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5 reasons corporate community involvement builds employee wellbeing

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Much has been written about the benefits of organizations supporting Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues for good customer and public relations—but it is less common to discuss the “return on investing” such a focus has on the total wellbeing of the employer’s workforce. Here are five good and varied reasons for organizations to actively promote community involvement and volunteerism as a key component of their total wellbeing strategy and a source of competitive advantage while supporting organizational goals.

1. Data backs up the importance of ESG as part of wellbeing initiatives.

The 8th edition of Buck’s Working Well: A Global Survey of Workplace Wellbeing Strategies captured responses from more than 250 employers, representing 56 countries and covering 5.22 million employees (for an average population size of approximately 23,000 employees). It shows that 55% of respondents had the objective of “fulfilling social/community responsibility” in supporting their employees’ wellbeing.

While traditionally, wellbeing programs have had at their core the twin elements of physical and emotional and financial “health,” other aspects of wellbeing have risen in priority. These include being “socially connected” and “having a sense of purpose and fulfillment.” Both elements are greatly influenced by community involvement. In fact, 92% of respondents cited community involvement as components of their wellbeing strategy for at least one year or more, including 30% who have done so for over 10 years. These results, it’s worth emphasizing, are borne out globally, including but not limited to the U.S.

2. Supporting the community wins awards – with good reason.

A look at other research, such as 10th annual Health and Well-Being Survey from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health® (NBGH) , also reveals a high emphasis on community involvement, with over two-thirds of respondents continuing to emphasize “providing programs focused on well-being beyond physical health, including emotional/mental health (92%), financial health (88%), community involvement (69%), social connectedness (54%) and job satisfaction (43%).”

Of added note, as NBGH evolves its criteria for the prestigious Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles awards, elements such as community involvement have risen in importance. An organization that wishes to “walk the talk” of caring holistically for its employees needs to incorporate evidence that they successfully reach out to the communities they serve – and recognize that they also are served by those communities.

3. Kindness (including volunteering) brings many benefits to individuals.

Considerable scientific evidence ties volunteerism to wellbeing. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that a sense of purpose in life “has been linked with better health (mental and physical) as well as improved health behaviors.” The authors highlight the positive impacts of dopamine and oxytocin, as well. It can moderate conditions such as inflammation and slow aging. And David Hamilton, author of The Five Side Effects of Kindness, believes that kindness is contagious. “When we’re kind, we inspire others to be kind,” he says. “Acts of kindness ripple outwards touching others’ lives and inspiring kindness everywhere the wave goes.”

4. Corporations that value sustainability through ESG are more competitive in the marketplace and in the search for talent.

ESG values, evidenced by community outreach and service, can help employers attract and retain talent. Betsy Atkins, serial entrepreneur, and CEO and founder of Baja Ventures, says that ESG values are critical to the long-term success of any competitive organization. Writing in Forbes, Atkins says, “Millennials care deeply that the companies they work for (and the businesses they support) embrace values that are aligned with their own. Employees who are passionate about the organization, who are loyal, and who feel valued, drive an intangible good will that strengthens the brand of the company and improves the overall productivity of the workforce.”

The ultimate responsibility for making these values part of the corporate culture rests at the top. Atkins points out that “companies that are truly committed to executing their ESG policies make them a ‘senior management priority’ of the CEO or general counsel, (and tie compensation to ESG metrics.) They voluntarily report ESG goals, and progress towards meeting them, to all stakeholders via the annual CEO letter, in the proxy, annual reports, internal corporate communications, and/or annual sustainability reports on the corporate website.”

5. Customers support corporate social responsibility and community engagement

report from research firm Nielsen found that “66 percent of consumers say they are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.” When both customers and employees value the opportunity to give back, it makes sound business sense to engage in social and environmental programs by supporting volunteer efforts and through advocacy at the corporate level.

So what’s next?

We’d be happy to help your organization in positioning this important element within the dimensions of total wellbeing. Taking this stance undoubtedly can serve your organization, your employees, and your communities, well!

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