The Enactment of Company Act, 2013, devised by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, introduced CSR as a mandatory provision for companies to contribute towards social welfare activities. Companies must spend a minimum of 2% of their net profit over three years on CSR initiatives and activities.
The provision made India the only country with a mandated CSR for particular categories registered under the Act. CSR initiatives help organisations and the country achieve sustainable development goals and propel it towards a better future.
According to an article published by EIAS, the Tata Group spent close to 10 billion INR on CSR activities in the 2021 fiscal year, while Reliance Industries spent 9.2 billion INR. While these initiatives aid the country on an organisational level, employees as individuals too can contribute to relief or aid activities through Volunteer Time Off (VTO) policies.
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What is volunteer time off?
An employer-sponsored benefit, volunteer time off, is a policy that enables employees to volunteer their time and efforts in aiding and helping out their communities without sacrificing their day’s wages. Granted paid time off can range between eight to 40 hours per year and the employer will compensate this time with an hourly rate of the employee’s salary.
What are the benefits of VTO?
More and more employees are now looking for organisations that are actively involved in CSR and volunteering activities, giving them a sense of purpose. In fact, 89% of employees think that organisations engaging in volunteering offer a better work environment. Besides this, there are many other benefits of VTO:
- New connections: It gives employees a chance to meet new people and forge connections outside of work. As like-minded people work towards a common good, it helps employees develop strong social relationships and expand the team’s network.
- Learning new skills: Volunteering time will often have employees cross paths with people from various walks of life and professions. A helpful skill will also help a larger group of people other than the ones in need. Contributing in monetary benefit, time, or talent can help one realise their leadership skills.
- Improved mental health: According to a study from Deloitte, 70% believe that volunteering initiatives help boost staff morale and are essential for an employee’s emotional and mental well-being. Volunteer programs improve company culture and employees who are taken care of are more productive.
- Stress buster: Volunteering activities elicit relaxed and positive feelings by releasing dopamine. This, in turn, reduces stress. Many volunteers report feeling a sense of appreciation and often find purpose in life, making them feel calmer.
- Team building: Volunteering brings out the best in most people. It also sheds light on an employee’s skills or capabilities that may not be as apparent in the workplace. Interacting with team members outside of the workplace gives the team new insights and fresh perspectives, which can aid in bringing the team closer together.
How to plan a VTO?
Involve your employees: It’s good practice to find out how employees can assist in creating a company-specific policy that adheres to the Act. Are there specific initiatives the employees would be interested in heralding? Conduct surveys and feedback sessions to gather information about why employees are interested in participating. Analyse the impact every quarter and determine what you can change and how to move forward on a bigger scale.
Lead by example: Leadership and management teams often represent an organisation’s culture, and teams look to them for guidance. Leaders should pave the way for all and actively participate in volunteering initiatives. By doing so, they will encourage more to join and help sustain and elevate the positive aspects of the workplace.
Don’t be ambiguous: VTO policies shouldn’t be made to sound like filing taxes. Start with dedicated literature or toolkits about what VTO means for the company and how one can participate in it. Specify for the employee what sort of organisation or relief sectors one can engage in, along with the criteria required to apply for VTO. Planting a tree doesn’t have to be rocket science as long as concrete steps and processes are outlined for the employee.
Ensure it reflects the organisation’s brand: While all volunteering acts are acts of selflessness and kindness, it’s good practice to help employees select activities and institutions to volunteer at, as it should align with the organisation’s branding and messaging. The VTO policy should also help the company achieve its goals. For instance, if the organisation’s goal for the year is to help fight climate change, HR professionals can encourage employees to volunteer their time and efforts to more environmentally-friendly and sustainable lifestyle initiatives.
Keep the employees well-informed: Be completely transparent about the organisation’s VTO policy with employees. Inform them about the policy you are implementing, why you are implementing it, and how it is also one of the more important goals for the organisation.
Reward VTO initiatives: Although a VTO is already company-sponsored, HR and leadership teams should look beyond this aspect. Appreciating and rewarding employees for their benevolent actions can encourage them to do more and give back to their communities. As a ripple effect, it creates awareness amongst other employees who may be interested in lending their own helping hands.
Volunteer time off is an excellent way for employees to give back to the communities they serve. It also helps engage them in philanthropic activities while improving their social skills. Employees looking to contribute positively by doing more than their prescribed roles often find contentment in volunteering their time to help those in need. Beyond benefits at an individualistic level, VTO also helps companies achieve organisational goals and create a positive impact.
- Volunteer Time Off (VTO): All You Need To Know | AIHR
- Including Volunteer Time Off as Part of Your HR Policy | Sapling
- Want a Better Workplace? Encourage Employees to Volunteer | Business News Daily | June 29, 2022
- Corporate Social Responsibility in India: Linking CSR and R&D | EIAS | March 08, 2022
- CSR in India | National CSR Portal
- Helping people, changing lives: 3 health benefits of volunteering | Mayo Clinic Health System | September 16, 2021
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