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An Employer’s Guide to Volunteer Time Off (VTO) Policies

Happy group of volunteers stacking hands and celebrating together outdoors

Quick look: Volunteering is essential to supporting our local communities. By integrating such efforts into your workplace via a volunteer time off (VTO) policy, you can significantly enrich the lives of your employees and enhance your organization overall. This guide equips small business leaders with the necessary knowledge to launch a VTO program and steers them toward helpful resources.

Volunteer time off (VTO) has become a popular employee benefit. In 2022, 47% of U.S. businesses offered community volunteer programs, up from 40% in 2014—and for good reason.

Volunteering contributes to communal and personal well-being and reinforces an organization’s commitment to corporate social responsibility, which can enhance recruiting and retention efforts, especially for younger talent.

Understanding what volunteer time off is, how it can benefit employees and the business, and best practices to properly execute a volunteer time off policy is crucial to employers looking to offer this perk.

What is volunteer time off?

Volunteer time off, or VTO, is a type of paid leave in which employees receive their regular compensation for time spent volunteering for an approved charity or community organization.

Some common corporate volunteering activities include:

  • Cleaning up public spaces
  • Volunteering at a food bank, homeless shelter, or animal rescue/shelter
  • Building a home for those in need
  • Donating blood
  • Handing out care packages

The benefits of volunteer time off

Corporate volunteerism is a true win-win situation that contributes to good causes, promotes the well-being of volunteers, and strengthens involved businesses.

For employees

Four major ways volunteering helps workers include:

  1. A stronger sense of community: Doing hands-on civic work helps people feel more connected to the world and people around them.
  2. Boosted well-being: Forbes reports that many volunteers experience improved mental well-being (26%), greater self-esteem and confidence (20%), and reduced stress (11%).
  3. Increased employee engagement: Volunteering can spark inspiration and motivation and lead staff to see their tasks in a new light and bring fresh ideas to the table.
  4. Boosted job satisfaction: A recent study found that 79% of those who volunteer through work-sponsored programs are satisfied with their jobs, compared to 55% who don’t participate in them.

For businesses

Enabling employees to volunteer their (paid) time also extends various advantages to organizations by:

  • Providing an opportunity to support charitable causes that align with the company’s mission in methods beyond monetary donations
  • Improving employee recruiting and retention, especially for younger workers (one survey found that 87% of Gen Z professionals would consider quitting their jobs to work at a business with values more closely aligned to their own)
  • Enhancing public reputation and employer brand
  • Cultivating a supportive and friendly work environment

How to implement a VTO policy

There are several factors to consider before rolling out a volunteer time off policy to your workforce:

Create the volunteer time off policy

Business leaders should keep the following questions in mind as they create their VTO program’s guidelines:

  • What are our goals and objectives for the program?
  • Which charitable organizations are eligible?
  • Can employees choose their own charities, or is there a list they must stick to?
  • If your business has employee resource groups (ERGs), can they be encouraged to seek volunteering opportunities that align with their values?
  • Are part-time workers eligible, or only full-time employees?
  • What verification will staff need to submit?
  • How much volunteer time off will be allowed each year?
  • Which time and labor tool will we use to track VTO hours?
  • Who will approve or deny VTO requests?
  • How far in advance do employees need to request volunteer time off?
  • Are there coverage concerns for any roles/departments taking VTO? If so, are there peak busy periods when staff should avoid using volunteer time off?

Get leadership buy-in

After drafting your VTO policy, it is critical to present it and its benefits to staff, the organization, and leadership. Doing so will ensure that the new program aligns with the company’s values and that key leaders actively support it and feel it’s a shared goal.

Communicate the VTO policy

After the policy is complete and has received the nod of approval from leadership, it’s time to share it with your workforce.

Your volunteer time off program’s success relies on your workforce knowing about it, so be sure to share its details far and wide by:

  • Adding it to your employee handbook
  • Announcing it in town hall
  • Requesting that managers inform their teams about the policy
  • Posting about it on the company’s intranet and collaboration tools (i.e., Microsoft Teams)
  • Discussing it during employee onboarding

You can also encourage employees who take volunteer time off to share photos and feedback about their experiences on social media and with their colleagues, which can inspire more participation and foster team spirit. This not only helps in building camaraderie but also enhances your employer branding. Additionally, don’t forget to give them a company-wide shout-out for their efforts, acknowledging their contribution both internally and externally!

Measure the program’s effectiveness

Human resources leaders should regularly monitor their VTO program’s participation rate to gauge whether policy adjustments or further promotion are required. This can be done by using a time and labor portal to view the number of VTO hours used.

Employers should also consider surveying workers to see if they’re aware of the program, measure their program satisfaction levels, gather policy feedback, and identify any roadblocks preventing them from participating.

Need help getting your VTO program off the ground?

Introducing a volunteer time off policy is a worthwhile endeavor. Still, some HR professionals (especially those working for a small business) may find it challenging to find the time to plan and execute the initiative properly.

That’s where a professional employer organization (PEO) can assist. PEOs help companies manage various aspects of their human resources, employee benefits, payroll, risk and compliance, and other employee-related tasks.

For example, ExtensisHR, a national PEO, provides its clients with dedicated SHRM-certified HR Managers who provide hands-on guidance, including supporting policy creation and adjustments, handbook updates, and more.

Additionally, ExtensisHR’s mobile-first Work Anywhere® platform enables workforces to securely manage critical HR tasks from anywhere, around the clock. Included in Work Anywhere® is the Time and Labor Cloud, which facilitates employees’ easy entry of time off requests, allows managers to quickly see who is clocked in or out, and ensures everyone receives the correct pay on time.

Giving back doesn’t need to take away from other mission-critical business initiatives. Contact ExtensisHR today to learn how our HR experts can help your organization create a VTO policy.

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