We are fortunate to live in a time when modern medicine and technology enable major improvements in the recovery of many injuries. Yet one of the very simplest of therapies has proven to be one of the most effective… volunteerism. Not until recently, was there really an understanding of the benefits of volunteerism from the perspective of the volunteer, but new research-backed evidence has allowed us to recognize the impact of these programs. The physical and mental improvement of those who participate in a volunteer program can have a profound and positive impact on their lives and aid in their recovery.
Return-to-Work Workers’ Compensation Programs: Bettering You & Communities
Every state encourages employers to create early return-to-work programs to accommodate injured workers. Return-to-work programs aim to reduce claim costs and to enable the injured worker to remain as active as they can, within their injury limitations. ReEmployAbility’s Transition2Work program provides a solution to this need. The Transition2Work program is a transitional employment program that places injured workers released to modified light-duty, on a temporary volunteer assignment with a local nonprofit organization. Companies who use ReEmployAbility’s Transition2Work program, and others like it, have experienced shorter recovery times for their injured workers, improvements in company culture, and a chance to be involved with an organization that is there to improve its local community.
With flexible options to accommodate the employee’s abilities, Transition2Work assignments can be performed in the community, at the employer’s worksite, or even from home. The concept of volunteering at a nonprofit as a means of transitional work for an injured worker is not new, but the significant benefits of this type of work continue to be realized.
Health Comes to the Philanthropist
Studies have shown the effects of a work-related injury on the average injured worker. Research shows that many injured workers experience some sort of depression related to the notable change in ability and function, along with other mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, or a lack of motivation. Even when an injured worker is released to temporary, or modified light-duty work, the stress of the disability, reduced income, difficulty in returning to work, withdrawal from the labor market, and dealing with the injury itself could lead to depression.1
Research has shown that adults with disabilities or health conditions, from a wide range of ailments, all show improvement after volunteering.2 Studies conducted on the health benefits of volunteering have found that those who volunteer have shown an improvement in mobility due to a decrease in chronic pain symptoms, and an increase in critical thinking skills.3 A report titled, 2017 Doing Good is Good for You Study, reveals 75% of U.S. adults feel physically healthier by volunteering. Ninety-three percent (93%) reported an improvement in their mood regarding the mental and emotional benefits of volunteering. Seventy-nine percent (79%) reported lower stress levels, and 88% reporting increased self-esteem by giving back.4
Fortunately, volunteerism can assist with overcoming psycho-social issues and physical injuries. Those who volunteered reported better health, less risk of depression, and increased levels of job engagement and satisfaction.2 The social aspect alone can-do wonders for an injured person’s mental state. Already feeling down from the physical pain caused by their injury, injured workers may isolate themselves from others and the outside world. Encouraging a better alternative that provides a sense of purpose and encourages comradery can have a profound effect on their overall psychological well-being. Regularly participating in a volunteer program allows for social contact with others that may develop into a solid support system; this in turn, has proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
There’s Plenty of Rapport to go Around
The right nonprofit placement can help any injured worker, to find friends, connect with their community, learn new skills, and can even help them advance their professional career. Volunteering gives a person the ability to build relationships and rapport. It encourages people to get out of their comfort zone, and provides the opportunity to practice and develop their social skills. Once they are more comfortable, it is easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.3
When a person is given the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves, with other like-minded individuals, the benefits can do wonders for one’s mental health and overall well-being. Each placement is made with the injured worker’s physical abilities in mind, along with other factors such as location from home or doctor’s office. There are limitless opportunities to make connections with a diverse variety of people who can bring value to a person’s life. Living with a new injury can bring on many negative feelings and stress, which may cause isolating tendencies. Volunteering provides an opportunity to practice and develop
social skills, and with this momentum it is easier for a person to grow.3 Another sociological benefit of volunteering is that it can increase self-confidence. Doing something good for others and the community can provide a natural sense of accomplishment. The benefits of gaining or increasing these attributes can lead to a better sense of pride and identity 3, which will surely be evident once the injured employee re-joins the workforce.
A Company-Sponsored Volunteer Initiative
Studies have shown that when a company puts forth a sponsored volunteer program for its employees, people are more likely to feel encouraged to participate. “Understanding the drivers of effective volunteering among employees can lead employers to capitalize on the success of their volunteer programs.” 2 The Doing Good is Good for You Study, revealed that three-fourths of employees who participated in their company-sponsored volunteer program, reported feeling better about their employer, while 91% believe it is important for an employer to allow employees to volunteer on paid time.4 This has been proven in ReEmployAbility’s very own company-sponsored volunteer program “REA in the Community.” From the first month of its launch, employee’s have jumped at the opportunity to lend their services to the non-profit of their choice. All have shown great enthusiasm to share their experiences and the personal effects of volunteering.
One associate, Nate, expressing gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to participate at a local food bank in the company-sponsored volunteer program, stated, “Thank you for the opportunity to help my local community in person! You have no idea how rewarding it is to see the looks on the faces of members of my local community when they see the amount of food they have been blessed with.”
Providing an outlet for employees to feel encouraged to do more at the workplace increases morale significantly. “A new study shows that having a company-sponsored volunteering program can foster social bonds as well as a greater identification with the employer(s). The results may be especially relevant during the pandemic, as it can address issues such as isolation and mental health conditions.” 2 With the expansion and implementation of company-sponsored programs, workplace culture no longer feels like a job with a means to an end, but a home away from home. These benefits are not only seen and proven to be true from the employees’ perspective but the increase in productivity and sales creates immense advances for any company.
A Win-Win-Win Solution
The benefits of volunteering are significant, as proven by extensive research conducted on individuals who suffer from physical injuries or disabilities, and mental illnesses. Through data-driven evidence and testimonial, ReEmployAbility’s Transition2Work Return-to-Work programs have proven to accredit claims that volunteering decreases recovery time exponentially. Participating in Return-to-Work programs not only benefit the injured, but the employer limits its workers’ compensation cost, and the nonprofit along with the community benefits from the help, as well. By encouraging one to expand their horizons, to build and foster meaningful connections, more opportunities will become available to better themselves, physically, personally, and professionally.
- Kim J. (2013). Depression as a psychosocial consequence of occupational injury in the US working
population: findings from the medical expenditure panel survey. BMC Public Health. 2013 Apr 5; 13:303. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-303. PubMed PMID: 23560685; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3635882, Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23560685
- Grover, N. (n.d.). Encouraging volunteerism can improve the bottom line, study shows.
WorkersCompensation.com. Retrieved February 16, 2022, from https://www.workerscompensation.com/news_read.php?id=40494
- Robinson, L. (2022, February 8). Volunteering and its surprising benefits. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved February 16, 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm
- UnitedHealthcare study finds Americans who volunteer feel healthier and happier. UnitedHealthcare Study Finds Americans Who Volunteer Feel Healthier and Happier | Business Wire. (2017, September 14). Retrieved February 16, 2022, from https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170914005272/en/UnitedHealthcare-Study-Finds-Americans-Who-Volunteer-Feel-Healthier-and-Happier#:~:text=The%20report%2C%20titled%20the%202017,feel%20physically%20healthier%20by%20volunteering.&text=Also%2C%20volunteers%20are%20significantly%20more,their%20health%20and%20well%2Dbeing.