Traditional job perks such as great parking, health and wellness programs and an annual bonus are no longer enough for today’s workforce. Specifically, millennials and post-millennials want more from companies. They want to make a difference and therefore prioritize meaningful work that gives them a strong sense of purpose. This shift has caused many companies to adopt volunteer programs and other human-centered programs that appeal to younger generations. I know from working at Atmosphere Commercial Interiors that participating in toy drives, bake sales and out-of-office volunteer opportunities has made an already great place to work, even better. Organized by our Communities Outreach Committee, activities to donate and serve a bigger purpose have given our office a close-knit feel and given employees, such as myself, opportunities to bond and form meaningful relationships with coworkers.

Here are four benefits of incorporating a volunteer program into your workplace:

    1. Employee Engagement and Retention
      It’s simple, but great employees want to work for companies who demonstrate that they care about their employees, customers and communities. Volunteering fosters a connection between employees and their work. This connection and feeling of doing good for others raises morale and increases employee retention rates. People enjoy working in places that empower them and give them a sense of purpose. My first volunteering experience involved over a dozen people from our office walking around downtown Minneapolis to give out ‘Kindness Kits‘ to the homeless. We literally walked around carrying these bags filled with food, water and other essential items and gave them to those in need. After that, I knew I was working for a company who cared and was grateful that I would get to spend the next few months learning and being a part of Atmosphere. Along with this, volunteering can provide an escape from daily routine and commitments. A moment’s escape can energize you, boost creativity and give newfound motivation.
    2. Happier, More Productive Employees
      A common theme to having a successful business is happy employees. Employees who are happy with their work are less likely to call in sick, more likely to be more productive and will stay with their company longer. Volunteering is a simple and often fun way to fulfill employees’ interests and passions. Atmosphere had a bake sale last month to support the Sojourner Project. Dozens of people from the office brought in baked goods and people from our office and other offices in the Young-Quinlan building gathered around our work cafĂ© to purchase treats. It was exciting to see our office’s baking skills at work and even more fun to taste them! This little break to chat with coworkers and give back to a worthy cause made people laugh and smile, and they returned to their work feeling uplifted. Aside from leaving with a feeling of happiness, volunteering programs gives employees a sense of empowerment and pride.
    3. Team Connections and Strength
      Volunteering is one of the best ways to form new relationships with coworkers and further develop existing ones. Working together on meaningful activities can foster a sense of comradery and cultivate deeper connections than could those standardly formed within an office. Along with forming relationships, volunteering can also increase social skills. Developing these skills, while working with others to make a difference for the common good, can bond people together. Once this sense of teamwork and connectivity is created, it can easily be carried over into the workplace. As a new employee back in May, I quickly bonded with two of my coworkers during a trip to the Ronald McDonald House in the Children’s Hospital to deliver a microwave for their kitchen. It felt great to see the reactions as we carried in the microwave, but also being able to connect with my coworkers and further discover my place within the office.
    4. Positive Culture and Brand Awareness
      When employees are given opportunities to have a sense of purpose, it can positively impact the culture of the organization. Employees who feel empowered by their organization and believe in its values are proud to tell their friends and family about where they work. This in return promotes a positive brand image for their company. I love telling those closest to me about how amazing Atmosphere is. This is the first professional position that I’ve held and I think it is so inspiring that Atmosphere has an employee-run committee dedicated to coordinating volunteer opportunities. I am always proud to share stories and post images on social media of all the wonderful opportunities Atmosphere offers.

Implementing a volunteer program can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a variety of ways to start a volunteer program from forming a committee to developing a program that gives employees paid-time-off to volunteer. The benefits of incorporating volunteerism into the workplace will far exceed its cost. It will give you happier, more connected employees who will want to stay with your organization longer. Give volunteerism a try because it can make a big difference within your community, your company and for your employees.

**Written by Morgen Coleman, Marketing Intern

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