When you volunteer, you often get more than you give. In addition to providing you with a mental boost, doing charitable work may actually be beneficial for your physical health. Recent studies show evidence that those who do volunteer work may have a 20 percent lower risk of death than those who don’t volunteer.1
At WebMD Health Services, we give our employees plenty of opportunities to improve their well-being through volunteer work. During 2018 alone, our employees have helped raise money for chronic illnesses during charity walks, kept our local parks pristine by hosting cleanup parties and much more.
I work with a lot of corporate teams and rarely see so many people dive into the volunteer project, asking thoughtful questions, and wanting to learn more about how they can support families in our community. – Lily K. H. McFadden, Community Engagement Manager, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Oregon & Southwest Washington
Most recently, our team gathered to provide basic household items to local families in need of help. Last week, over 70 WebMD employees contributed over 146 hours of volunteer time for a memorable day of giving back by gathering blankets and assembling over 500 hygiene kits for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. Jodi Nelson, Lead Program Manager at WebMD Health Services shared, “It makes me proud to be a part of an organization that understands a business within a community doesn’t mean just having an office there, nor is it about just providing jobs to the people who live there. It goes much deeper to foster that vital connection which truly makes us all a living-breathing part of communities.”
While volunteering certainly helped improve the well-being of the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House—it also made a difference in the health of our employees. All day long, WebMD employees smiled as they enjoyed a break from work, burned calories as they gathered supplies and improved their feelings of belonging as they worked closely with one another.
But those aren’t the only health benefits that come from volunteering. Below I’ve listed the top benefits your employees can experience from taking part in volunteer work.
1. Lower blood pressure.
Giving your employees more opportunities to participate in volunteer work may be good for their hearts. A recent study found that older adults who spent at least 200 hours a year volunteering had a 40 percent lower risk of high blood pressure than those who did not volunteer at all. 2
This positive effect on blood pressure could happen because of a reduction in stress, a boost in self-esteem or simply because volunteer workers spend more time in social situations. Strong evidence shows that having strong social connections promotes healthy aging and reduces the risk for a number of negative health outcomes—including high blood pressure.3
2. Reduce feelings of depression.
At our recent charity walk, it was easy to forget we were there to raise money for a serious illness. When I looked around, every WebMD employee I saw was busy talking, laughing and enjoying themselves all throughout the day. The volunteer event had clearly helped my team bond while providing an enjoyable day out for everyone.
What’s more, participating in the charity walk may have helped reduce depression for my employees. Studies have shown that volunteering helps people who donate their time feel more socially connected, which can help ward off loneliness and depression.4
3. Manage stress.
Volunteer work can seem like just another item on the to-do list. But even if it makes your schedule busier, taking time to volunteer can help reduce stress. In a recent study, 78 percent of the adults who participated said that volunteering lowered their stress levels.5
When people take part in volunteer activities, it gives them an opportunity to break free from their day-to-day schedule. But the lowered stress is likely from more than just taking a breather. Volunteer events also offer employees an opportunity to meet new people, create close bonds with their co-workers and help those who are less fortunate—which all can help to create a stress-free environment. Our very own, Erin Murray, Lead Client Program Manager, shared why she volunteers as part of the WebMD Cares team, “It’s inspiring for me to see my coworkers working together on something that isn’t “work-related”, but rather something that makes a difference in our local community.”
Give your employees the chance to give back.
Offering volunteer opportunities can have a positive impact across your community and organization. Whether your team decides to help fight hunger like we did at WebMD, participates in a walkathon or provides assistance to a local charity that you connect with—all volunteer work can help lead to healthy employees and a strong foundation for a culture of wellness.