Back in the “old days,” when companies were less committed to work-life balance, employees might have to schedule a vacation day to help out at their child’s school or sports team or even spend the day at the animal shelter. For many workers, those days are over since they now have access to VTO or Volunteer Time Off.
VTO means that workers can take time to participate in volunteer activities without using up their personal vacation or sick time. In many companies that offer this, there are a set number of hours per month available for personal use. The employee can use them for individual activities like working at a school, for their church, coaching Little League, acting as a Girl Scout leader, caring for animals in a shelter, being a docent at a museum, or anything that they prefer. Typically, the worker needs to schedule the day (or part of a day) as they would any other absence, to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with business operations.
In some organizations, groups can work together to schedule volunteer time, serving the dual purposes of helping a nonprofit and promoting team camaraderie. For example, if a team of colleagues schedules a group event at a charitable organization, they can work together, and each uses their individual allotment of time.
Bank of America has a well-regarded VTO program that offers virtually all U.S. workers paid time off to volunteer. In some cases, it will also provide financial support to the nonprofits that its employees give their time to assist. The Bank has learned that the policy allowing workers to volunteer with paid time during the business day has also increased the amount of time that those employees give on their own time. As a result, Bank of America employees volunteer over two million hours annually. Like many large companies, Bank of America also matches workers’ donations to qualified nonprofits. The Bank also recognizes those who log higher hours and make a difference with their dedication.
Smaller businesses may not be able to support the group absence of teams, but with planning might offer individually scheduled days of volunteering for employees to help causes they care about. Employees care about social responsibility and value engagement with the community. Offering VTO can add heft to an employee benefits plan without requiring a significant investment for the company.
In addition to the positive feedback from employees, some businesses may reap benefits from the community when their workers are seen giving their time to local schools, parks, beach cleanups, or other causes. A company may consider partnering with local civic organizations or other companies to support events that need help.
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