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Volunteering opportunities may help to raise morale

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Stephen Timms, Minister for Corporate Social Responsibility, is calling for more companies to get involved in volunteering in the workplace.

“People want to be addressing social and environmental challenges in the context of their work,” he said. “They don’t want to inhabit a kind of split world where in one part of their lives they keep their heads down and make a living while in the other they care about what is happening around them. They want the whole of their lives to be marked by responsibility, and employee volunteering provides the chance to make that a reality.”

He continued: “Businesses have a lot to gain through stronger relationships with the community and voluntary groups; a better reputation, higher local profile, greater staff motivation, and the development of new skills and a fresh perspective on the part of the volunteer.”

“Research has shown that 2 in 3 business leaders across Europe believe that responsible business practice can promote innovation within their organisation by increasing learning from outside, and promoting a broader perspective within the organisation,” he added.

CSV, a volunteering and training charity, helps companies place their employees into volunteering opportunities through schools or e-mentoring. The list of companies includes: British Gas, Barclays, Nike, npower, KPMG and BUPA.

Volunteers can spend up to an hour a week in a primary school supporting literacy and numeracy, or mentoring a student in a secondary school. All programmes enhance self-esteem, confidence and academic achievement of young people. Others prefer the flexibility of e-mentoring which allows them to give support at any time and from wherever they are working. Other companies encourage staff to take part in team tasks, or support staff who take up individual volunteer placements.

The Government has set a target of increasing voluntary and community sector activity, including increasing community participation, by 5% by 2006. A major challenge is to “open doors” within the public sector to increase the number of placements available for employees.

Lesley Nicholls, CSV’s Development Manager for Employee Volunteering said: “It is a lot better for morale to have people teaching kids to read for a couple of hours a week than sending them to shoot paintballs at each other. Employee volunteering fits well with targets set by companies to improve the performance and well-being of their staff.”

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