How & Why Employee Volunteering Lowers Health Care Costs for Companies

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How & Why Employee Volunteering Lowers Health Care Costs for Companies

Case studies, research and lots of links
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Company's facing rising health care costs should invest in corporate volunteering - here's why #CSR
Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 9:48am
Health care is expensive. In the US, a recent survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health estimated health care costs for large American employers such as GE, Microsoft and GM will jump by 8.9%. Mitigating these increasing expenses is a priority for companies.
An employee volunteering program may be a good option. 
Employee Volunteering is Healthy
In a recent study conducted by VolunteerMatch and UnitedHealthcare entitled “Do Good Live Well Study Reviewing the Benefits of Volunteering” researchers found that employees who volunteer through their workplace report improved physical and emotional health. The specific benefits include reduced obesity, reduced stress, increased levels of activity, a more positive emotional state and higher levels of overall satisfaction with life.
In a report released in 2007 by the Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS) revealed that several longitudinal studies revealed that people who volunteer live longer. Even after accounting for factors such as physical health, age, socioeconomic status and gender, the overall positive effect of longevity persisted. Even more interesting is the fact that these results were evident at a macro level. States with higher levels of volunteering enjoy lower rates of health concerns such as heart disease (read the PDF).
For companies that want to decrease their health costs, volunteering is an affordable and accessible solution. 
What’s the connection between volunteering and health?
As we noted in our first blog in this series, there is a connection between volunteering and employee engagement. It turns out that increased employee engagement in the workplace leads to lower levels of boredom and risk-taking thereby reducing injuries. An extensive meta-analysis of 7,939 business units across 36 companies reveals that when employees are engaged in their roles and tasks at work there is an increase in the attention to workplace safety (read the PDF).
Connection #1 - Employee volunteering leads to engagement in the workplace. Engaged employees practice safety. Safer employees reduce health care costs.
Social Support
Improved relational connections have the immediate benefit of increasing trust and empathy. This type of positive relationship increases the level of cooperation within the workplace and may be one of the most important ingredients toward improving general productivity. Employee volunteering programs tend to foster trusting relationships between the participants. We’ve recently written about the importance of a highly relational and networked company. Functional social networks are necessary for strong ‘social supports’ to exist.
Researchers have observed that strong social supports in the workplace not only protect against poor health and mental health problems, but also increase job satisfaction, lower absenteeism, and reduce the potential for job induced psychological distress. These same researchers believe that creating and improving opportunities “for supportive social contact are a high priority” and could even be viewed as ethically mandated (read the PDF).
Dr Shelley Taylor, a professor of psychology at UCLA, defines social support as “the perception or experience that one is cared about by others, esteemed and valued, and is part of a social network of mutual assistance and obligations. Social support can be emotional, instrumental (or practical), and informational, and in the workplace it occurs through social interactions with coworkers and supervisors” (read the PDF).
Connection #2 - Corporate volunteering fosters a unique expression of corporate connectivity. Increased connectivity in the workplace results in stronger social support for employees. Strong social support reduces negative health issues while increasing positive health benefits.

Read the rest of the article here.


Angela Parker
Keywords: Diversity & Inclusion | CSR | Corporate Citizenship | Corporate Social Responsibility | Employee Engagement | GE | GM | Microsoft | corporate volunteering | employee volunteering | health care