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How Volunteer Time Off Benefits your Company

I have witnessed firsthand how adding a Volunteer Time Off policy impacted culture in the workplace and was so convinced of the its value that I included VTO from the very start when I started my own firm. Judging from the number of times I have been asked about this policy and the surprised responses I get, VTO is still not very common or even very widely known about in our area.

The reason I offer VTO time is because I think it’s the right thing to do both for my employees and my community. Even when people genuinely want to volunteer, their work and personal lives keep them busy and it can be hard to fit in those volunteer hours. I love that I can make it easier for my employees to fulfill this aspect of their lives. I also love that as an employer this allows me to have an impact bigger than just my individual volunteering. Think of the difference we could make in our communities if more companies did this!

While I feel like offering VTO is the “right” thing to do, I also have seen two significant benefits this brings to a business. VTO can help with productivity as well as with getting and keeping the kind of people you want working for you. We all want employees who are empathetic, caring, and who actively want to help others. People like working for companies that value the same things they do. Offering VTO time communicates to prospective employees that your company cares about helping others, not just making money. Losing a great, long-term employee can be extremely painful. One way to make it less likely that someone will look elsewhere is by offering benefits that your competitors don’t offer. If that key employee loves getting to volunteer 40 hours a year and a competitor doesn’t offer this, that might give them pause before jumping ship. Increasingly, employees recognize that their salary is just one piece of their total compensation. Things that affect their quality of life in a non-financial way can also be important.

One closing thought on VTO time: this isn’t something you can fake. You’re better off not offering this than doing it and grumbling when people use it. Having a benefit on paper that people feel like they can’t take will instead decrease morale. Especially with knowledge workers (anyone who works in an office) quality is more important than quantity. It is entirely possible to have a day that is twice as productive as a different day depending on what is going on with an employee. I would rather sacrifice a few hours a year if it helps my people be more engaged when they are at the office.

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