Volunteering

Reward Your Employees With Time Off for Volunteer Work

I’m not just being a Scrooge. With recent hot IPOs such as Alibaba and the inevitable discussion of the Silicon Valley “perks arms race” that always seems to accompany this kind of news, it got me thinking about the perks that really matter.

At Charitybuzz, we have periodic volunteer days where we get out of the office to paint an elementary school or pack groceries for New York’s homeless. Our staff loves having the time off to give back, but it’s also become an incredible source of bonding that brings us closer as a team. Given our mission, volunteering makes sense. We raise money for non-profits, so we attract employees who are passionate about giving back.

Related: Getting Employees to Volunteer and Give

But I think a volunteerism perk can be just as important, if not more important, for a company whose day-to-day business is less philanthropic. Companies such as SAP, Patagonia, Microsoft and PWC are already doing this. Timberland employees get up to 40 paid hours per year (an entire work week!) to devote to volunteer work. If your company isn’t offering paid time off for volunteering, here are some reasons why you should consider it.

1. Passionate people are passionate people 

In other words, employees who are passionate about something outside of work (their favorite cause or volunteer side gig) are more likely to be passionate at work. A volunteerism perk will help you attract passionate people who will bring that same passion to your company’s mission.

2. Happy employees = happy bottom line

Countless studies over the past decade have shown that people derive more happiness from experiences than from material things. When this experience involves giving back or helping others, the happiness quotient is upped even further, hence the well-documented “Helper’s High.”

Related: 6 Ways to Do Well by Doing Good

Between this happiness effect and the general refreshment that comes from a few days out of the office, the infusion of positive energy you get from a volunteerism perk far outweighs a few days of absenteeism from work.

3. It's the ultimate millennial perk

Maybe you’ve heard of them. One day, we’re espousing their virtues and the next, we’re griping about their quirks. The fact is, they’re here to stay and as the rate of baby boomer retirements increases, we need them more than ever.

What we’re learning about millennials says a lot about the best ways to attract and retain them. Study after study shows that they want to buy from and work for companies whose missions and values they believe in. Other research shows that, compared with previous generations, millennials value experiences over material possessions.

Combine the happiness derived from an inspiring volunteer experience and the appeal of working for a company that gives back, and paid volunteer days look like the ultimate millennial perk -- not to mention a social-media recruiting tool that runs itself. Imagine the social currency of an Instagram post about a cool volunteer gig with paid time off generously provided by #yourcompany.

So while I’m not advocating you ditch the traditional holiday bonus (in all my years in business, no one’s ever given one back), this piece of advice is my gift to you: reward your employees with time off for volunteer work, and they’ll reward you with better work all around.

Related: Richard Branson on the Value of Volunteering