- Dalya Qualls White is senior vice president & chief communications officer at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
- One of the ways companies can assist their employees with this stress is by finding opportunities for them to reconnect outside of their workstations.
- This year, we’ve already exceeded 3,000 in-person and virtual volunteer hours and are on track to top last year’s total.
Darlene Smith and her team recently gathered after having not seen each other in several months to handmake cards and pack boxes for children—children in need of a reminder that they matter and are not forgotten.
As Darlene tells it, it was one of the most meaningful experiences of the year for everyone involved.
Darlene, a program management specialist at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, and her colleagues began volunteering at Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee earlier this year. The nonprofit works to grant wishes for children living with a critical illness.
Many children hope to meet a favorite athlete or embark on a dream vacation, wishes that involve a lot of logistics and planning.
Volunteers often meet at the nonprofit’s headquarters to pack uplifting “wish boxes” that are delivered to kids waiting to have their wish fulfilled.
“For me, the most meaningful moment was knowing that these boxes filled with candy, toys and stickers would bring a smile to a child’s face,” Darlene said. “The time we spent packing the boxes would make such a huge difference, uplifting these children while they’re in the hospital.”
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Most employees are suffering from work-related stress
That time together made an uplifting difference to Darlene and her team, as well. I share their story to illustrate the importance not only of giving back, but also how giving back as a team can foster deeper connections between employees.
That unity and sense of purpose can be reinvigorating and motivate them to re-commit to the work they do every single day.
Across the nation, we’re seeing companies struggle with employee retention, preventing employee burnout and keeping their people engaged.
According to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Well-being Survey, 79% of employees had recently experienced work-related stress.
Nearly 3 in 5 employees reported negative health impacts related to that stress. A staggering 44% reported physical fatigue — a 38% increase since 2019.
One of the ways companies can assist their employees with this stress is by finding opportunities for them to reconnect outside of their workstations, whether they’re in an office or at home.
Data from the Society for Human Resource Management showed 47% of US companies offered community volunteer programs in 2018, up from 40% in 2014. That percentage is even higher for large companies, and I suspect it will steeply climb again with the next available data .
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In-person volunteering builds morale
At BlueCross, we’ve found success 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, maintained a strong virtual presence during the pandemic. But in 2021, our employees were back in our communities, volunteering 5,175 hours with 168 different organizations. This year, we’ve already exceeded 3,000 in-person and virtual volunteer hours and are on track to top last year’s total.
Our employees have made their appreciation for incorporating TeamBlue volunteering into their workday clear. For us, it’s a win-win; local charity organizations benefit from our efforts, and our employees’ work in the community creates shared experiences, boosts morale and contributes to a more positive “on-the-clock” atmosphere. The face-to-face interaction and feelings of accomplishment after giving back are then reflected in the service they provide our members.
The experiences of teams like Darlene’s can serve as an example for other companies looking for ways to inspire their employees.
“These in-person volunteering opportunities build camaraderie, especially since many of us work from home and don’t get to see each other much anymore,” Darlene said. “They bring us back together, keep us connected and create even stronger bonds.”
Dalya Qualls White is senior vice president & chief communications officer at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.