What Is ‘Volunteer Time Off’: All You Need To Know

Volunteering is an important way for many people to give back to their community and help those in need. However, many who wish to volunteer full time are limited by job responsibilities and other commitments. In recent years, some companies have sought to address this issue by introducing “volunteer time off,” or VTO, policies that allow employees to take paid leave for volunteer work.

This emerging employee benefit is gaining traction as more employers recognize the personal and professional value of volunteering. By examining what volunteer time off entails and exploring how companies are implementing these programs, this article aims to provide insight into this growing trend and its potential to encourage greater civic engagement while supporting workforce happiness and well-being.

What is Volunteer Time Off?

Volunteer time off (VTO) is a paid leave allowing employees to support approved charitable organizations. This benefit enables organizations to attract potential employees by giving them the freedom to make a positive impact outside of work while still receiving their regular pay.

Employee time-off requests, volunteering activity standards, and how employees can gain permission for their requests must all be included in the Volunteer Time Off Program or policy. The organization must select Employee Volunteering Policy specifics that align with the organization’s objectives.

A small business may enable employees to use one day of vacation time each year to volunteer at a shelter, clean a roadway or beach, or work at a food bank. Larger companies may enable employees to take up to five days of voluntary time off per year.

Also read: 10 Reasons to use Goal Setting Software

Why Should a Company Implement VTO?

Our family, friends, society, and community provide us with so much. As a result, there is always time to contribute meaningfully to the community. It could take any shape, such as serving at a local voting station or a child’s school. The only thing that matters is that the employees work hard to make the community a better place.

Employees nowadays expect more from their jobs than just a good salary. A chance to make a tiny difference in the world goes a long way toward retaining outstanding talent. According to a study by Core Communications, over 75% of employees will stay with a firm that offers Paid volunteer time off policy to work for the greater good.

As a result, the desire to work for a socially responsible firm has taken hold, and employees are looking for companies where their personal ambitions fit with the companies. It also contributes to lower staff turnover.

Benefits of Providing Volunteer Time Off

Implementing the Employee Volunteer Program Policy has many advantages for a firm, including attracting and keeping top personnel in the industry. It enables employees to contribute back to the community while also improving their emotional and physical well-being.

Here are some of the most important advantages of Volunteer Time Off Best Practices.

  • Enhances mental well-being

Many businesses have embraced Volunteer Time Off Guidelines and put them in place to reap the benefits. It also helps in the betterment of their employees’ physical and emotional wellbeing. According to a study, after implementing Volunteer Time Off, a larger percentage of employees reported a happier mood and lower stress levels.

Employees who volunteer have been shown to have a higher feeling of overall happiness. It also keeps them motivated, which shows up in their work results. Volunteering employees have also stated that their blood pressure is under control, indicating that they are in good cardiovascular health.

  • New Skills Acquisition

Employees have the chance to learn new skills outside of the workplace. They gain hands-on experience in a new field, which helps them do their job perfectly in an organization. Employees who oversee or manage a volunteer training program are deemed to improve their leadership and communication abilities.

  • Gives a Sense of Direction

Volunteering offers employees a sense of purpose and allows them to see how their efforts are making a difference in people’s lives. It gives them a sense of belonging, achievement, and self-assurance. This feel-good effect boosts their mood and allows them to live happy lives.

If you’re wondering how to use volunteer time off, it’s a paid vacation during which employees are rewarded for hours spent volunteering in a community or nonprofit organization. As a result, this paid volunteer time off policy allows employees to conduct some good work for the community without losing their jobs.

How to Write a Successful Volunteer Time Off Policy?

One of the simplest policies to write is a VTO policy.

Step 1: Define your goals.

When you have an idea of what you want to do, you can start there and build your program around it.

Step 2: Obtain Management and Leadership Support

This is a crucial step that occurs twice: first when you create the policy and again when an employee requests VTO.

Managers may appreciate the requirement of a request form in advance. This gives them the information they need to alter their workload or fill in for shifts. As a team-building activity, offer that teams to take a half-day of VTO to perform a charitable project together.

Step 3: Make Time Tracking Official

Use a documented time tracking mechanism, as you do for PTO or sick leave, to eliminate the possibility of abuse. Keep the time in its own bank (whether it’s all given at the start of the year, on a service anniversary, or accrued throughout the year), so it doesn’t get mixed up with other time banks.

Decide how much VTO you’re willing to provide in hourly, half-day, or full-day increments.

Step 4: Create a Comprehensive Policy

Make the policy comprehensive and easy to grasp. Include:

  • Who may take part? (Are they required to be full-time employees? Is there a limited length of time they must have spent at your company? Are employees who are members of a union eligible?)
  • How much time is available?
  • What types of organizations are permitted and which are prohibited (For-profit corporations are prohibited, but do you allow VTO in political organizations?)
  • Are disciplined employees eligible?
  • What type of screening process (if any) do you need to evaluate the organization before approving VTO?
  • What kind of auditing (if any) would you do to ensure that VTO was utilized appropriately and in the permitted amount?
  • What kind of record-keeping is required, and who handles it?
  • Is there a form with the policy? Is it necessary to get VTO approval ahead of time? Who is it?
Also read: How to foster a positive work environment and reduce anxiety?

Best Practices to Frame Paid Volunteer Leave Policy

Before implementing a VTO program, businesses should think about a few things.

Who qualifies?

Are both part-time and full-time employees are eligible for this benefit? Will the organization’s rank and tenure be taken into account? Is there any type of performance or other criteria for receiving this benefit? For example, can an employee on a Performance Improvement Plan be able to take this type of leave?

Which organizations qualify?

Is it possible for employees to choose their own organization? For example, may they spend a day helping at their child’s school? Will the employer provide a list of groups that have been approved? Can employees help political organizations as volunteers?

It’s important to evaluate what restrictions may apply to choosing an organization. After all, if an employee chooses a company that is not in line with the company’s principles or one that is controversial or a source of hot debate, it can lead to a slew of issues.

What sorts of volunteer work are accepted?

Is it necessary for employees to volunteer for a specific event, or can assisting with routine, daily organizing tasks qualify them for VTO? For example, assisting in the distribution of food at a food bank. Can employees volunteer in areas that apply to their current position?

Assisting with marketing, accounting, human resources, and other organizational activities, for example. If the volunteer work is related directly to the employee’s function at the organization, a conflict of interest may arise–particularly if the person or organization delivers a paid volunteer time off policy to clients.

Also Read: 14 Opportunities for Improvement in the Workplace

How many days are given to employees?

Is VTO included in their normal pool of PTO, or does it have its own “bucket”? Will employees have the option of taking VTO in hours or days? Is it necessary to accrue it? Can they get more in the future?

What kind of calendar do they use?

Are their days allotted according to the calendar year? Is it based on the fiscal year? What is the most effective method for employees to keep track of their volunteer hours?

How do employees make a VTO request?

Does it follow the regular Paid volunteer time off policy procedure, or does it require more information about the group and how they’ll volunteer? How far ahead of time should it be requested? Are there going to be blackout days? How will coverage be handled if numerous employees request VTO during a specific holiday? Who is in charge of approval?

Volunteer Time Off Policy Examples

Sometimes the best method to figure out which VTO policy is right for your company is to look at what’s already out there in the corporate domain that is offered by various other organizations to their employees. Here are six examples of VTO policies used by other companies:

  • The Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Entrepreneur’s Foundation. The VTO template from the SVCF is an excellent example of not just how to start a volunteer time off policy but also how to structure it and convey it to employees. They go over what is and isn’t eligible for the VTO.
  • North Texas entrepreneurs. This volunteering time off policy template is integrated with their business guidelines, thereby killing two birds with one stone.
  • The United Way charitable organization. This template includes a sample request form for VTO.
  • Thomson Reuters news agency. This VTO policy includes a one-of-a-kind initiative called Dollars for Doers, in which the company matches each employee’s volunteer hours with a monetary commitment of up to $1,000.
  • San Mateo community. While this sample VTO policy is a little difficult (it contains items such as a fact sheet and reference cards), it is comprehensive and demonstrates how particular your policy may be.
  • Markit IHS. This VTO policy is a fine example of a comprehensive policy, encompassing everything from the program’s objective to time distribution, eligibility, time off recording, and more.

Key Takeaways on Volunteer Time Off

Feedback, as with any HR program, is really valuable. If you’re just getting started, ask your team members what they would like to see in your volunteer time off program. Then, regularly check to learn about the program’s benefits and identify opportunities for improvement. This is especially true among millennials, who desire to contribute comments, ideas, and solutions to help companies improve their corporate social responsibility activities.

Find out if they have any specific organizations in mind or if they’d like some suggestions to begin. Inquire about their preferred structure for the VTO program. For example, should you volunteer for a full day or for a shorter time?

Flexible vacation time to help their own charity or go on team service trips? Find out which people of your staff are most enthusiastic about volunteering and urge them to establish a committee to help you expand the program internally. We hope that this blog has served all your queries and doubts.

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