Employee volunteering creates a happier workforce, research finds

4 June 2021
employee volunteering

Organisations that offer employee volunteering programmes have happier workers which are more likely to trust and recommend them to others, new research by YouGov has revealed.


Volunteering for local causes has long been recognised as a way of increasing wellbeing while creating positive impact in the community. The positive effects of volunteering on personal wellbeing last up to three months and equate to a monetary value of £1,800 per volunteer, according to a recent LSE analysis of the NHS Volunteer Responders programme.


YouGov’s research, commissioned by Neighbourly to understand the positive impact of employer led volunteer programmes, supports these findings. Six in ten volunteers, through an employee programme, rated their general happiness at seven out of ten or more, compared with only 55% of employees who have never volunteered. A happier workforce is a more effective one, with previous TUC research showing higher wellbeing results in better productivity and fewer sick days.


Employees who have done employer-supported volunteering are also more likely to recommend the company they work for, YouGov’s study found. While only half of survey respondents who had never volunteered recommended their employer, this rose significantly to 70% among those who had volunteered through an employer-led programme.

Fuelling trust in businesses

These figures were similarly reflected when workers were asked how much they trust their company. Previous research by Neighbourly has highlighted the importance of trust in attracting and retaining customers, with 96% of consumers more likely to purchase from a brand they trust. But the latest YouGov study shows trust is also vital to retaining talented staff in the long-term, and wellbeing is closely linked. Seven in ten respondents who volunteered with their company were more likely to trust their employer, compared to 57% of non-volunteers.


In PwC's Annual Global CEO Survey, 55% of CEOs said they are concerned about trust in business today. Overall, the cost to replace an employee earning the average UK salary of £27,721 could cost up to £12,000, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. This is based on a combination of using a recruiter to source the talent and the hours an owner would spend hiring the right candidate – creating a substantial hidden cost for any business to front, especially if they are in an industry with a high staff turnover.


To sustain staff wellbeing, trust and recommendations, employee volunteering programmes need to be enduring and consistent, with HR and CSR teams considering them as a regular part of the package. This was evidenced strongly in the YouGov research, which found staff who had volunteered in the last three months were 26% more likely to recommend their employer than those who volunteered over a year ago. Similarly, those who volunteered in the last three months were 25% more trusting of their employer than those who volunteered over a year ago, with 81% of recent volunteers rating their trust seven out of ten or higher.

A new generation of volunteers

The pandemic shifted the nature of many kinds of volunteering from in-person to remote or virtual. This has opened up opportunities to thousands of people who were potentially anxious about meeting new people in a strange environment and has transformed the demographics of volunteering.

Neighbourly’s community insights have historically demonstrated that over three-quarters of volunteers who administer local causes are aged over 40. Yet while the YouGov poll found under-35s are the least likely to volunteer in their own time, they are in fact the most likely to volunteer as part of a workplace scheme, showing just how important such programmes are.

With younger workers among the most difficult to engage, it’s clear that volunteering should form a crucial and integral part of keeping employees connected, productive and, of course, happy. Needless to say, while positively impacting businesses and staff, a strong, consistent employee volunteering programme can have a tremendous impact on charities and local causes. The more widespread such efforts become in companies, the greater benefits for all.

If you’re interested in developing an employee volunteering programme for your staff, learn more by clicking the ‘More about employee volunteering’ button below.