- Dalia Qualls White is senior vice president and chief communications officer at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
- One way companies can help their employees with this stress is by finding opportunities for them to reconnect outside of their workstations.
- This year we have already exceeded 3,000 in-person and virtual volunteer hours and are on track to surpass last year’s total.
Darlene Smith and her team recently got together after not seeing each other for several months to hand-make cards and pack boxes for children – children who need a reminder that they are important and not forgotten.
As Darlene recounts, it was one of the most meaningful experiences of the year for all involved.
Darlene, a program management specialist at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, and her colleagues began volunteering with Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee earlier this year. The non-profit organization works to grant wishes for children living with a critical illness.
Many children hope to meet a favorite athlete or go on a dream vacation, wishes that involve a lot of logistics and planning.
Volunteers often meet at the nonprofit’s headquarters to pack inspirational “wish boxes” that are delivered to children waiting to have their wishes granted.
“For me, the most meaningful moment was knowing that these boxes full of candy, toys and stickers would put a smile on a child’s face,” said Darlene. “The time we spent packing the boxes would have made such a huge difference, inspiring these children while they are in the hospital.”
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Most employees suffer from work-related stress
That time together made an inspiring difference to Darlene and her team as well. I share their story to illustrate the importance of not only giving back, but how giving back as a team can foster deeper connections among employees.
This unity and sense of purpose can invigorate and motivate them to re-commit to the work they do every day.
Across the country, we’re seeing how companies are grappling with employee retention, preventing employee burnout, and keeping people engaged.
According to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Well-Being Survey, 79% of employees have recently experienced work-related stress.
Nearly 3 in 5 employees report negative health impacts related to this stress. A staggering 44% reported physical fatigue – a 38% increase from 2019.
One way companies can help their employees with this stress is by finding opportunities for them to reconnect outside of their workstations, whether they are in the office or at home.
Data from the Society for Human Resource Management shows that 47 percent of U.S. companies offered community volunteer programs in 2018, up from 40 percent in 2014. That percentage is even higher for large companies, and I suspect it will spiked again with the next available data.
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Personal volunteering builds morale
At BlueCross, we’ve been successful in encouraging our employees to give back to their communities—often during regular business hours with manager approval. Our TeamBlue employee volunteer program, established in 2008, has maintained a strong virtual presence during the pandemic. But in 2021, our employees gave back to our communities, volunteering 5,175 hours with 168 different organizations. This year we have already exceeded 3,000 in-person and virtual volunteer hours and are on track to surpass last year’s total.
Our employees have expressed their gratitude for incorporating TeamBlue volunteering into their work day. For us, it’s a win-win; local charities benefit from our efforts and the work of our employees in the community creates shared experiences, boosts morale and contributes to a more positive atmosphere ‘at work’. The face-to-face interaction and sense of achievement upon return is reflected in the service we provide to our members.
The experiences of teams like Darlene’s can serve as examples for other companies looking for ways to inspire their employees.
“These personal volunteer opportunities build camaraderie, especially since many of us work from home and can no longer see each other often,” said Darlene. “They bring us back together, keep us connected and create even stronger bonds.”
Dalia Qualls White is senior vice president and chief communications officer at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.