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The Value of Values

calculating the economic and individual benefits of workplace volunteering


22 July 2022

by Professor Sara Connolly and Dr Ritchie Woodard

Do you want to work out the economic and individual benefits of workplace volunteering? The Evolve Workplace Wellbeing Research Team have developed a Workplace Wellbeing Business Case Calculator. In this blog we explain why we did it and how it works.

In 2015, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reported that Employer Supported Volunteering (ESV) has the potential to create benefits for the voluntary organisation, the company offering the scheme, and for the employee volunteers themselves. In 2020, the Institute for Volunteering Research reported that volunteering can have significant health and wellbeing benefits for the volunteer which include happiness, life satisfaction, and reduced feelings of depression and anxiety. This means that ESV can be a part of a company’s health and wellbeing provision as well as their Corporate Social Responsibility activities. Furthermore, ESV schemes not only increase the wellbeing of employees, but also improve their performance at work by reducing absenteeism and presenteeism. These productivity gains arise indirectly through improvements in wellbeing measures including mental and physical health, and job satisfaction. These benefits are largest for volunteers, but non-volunteers in organisations which offer ESV are also positively impacted. In addition to reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, other academic studies find that ESV can also improve staff retention, morale, commitment, and skill acquisition.

Using data collected by Britain’s Healthiest Workplace Survey 2014-2019, a team of researchers from the University of East Anglia and RAND Europe developed the Evolve Workplace Wellbeing Business Case Calculator which illustrates the types of benefits that may be achieved from workplace volunteering. It is free to use, so try it out.

The wellbeing and productivity benefits depend upon whether employees are aware that their employer offers ESV and the extent of employee take up. In organisations which offer ESV, an average of 43% of staff are aware of the opportunity to participate in a workplace volunteering scheme, with 16% actively engaging with the volunteering schemes. Based on this and assuming average levels of pay, the calculator shows the estimated wellbeing benefits per employee of improved physical health (0.47%), mental health (0.81%) and job satisfaction (2.75%). The calculator also estimates the value to the business of improvements to productivity that arise due to reduced absenteeism (£123) and presenteeism (£126) per employee. That’s a total productivity improvement of £249 per employee per year.

The calculator also shows what benefits may arise if there is greater awareness, and therefore use. If 70% of employees were aware and therefore 27% were to actively engage with the scheme, there would be greater benefits associated with improved physical health (0.75%), mental health (1.31%) and job satisfaction (4.45%); and larger improvements to productivity due to reduced absenteeism (£199) and presenteeism (£205) per employee – a total of £404 per employee per year.

Whilst many employers are likely to be more focused upon job satisfaction as an indicator of wellbeing, workplace health and wellbeing initiatives may also have an impact upon the lives of employees outside of the workplace. We estimate the impact of workplace volunteering on life satisfaction and find an average improvement of over 1%. There is also evidence that productivity, especially presenteeism, may be boosted through these improvements in life satisfaction.

It is important to consider cost-effectiveness. Setting-up and running a workplace volunteering programme involves costs which will be sensitive to the design of the programme, but according to Alaya, a corporate business platform, indicative costs are around £135 per employee. Therefore, in addition to the benefits for employee wellbeing, (job/life satisfaction, mental and physical health) these initiatives can yield a financial return based on the improvements to absenteeism and presenteeism. Indeed, these figures may be under-estimates because improvements in job satisfaction will also reduce staff turnover and improve staff retention which will lead to further financial savings.

For more information or regular updates on the latest evidence-informed insight into workplace wellbeing, sign-up to the Evolve newsletter or follow on Twitter.

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