Many companies have health and wellness programs in place for employees, whether it be through cash based wellness-incentives or physical programs like exercise classes, challenges, or health seminars, and this trend is on the rise. According to a 2013 report from Fidelity and the National Business Group on Health, 86% of employers offered wellness-based incentives to employees in 2013, a figure up 29% from 2009. It’s hugely positive that companies are emphasizing a focus on employee health and wellness, and what’s even better news? It’s likely many businesses have programs in place that they may not even know serve to keep their employees healthy!
Volunteering is one such program. A recent study by UnitedHealth Group examines the benefits of volunteering on an individual’s health, and the result? Doing good is good for you. The 2013 survey involved a representative sample of adults across the country, the young, old, in good health and in poor health and recorded that people who volunteer feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. Out of those surveyed who had volunteered in the last 12 months, 94% of people reported that volunteering improves their mood, 76% stated that volunteering has made them feel healthier, and 78% said that volunteering lowers their stress levels. Additionally, volunteers are more likely than U.S. adults overall to report that they felt calm and peaceful most of the time, and that they had a lot more energy most of the time, over the past four weeks.
Employers should be able to directly see the value of employees’ volunteering, and by virtue of that, reap the benefits of having healthier employees. Healthier employees reduce health care costs, and less stressed employees are likely to be more engaged and productive. With this in mind, businesses that support volunteering programs in their workplace are likely to experience even deeper benefits than organizations with employees who volunteer solely on their own prerogative. UnitedHealth Group reports that four out of five employed people who volunteered through their workplace in the past 12 months felt better about their employer because of the employer’s involvement in volunteer activities. 81% agreed that volunteering together (as a workplace) has strengthened relationships and collaboration among colleagues.
In the end, when it comes to health and wellness it may be true that nothing beats the basics of healthy eating and exercise. However, research shows us that there sure are many additional things we can do in our lives to promote healthy living, such as volunteering. Consider that non-profit you’ve donated to, or find one that does work you admire; do they have a volunteer day you could check out? And if you’re an employer looking to add some edge to the health and wellness programs in your company, consider showing some love to workplace volunteering programs!