If you think you don’t have time to volunteer, the act of doing so will likely change your mind. A Wharton professor found that people who volunteer feel like less strapped for time than those who don't. This is because when you use your time to support causes you care about, it feels more abundant than when you focus solely on your own life.
What’s even better is that the sense of abundance extends beyond feeling fulfilled and has a proven positive impact on your productivity. Thus, when you invest time in your community, you’re able to reap a broad range of personal and professional benefits.
Here are four ways that volunteering boosts your productivity.
1) Expand Your Skill-set by Solving New Problems
A Deloitte survey found that 92% of HR executives believe that volunteering improves employee leadership and job skills. Donating time to organizations is a fantastic professional development opportunity because it lets you hone your skills while supporting a cause you’re passionate about.
Most small and medium-sized non-profits cannot afford enough staff to carry out all of their basic operations let alone teams of professionals to keep their website design up-to-date, produce effective marketing materials, collect and utilize data, etc.
Thus, there is an abundance of opportunities to use your skills to help nonprofits achieve goals that they wouldn’t be able to on their own. Working on pro-bono projects comes with unique challenges and criteria that allow you to expand your skill-set in ways that you likely wouldn’t be able to achieve within your organization.
If you’re a manager, you can also encourage your employees to take on pro-bono projects to help assess their leadership potential. Small nonprofits often lack experienced staff to oversee pro-bono volunteers. This gives your employees the opportunity to lead projects and transfer those skills to your organization.
2) Lower Your Stress Levels While Supporting Your Community
High-powered professionals often only volunteer a couple of times a year, if at all, because they feel like they can't take on more projects. If you think that, what you probably don’t realize is that volunteering improves your mental and physical stamina so that you can tackle more. Research shows that volunteering improves your mood and lessens stress - both of which have a profound impact on your productivity.
Prolonged workplace stress is negatively correlated with performance, and it increases the frequency and duration of common illnesses such as the cold and flu. Between your increase in sick days and reduced ability to focus, you must proactively prevent stress from hindering your performance.
An added benefit is that, unlike other coping strategies, volunteering supports causes you care about and gives you a deep sense of fulfillment.
3) Strengthen Workplace Relationships and Communication
You spend more time with your colleagues than with your friends and family. Having strong relationships at work is critical to your ability to enjoy your time in the office, maintain clear lines of communication and not be distracted by personality conflicts. All of these factors affect your happiness and thus productivity because research shows that you’re 20% more productive when you’re happy.
Volunteering is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your workplace relationships. Surveys show that 64% of people feel closer to their colleagues after volunteering together.
It’s great because it gives your team an opportunity to spend time together outside of work and, unlike other bonding activities like team dinners and golf, it doesn’t feel like a forced social interaction.
Depending on the size of your team, you can either have everyone who’s interested sign up for an open volunteer shift (most nonprofits have limited spaces) or reach out to nonprofits to arrange a private event for your group.
Most nonprofits love having business groups come in since they can have your team tackle larger projects that they haven’t had time to do themselves. Opting to schedule an event directly with a nonprofit also gives you more flexibility to choose a time that works well for your team.
4) Enhance Your Job Satisfaction
If you’ve worked in the same field for a decade or more, it’s common to stop enjoying what you do and instead get caught up in the day-to-day grind of planning projects and meeting deadlines. This can lead to burnout if your work isn’t interesting enough to keep you engaged. To be a top performer, it’s imperative that you don’t let this happen.
According to Gallup, when you’re engaged at work, you’re 21% more productive and 27% more likely to perform well.
Volunteering is an effective way to boost your job satisfaction and productivity because using your skills to support a cause you care about can remind you why you chose your profession. People who participate in skills-based volunteering (providing pro-bono services) are 47% more likely to be satisfied with their jobs than those who don’t.
Getting to see the difference that your skills make is a humbling and rewarding experience that can encourage you to continually improve your expertise.
Even if you opt for shift-based volunteering as opposed to skills-based, you can still reap these benefits thanks to the positive impact that it has on your overall mood.
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About the author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.