Employee wellbeing through CSR
So many things have changed in the last few months. We all went from leading perfectly normal lives to adjusting to a whole new lifestyle within a couple of weeks: how we interact and communicate with others, how we work, and even how we feel. As we ‘re-open our doors’ all of these things will be paramount as we re-engage with each other. What we do know is that Covid-19 has changed how we see the world, the ways in which we think, and how we conduct our lives. But how has this new lifestyle affected employee wellbeing?
The benefits of company volunteering are well understood by HR professionals. Volunteering improves team skills, increases loyalty, productivity and staff retention and employee wellbeing. The return to the new normal after such a long break from in-person interaction has highlighted these benefits and has made the option of team volunteering an important part of re-connecting teams. Employee interactions and routines are probably going to be different as you bridge in-office and remote work or incorporate other operational changes. And the heightened anxiety or pressure many employees are experiencing — combined with negative feelings that may have arisen due to lay-offs, furloughs, and operational changes will require working hard to re-establish employees’ confidence.
Apart from the well-established benefits of company volunteering, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of business reputation. A recent employee volunteer summed up their experience saying:
‘It’s enabled me to take a step back from my own life, get to know my colleagues so much better and realise that I can help people in a really meaningful way. I feel lucky to work for an employer who supports us to give our time and understands the importance of this’.
About 10% of all volunteers have been able to give their time through employers. The less good news is that a third of potential volunteers have said that they haven’t actually been encouraged to take up the opportunity despite their employers making the option available. The reasons for this are varied, but typically work pressure to ‘keep on top of the day job’ is highlighted as a limiting factor. However, for some companies, engagement is very high which indicates the level of engagement from senior managers.
Despite the benefits, employee volunteering needs some form of organisation and it needs to be supported and led from the top with passion. Logistically, it needs a time investment itself, but the rewards are worth the time it takes, especially considering the importance of employee wellbeing. Arranging days, especially for a small team, can be part of CSR with in house volunteers taking on the role. For larger teams, the assistance of a volunteering agency (frequently a charity themselves) can help ensure a high impact day that is well organised, resourced and focused on an authentic local need.
It is expected that Covid-19 will accelerate post-pandemic team volunteering, as more businesses realise that their long-term development hinges on achieving a delicate balance between profitability and CSR. The pandemic has taught all of us a lesson that “we are all in this together”, an experience that will raise people’s expectation of businesses being more socially responsible. Therefore, we can envision the post-pandemic period as a one that the thriving businesses are those with strong CSR commitment and effective CSR strategies will survive closer public scrutiny.
Jon Meech, CEO of HandsOn London