What Is ‘Volunteer Time Off?’


With unemployment at record lows, companies are looking for innovative ways to attract top talent and stand out from the competition. While paid time off (PTO), family leave, and even sabbatical have all been touted as game-changing perks, there’s one workplace benefit that both helps employees disconnect and serves a greater purpose. In addition to traditional vacation days, many companies are now offering volunteer time off (VTO).


What is Volunteer Time Off?

VTO allows employees to do community service during the workday while still getting paid their usual wages. It is separate from an employee’s regular vacation days. Companies offering VTO can allow employees to choose which charity they donate their time to or can partner with local organizations that align with their brand’s mission and values. Depending on the specific policy, employees get their supervisor’s approval in advance for their day of service and submit a VTO request to the HR department. Once their application is cleared, employees volunteer on their designated day and note that the time was VTO in their company’s payroll platform.


What are the Benefits of Offering VTO?

Some detractors think VTO is just an administrative headache, but offering it has many benefits like improving employee wellbeing and employer brand.

Don’t buy it? A 2017 UnitedHealthcare study discovered that individuals who regularly volunteer report lower stress levels (79 percent), improved moods (93 percent), and improved self-esteem (88 percent). Respondents also said that volunteering has helped them develop professional and collaborative skills.

VTO also can appeal to job candidates and improve employee loyalty. A 2016 Cone Communications study revealed that 76 percent of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. With millennials now the largest demographic in the workforce, corporate social responsibility is an important factor when trying to attract quality talent and retain employees. Over 70 percent of employees who volunteer at work report feeling better about their employer as a result, according to the UnitedHealthcare survey cited earlier. Even just offering one day of VTO can dramatically improve employee loyalty and demonstrate your company’s commitment to the community.


How are Other Companies Using VTO?

A 2017 employee benefits survey by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) revealed that 22 percent of U.S. companies offer VTO. Salesforce gives employees up to seven days of paid time off for volunteering and donates money to charities recommended by employees. In addition to having an entire webpage devoted to corporate responsibility, Patagonia goes a step further with its’ VTO program. It offers eight hours of VTO for all employees and an Environmental Internship Program for employees looking to make more of an impact. The program lets employees volunteer for up to two months while still receiving their pay and benefits.


Offering VTO is a great way to support your employee’s passions. That said, it isn’t the only way to keep employees engaged. Letting your employees periodically unplug and relax is key to increasing their happiness and productivity and also helps prevent employee burnout. From unlimited vacation plans to summer Fridays, we break down your options for taking your PTO program to the next level in our free ebook Building Employee Loyalty with PTO.

Topics: Benefits, PTO, Voluntary Benefits

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