- Dalya Qualls White is Senior Vice President and Director of Communications at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
- One of the ways companies can help their employees cope with this stress is to find opportunities for them to reconnect outside of the workplace.
- This year, we have already surpassed 3,000 in-person and virtual volunteer hours and are on track to surpass last year’s total.
Darlene Smith and her team recently reunited after not seeing each other in several months to handcraft cards and packing boxes for kids – kids who need to be reminded 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, 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 strives to grant the wishes of children living with a serious 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 gather at the nonprofit’s headquarters to pack uplifting “wish boxes” that are delivered to children waiting for their wishes to be granted.
“For me, the most meaningful moment was knowing that those boxes filled with candies, toys and stickers would bring a smile to a child’s face,” Darlene said. “The time we spent packing the boxes would make a huge difference, uplifting these children while they are in hospital.”
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Most employees suffer from work-related stress
This time spent together has also made an uplifting difference for Darlene and her team. I share their story to illustrate the importance of not only giving back, but also how giving back as a team can foster deeper connections between employees.
This unity and sense of purpose can be invigorating and motivate them to recommit to the work they do every day.
Across the country, we’re seeing companies struggling to retain employees, prevent burnout, and keep their employees engaged.
According to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Wellbeing Survey, 79% of employees have recently experienced work-related stress.
Nearly 3 in 5 employees reported negative health effects related to this stress. A staggering 44% reported physical fatigue, an increase of 38% since 2019.
One of the ways companies can help their employees deal with this stress is to find opportunities for them to reconnect outside of the workplace, whether they’re in the office or at home.
Data from the Society for Human Resource Management showed that 47% of U.S. companies offered community volunteer programs in 2018, up from 40% in 2014. This percentage is even higher for larger companies, and I suspect it will rise. still strongly with the next available data. .
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In-person volunteering boosts morale
At BlueCross, we’ve been successful in encouraging our employees to give back to their communities, often during normal 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 were back in our communities, volunteering 5,175 hours with 168 different organizations. This year, we have already surpassed 3,000 in-person and virtual volunteer hours and are on track to surpass last year’s total.
Our employees clearly expressed their appreciation for making TeamBlue volunteering part of their work day. For us, it’s a win-win; local charities benefit from our efforts, and our employees’ work in the community creates shared experiences, boosts morale and contributes to a more positive atmosphere. The face-to-face interaction and feelings of accomplishment after giving back is then reflected in the service they provide to 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 volunteer opportunities build camaraderie, especially since many of us are working from home and don’t see each other much anymore,” Darlene said. “They bring us together, keep us connected and create even stronger bonds.”
Dalya Qualls White is Senior Vice President and Director of Communications at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.