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Volunteering: Good For Your Health, Good For The Workplace

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I will be one of the first people to tell you that volunteering is good for your body, mind, and soul. I owe much of my drive, creativity, problem-solving skills, and success to the years I've spent as a volunteer, as well as the people who taught me the value of giving back.

A recent study by Harris Interactive shows this strong connection between volunteering and personal well-being. In a survey of more than 3,300 adults on behalf of UnitedHealth Group, Harris found that of the people who volunteered in the past year, 94 percent said it improved their mood. Seventy-eight percent said it lowered their stress level, while 76 percent said it made them feel healthier to give back. These findings were published in a report Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study. The report also notes that having a sense of purpose and meaning in your life is at the core of good health. Of the survey participants who volunteered in the last year, 96 percent said the experience enriched their sense of purpose in life, while 95 percent indicated they felt they were actually making their community a better place.

How does volunteering help? Doing Good is Good for You provides four examples.
Health: "Volunteers say they feel better--physically, mentally, and emotionally."
Less Stress: "Volunteering helps people manage and lower stress levels."
Purpose: "Volunteers feel a deeper connection to communities and to others."
Engaged: "Volunteers are more informed health care consumers and more engaged and involved in taking care of their health."

Aside from personal health and well-being, the report also explains how giving back can help develop much-need career skills. Volunteering requires people to develop the ability to work with a team, manage their time, build relationships, solve problems, and grow professionally.

After running my own nonprofit since age 11, I can testify that volunteering helped me to develop many skills that are critical for success in the workplace and in life. For example, I learned quite a bit about business and professionalism when I started calling presidents of companies at twelve years old to ask for donations. My ability to adapt under pressure was put to the test when I was asked to give a 40 minute talk to 10,000 people with a 5 minute notice, when the scheduled speaker canceled last minute. It also takes problem-solving skills to figure out how to move 12,000 fresh-frozen Thanksgiving turkeys from Texas to Ohio and then distribute the goods without a truck or driver, no refrigerator, and no money. (Yes, those things really happened.)

Volunteerism not only benefits those impacted by the action, but also the people giving their time to make a difference. School districts, businesses, and other organizations have the opportunity to engage their employees and others in service. Have you worked with students to dream, plan, and roll-out their own service projects? Does your organization support staff when it comes to volunteering? How do talent managers use volunteerism to benefit the organization as a whole? Please share your ideas and stories!


For more information on talent management, human capital, or volunteerism, you can follow me on twitter at @EmilyDouglasHC or join the conversation using the hashtag #K12TalentMgr.

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