- Dalya Qualls White is senior vice president and chief communication officer of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
- One of the ways companies can help their employees with this stress is by finding opportunities to reconnect outside of their workstations.
- This year we have already surpassed 3,000 hours of in-person and virtual volunteering and we are on track to surpass last year’s total.
Darlene Smith and her team recently reunited after they hadn’t seen each other for several months to make handmade cards and pack boxes for babies, babies who need to remember that they are important and not forgotten.
As Darlene recounts, it was one of the most significant experiences of the year for everyone involved.
Darlene, program management specialist at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, and her colleagues began volunteering at Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee earlier this year. The non-profit organization works to fulfill the wishes of children living with a serious illness.
Many children are hoping to meet a favorite athlete or embark on a dream vacation, desires that require a lot of logistics and planning.
Volunteers often meet at the nonprofit organization’s headquarters to pack uplifting “wish boxes” that are given to children waiting to grant their wish.
“For me, the most significant moment was knowing that these boxes filled with candy, toys and stickers would bring a smile to a child’s face,” said Darlene. “The time we spent packing the boxes would make a big difference, elevating these babies while they are in the hospital.”
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Most employees suffer from work-related stress
That time together also made a 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.
That unity and sense of purpose can invigorate them and motivate them to re-engage in the work they do every single day.
Across the nation, we’re seeing companies struggle with employee retention, preventing employee burnout, and keeping their staff engaged.
According to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Wellbeing Survey, 79% of employees have recently experienced work-related stress.
Nearly 3 out of 5 employees reported negative health impacts related to that stress. A staggering 44% reported physical fatigue, a 38% increase from 2019.
One of the ways companies can help their employees with this stress is by finding opportunities to reconnect outside of their workplaces, in the office or at home.
Data from the Society for Human Resource Management showed that 47% of US companies offered community volunteer programs in 2018, up from 40% in 2014. This percentage is even higher for large companies and I suspect it will rise again. rocketing with the next available data.
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Volunteering in person boosts morale
At BlueCross, we have been successful in encouraging our employees to give something 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 returned to our communities, offering 5,175 volunteer hours with 168 different organizations. This year we have already surpassed 3,000 hours of in-person and virtual volunteering and we are on track to surpass last year’s total.
Our employees have clearly expressed their appreciation for integrating TeamBlue volunteering into their working day. For us it is a victory for everyone; local charities benefit from our efforts and the work of our employees in the community creates shared experiences, increases morale and helps create a more positive “on time” atmosphere. The face-to-face interaction and feelings of accomplishment after the return are then reflected in the service they provide to our members.
Experiences from teams like Darlene’s can serve as examples for other companies looking for ways to inspire their employees.
“These in-person volunteer opportunities create camaraderie, especially as many of us work from home and don’t see each other much anymore,” said Darlene. “They bring us back together, keep us connected and create even stronger bonds.”
Dalya Qualls White is senior vice president and chief communication officer of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.