Team Management

Why Paying It Forward Can Mean More Than a Paycheck

Antonio Gonzalez Former Content & PR, Gusto  

There’s a reason “doing well by doing good” is becoming a popular motto in workplaces — studies show that volunteering can help you develop new skills, improve your health, and make you feel like you have more time to get things done. The benefits you experience from giving back in your personal life can also be meaningful when you incorporate it into another area where you spend quite a bit of time and energy: at work.

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When you volunteer with co-workers, you’re supporting a cause that’s bigger than yourself and getting to know the people you work with — both of which can boost feelings of engagement. A Gallup poll found that fewer than one-third of employees felt engaged at work in 2014. Similarly, more than 4 million LinkedIn users said they want to use their skills to make a difference in the world.

Get inspired by finding a cause that matters to you — and to the people who will be donating their time and skills with you. Ask around to get input from your colleagues and understand the causes that motivate them. You’ll be surprised by the connections and causes to which people are already contributing. You also can peruse VolunteerMatch to find ideas in your area. There are all kinds of benefits to giving back with your team.

Feel a greater sense of purpose

When people serve the community, they often feel more motivated and centered. One example is Anheuser-Busch, whose employees volunteered through Habitat for Humanity to build homes for families. After seeing the families’ graciousness, the employees who participated were happier and more driven at work and in their personal lives. You don’t have to build a house to make a difference, but make sure the cause you’re investing in hits home.

Come together as a team

People like to feel like they’re a part of something. Employees who have close friends at work are seven times more likely to feel engaged, according to Gallup. When you volunteer with your teammate, you’re more likely to make connections, break out of the usual work conversation and talk about personal topics such as your favorite sports team, the last movie you watched, or your weekend plans. The next day when you see each other at work, you’ll have more to talk about than action items and deadlines. A study by UnitedHealth Group concluded that 87 percent of people who volunteered in the last year said they felt more like a team afterward, and four in five agreed that volunteering brings employees together.

Feel healthier

Getting out and giving back has benefits beyond team-building — it can also be good for your health. A review by the Corporation for National and Community Service found that the positive effect of volunteering on physical and mental health is due to the personal sense of accomplishment that an individual gains from his or her volunteer activities. Those good vibes, which it refers to as a “helper’s high,” can carry over to the workplace by putting people in the right mental and physical frame of mind.

Be a leader

Volunteering doesn’t just give you the feeling of making a difference — it’s also a powerful chance to lead. Deloitte’s annual Volunteer IMPACT Survey noted that volunteering knowledge and expertise to a nonprofit can be an effective way to cultivate critical business and leadership skills. So if an employee is passionate about a specific cause, encourage him or her to schedule time for the team to volunteer for it. Later, when they’re asked to lead a presentation or promoted to a managerial position, they’ll already have experience taking charge.

The benefits of volunteering with co-workers can be immeasurable. Take the time to generate activities and find out firsthand the rewards you can reap.


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