results seem to persist as long as there is no sense of obligation. When people feel truly free to choose the projects in which to get involved, according to their values. Also, when they can do that without fear that they will be judged for their choice. Organisations should, therefore, involve employees in the initial project selection process or make available to them a sufficiently variety of volunteering projects. When this is not possible (the number of employees is small, the company does not have a consistent volunteering program or a dedicated team, etc.), they can frame these opportunities differently. Telling employees that they they are free to choose wether or not to participate greater involvement leads to more involvement. When the gesture turns from a purely personal desire to help into a social imperative, its positive effects on the volunteer decrease.
Volunteers feel connected to those they help
Gestures of generosity also create opportunities for social interaction – both with those we help and with other volunteers. Those who get involved in volunteering also feel less depressed. That is probably because they participate in more meetings and get in touch with more people. Thus, a company that wants to increase the level of interaction between employees but also cohesion and team spirit can create and promote opportunities for their involvement in volunteer projects.
Volunteers see how their actions make a difference and have a positive impact
Generous gestures increase the level of happiness when those who make them see the impact of their actions on others. When we remember that we have done someone good, we are happier when we think of situations in which we have been motivated by a sincere concern to help someone than ourselves. Therefore, a company that wants to involve its employees in volunteer activities should choose projects or causes that are easy to understand and follow. In other words, participants will be happier knowing that their gesture helps a particular child than an abstract collective cause. The same would be true if they had a choice between donating money for a specific cause. More people will want to give money for a hot meal for a child or group of elderly people than for a project that aims to improve the educational act in schools. Even if that the latter is a perfectly valid cause.
Romania does not have a strong tradition of volunteering as it happens in the USA, England or Ireland. However, an increasing number of Romanians are starting to participate in volunteering activities. More and more companies are developing partnerships with non-governmental organisations and offering employees opportunities to get involved in volunteer projects. The Covid-19 pandemic has made 2020 a difficult year, but employers can turn to such opportunities to contribute to the mental well-being of employees but also to bring them together. If not physically, at least emotionally. You can do this by encouraging colleagues to support a common cause. Whether it’s donating to a company-sponsored NGO or active involvement as a volunteer, the positive effects won’t be long in coming.
Here are some examples of traditional or digital volunteer projects:
- Casa Buna
- Habitat for Humanity Romania
- Ajungem Mari
- Fundatia Regala Margareta a Romaniei
- Little People
- Mai bine
Visit HartaVoluntariatului.ro for more examples and opportunities for involvement.
We are also happy to be able to help and, this year, we are part of the MagicHELP Solidarity Network.
* Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (2019). World Happiness Report 2019, New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network.