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How to Volunteer Safely During COVID-19

April 19, 2021 / Corporate Wellness

Written By: Star White

Amid the uncertainty, fear, and lockdowns caused by the pandemic, new opportunities and motivation to come together to support the local community have arisen. As vaccines become more widely available and restrictions slowly begin to loosen, people are seeking meaningful, COVID-safe ways to pass the time. After more than a year of social distancing, at-home entertainment has grown old, mental health issues like depression and anxiety stemming from isolation and the virus itself are on the rise, and people are desperate to connect with others in a way that leaves them feeling fulfilled.

According to Dr. Laurie Santos, being “other-oriented,” or focusing on helping others, can significantly increase our own feelings of happiness and joy. However, many of us are not inclined to lend a helping hand as we coped with overwhelming personal stress and tried to navigate life during the pandemic. Acts of kindness like volunteering seem to have become more of an afterthought, even though the number of people and organizations who need support has drastically increased.

Although helping others may look somewhat different as we continue our fight against COVID-19, there are plenty of safe and fulfilling volunteer opportunities out there. Volunteering will not only help your employees lead healthier lives but more productive and meaningful ones as well. By encouraging your workers to give back safely, you will be remarkably improving their overall wellbeing.

Enabling workers to participate in volunteer opportunities will connect your workers to your community and provide numerous benefits to both their physical and mental health. Here are a few ways your organization and your employees can give back safely during COVID-19:

Help local food banks

Up to 42 million people will face food insecurity in 2021. The need for volunteers for organizations like Feeding America has become more urgent than ever. Food banks ensure that volunteering is COVID-safe with innovative ideas such as drive-thru food distributions, traveling or mobile pantries, and pre-packed food boxes. Helping your local food bank is a fantastic opportunity for your workers to make a difference in your community.

Something as simple as pre-packing food for those in need will leave your employees walking away with a sense of fulfillment and purpose. Employees will be building their confidence and self-esteem as they engage with new people in a different environment. Volunteering also creates a sense of camaraderie among your workers. Within the Virgin Pulse’s platform, employees can use the Groups feature to identify local food banks, coordinate details, and discuss their experiences. By encouraging your employees to connect with colleagues over this shared involvement in your community, you’ll strengthen social bonds and improve collaboration skills, which can ultimately drive productivity.

Work with children

Social distancing has been particularly hard on children. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to virtually connect with and support tech-savvy youth, making it an excellent option for at-risk employees who are more diligent about social distancing. Reading to or tutoring kids over Zoom or Skype can enhance their learning experience during the pandemic while providing social opportunities that support good mental health. In just one or two hours a week, your employees can make a difference for a child and their family while gaining a sense of personal fulfillment.

By partnering with a volunteer program like Read Aloud Mentoring, your organization can easily encourage employees to embrace the act of giving back. The easier it is for the members of your workforce to get involved, the better. This type of partnership can open the doors for your employees to strengthen social connections with coworkers. Employees will form bonds over their shared volunteer experience that support collaboration in the workplace. Leverage the Groups feature within the Virgin Pulse platform to inspire workers to maintain ongoing discussions with their peers about volunteering based on their shared experience.

Connect with seniors

As social distancing forced us to adopt digital means of communication, elderly populations have faced increased isolation. Many struggled to connect and engage with their friends, family, and community due to their heightened risk of severe illness from COVID. Chatting with seniors over Zoom or volunteering to run virtual or in-person activities at a local nursing home can be extremely rewarding for both parties. Your employees will be forming cross-generational connections that will possibly become the start of a long-lasting friendship.

The volunteering opportunities don’t have to stop there. Employees can give blood or donate clothing and food to shelters as other ways to give back safely. By creating a company culture centered around giving back to the community, you’ll inspire employees to seek new ways to help others in and outside of work. Not sure where to start? Launch a virtual company challenge through your digital wellbeing platform. With features like a daily reminder to do something kind for others, in-app team chats, and Groups, the Virgin Pulse platform is a great tool to motivate employees to become more “other-oriented” while working on their own wellbeing.

Your remote workers may be experiencing loneliness and social isolation, so these opportunities could help them feel more loved and a part of something bigger than themselves. Doing things for others improves our sense of happiness and fulfillment, and happier employees are more resilient. By encouraging your employees to participate in volunteer opportunities, you’ll support your employees’ wellbeing while also making a positive impact on your community and your organization.

About The Author

Star has been an intern at Virgin Pulse since August 2019. She is a student at Brown University and plays soccer on the Varsity Team. Outside of those activities, she enjoys hanging out with friends and family, reading a good book and playing with her pup.

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