The standard American workweek is actually an artifact that hails all the way back to the industrial revolution. It was actually Henry Ford who pioneered the 8-hour shift and the 40-hour work week as a means of maximizing productivity in factories. As the labor force migrated from factories to offices, however, many of the standard policies that made factories efficient moved right along with them.
In the modern world, however, employers are coming to realize that what worked best in factories may not work best in the modern office. Employee well-being has a direct impact on productivity, so what is good for employees is generally good for their employers. As a result, employers are seeking to create benefits that help employees experience better well-being and establish better work-life balance.
The truth is, employees do not like lying to their employers. While some employees may occasionally “call in sick” to go on a fun adventure or do something else with their time, most will not. Even if both they and their employer could genuinely benefit from them doing so. In response to this, paid “mental health” days were created that employees could use however they saw fit. Even those generally go unused, however, as employees might be reticent to be viewed as having mental health problems. In 2015, Americans wasted a record-setting 658 million vacation days. It seems that overall, Americans are hard workers that don’t seem to know how to just take a day off – let alone a vacation.
This has given rise to many companies offering paid time off for volunteering. If employers benefit from the well-being of their employees, then employee volunteer time off (VTO) may be the best thing to happen to them yet. Not only does employee well-being help improve productivity, but it also helps cut down on genuine sick days and decrease health care costs overall. Here are just a few of the social, psychological and emotional benefits of volunteering:
- Builds community
- Decreases loneliness
- Improves self-esteem
- Develops leadership skills
- Increases empathy and compassion
- Promotes longevity
- Improves overall health
While no business should cut back on paid vacation time, many businesses may have a far better shot at getting employees to take VTO than vacation. In addition, they may even get just as much benefit from it, if not more.