The Value of Volunteer Time Off

Did you know 75% of U.S. adults feel physically healthier by volunteering? People who volunteer are significantly more likely to think they have greater control over their health and well-being. Volunteers report the following benefits:

  • 93% improved mood
  • 79% lower stress levels
  • 88% increased self-esteem

These results and because many business leaders believe that making a positive impact and giving back to their communities is important, more companies are offering volunteer time off.

What Is Volunteer Time Off (VTO)

VTO is a form of approved employee leave that is becoming more common as companies focus on employee engagement and retention. Employer-sponsored volunteerism is organizational support, often in the form of paid leave or sponsorship, for employees pursuing volunteer opportunities or performing community services. Many organizations, from large Fortune 500 companies to small local businesses, encourage employees to volunteer in their communities, boosting employee morale, personal satisfaction, and the bottom line. According to a study by United Healthcare, employees who volunteer through work report feeling better about their employer and strengthened bonds with co-workers.

VTO is not PTO

Paid time off(PTO) hours covers everything from employee absences to personal, vacation, or sick days. VTO and PTO should be separate banks of time. Employees may use PTO for charity work, but VTO cannot be used as PTO. Employees can use Paid Time Off however they like, without providing an explanation or proof to the company. VTO must be spent in service to a community or charitable organization, and the company reserves the right to request documentation confirming the time was paid in the manner requested.

Variety in VTO

A successful VTO policy should include the amount of time employees may take off, any requirements for volunteering activities, and how an employee can get their request approved. Volunteering is meaningful in different ways for each employee. When setting policy details, you’ll need to decide what works best with your company’s goals.

You can give employees free rein to pick a nonprofit they believe in for their day(s) of service. Some companies choose to limit where employees can volunteer. For instance, if your company has relationships with nonprofits in your area, it might make sense to limit employees to those organizations for their volunteering so that your company can continue to build on its support for those nonprofits and their goals.

If you let your employees choose their nonprofits to support, offer a few inspirational suggestions. Include the contact information for some non-profit organizations so your employees can easily contact and schedule their volunteer time. This may make it easier for individuals who haven’t volunteered before to get started.

You might choose to offer blocks of VTO for specific organizations. For example, a construction firm might give employees up to five days of VTO a year to assist with local Habitat for Humanity builds.

Make Volunteering Visible

Add an explanation of your VTO policy and additional details on your company intranet and in your employee handbook. Make sure to use pictures of employees volunteering on your company’s social media.

Should Your Company Offer VTO?

Deloitte research shows that 70% of employees feel VTO raises morale more than company events. Even with tight budgetary restrictions, you may be able to offer some form of VTO. “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” – Oscar Wilde.


Samantha Harwood