Can work change your life? Is a professional experience capable of providing you with an experience that balances work and family? The answer is yes. A resounding yes, in fact. Unfortunately, this is not the norm. It doesn’t usually happen in the middle of a routine meeting, nor does it usually happen to an employee settled between four walls in the almost automated management of a project. But there’s good news. There are guidelines that can smooth the way and even make it shorter: have you considered all the advantages of volunteering?
Before turning around and using the excuse of lack of time, hang in there a little longer. Precisely those who complain that their work is eating up their life, or who feel that they cannot take on any additional commitment because they see volunteering as just another task, are the ones who will find the advantages of volunteering the most. Because volunteering is not an extra burden. It is a generator of balance for our life inside and outside of work, the fruits of which are felt from the moment we start volunteering.
“Off the record” benefits
According to a new study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, people who volunteer improve their work-life balance – a concept explained very well in this previous article – even in their free time outside of work. Specifically, 746 people were surveyed in Switzerland to measure their level of stress and burnout at work. And those who had participated in a volunteer project were found to be the least stressed professionals and the least likely to feel burned out at work, regardless of the degree of responsibility required or the level of pay earned in their jobs.
On top of this, the benefits of volunteering flow both ways. As The Guardian reports, the latest five-year plan of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) identifies the need to promote community volunteering as one of the most successful weapons against social exclusion by giving its recipients the opportunity to develop new skills.
No need to set foot on the streets
The pandemic, moreover, has not slowed down the machinery. Just as the coronavirus is hampering our social life, it has also highlighted the importance of emotional care in overcoming this crisis. And with it the variety of possibilities for volunteering without setting foot on the streets. Using new technologies to keep company to elderly people living alone, facilitating daily shopping for people at risk, making group video calls for writing workshops for immigrants or sewing workshops to make masks…
In fact, the Spanish Volunteering Platform has reinforced its Voluncloud app for this period of special need. This application, in its usual operation, puts entities looking for volunteers in contact with people willing to help. Likewise, Corporate Volunteering, even in the current era, continues to be a good card to play for the most committed companies.
Physical and mental health among the benefits of volunteering
The benefits of volunteering help to make the world a little bit better, no doubt about it. But it’s also often a rewarding and fulfilling experience in many different ways. For young graduates, it helps to provide a first taste of the labour market to complement their own education in order to gain a broader and more authoritative view.
But the best is reserved for the more mature members, as there’s a general consensus that it’s good for both physical health and mental well-being. As some studies reported by the BBC have shown, it even extends life. The benefits of volunteering sound too good to be true, but best of all, it is as it is. There’s no catch.
- Physically it reduces stress levels, helps build a community of friends and/or ideas, boosts the immune system and, by making you less likely to develop high blood pressure, protects you from other illnesses. An almost perfect circle.
- Mentally, it helps to overcome bad moods, puts problems in perspective so that they can be tackled more efficiently, and builds confidence. Because there is no professional development without personal development. Because doing something different and making new friends helps develop self-esteem, while overcoming barriers and achieving something you’ve never done before, or never thought possible, boosts your inner pride.
Raising staff awareness
The range of advantages of volunteering is well known at ACCIONA, whose project incubator is constantly growing, increasing the benefits of volunteering and combining work with helping others. Initiatives such as those developed by Microenergía in Peru, with the electrification of isolated rural areas; in Mexico, providing access to modern forms of energy, safe water and basic infrastructures to low-income people in communities where these services are not expected to be provided by conventional methods (public networks); Integra, helping women at risk of social exclusion to find work; or Inspiring girls, promoting gender equality among primary school pupils.
An impressive network of volunteers with which to amplify the culture of collaboration and solidarity that raises awareness among the workforce of the needs of various social groups in places as diverse as Australia, Qatar, Canada, Norway, United Arab Emirates and Spain.