Navigating Benefits

What’s Volunteer Time Off (VTO), and Should Your Company Offer It?


  • A quarter of businesses currently offer volunteer paid time off as an employee benefit

  • When you regulate VTO like PTO, your employees can give back without significantly disrupting workflows

  • Volunteering as a company can boost your brand awareness and attract new talent

Posted by October 31, 2019

The volunteer time off (VTO) employee benefit has been receiving attention lately. Through VTO, employees who enjoy volunteering have the opportunity to do so while still on the clock. By offering this benefit, small businesses can show that they’re corporate social responsibility warriors while attracting candidates who embody these same values.

But while doing good is supposed to be good for all parties involved, there are some important considerations regarding volunteer time off policies. For example, if you approve off-site outings, how can you manage these employees from afar—and should you? Or, will your staff actually use this new benefit?

Before rolling out a VTO policy, understanding its pros and cons can help you determine whether giving back on company time benefits your bottom line.

Why Offer Volunteer Time Off to Employees?

Employees, on the whole, prefer to work for companies that support their values. And considering that 25% of Americans volunteer, according to a survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), businesses who accommodate giving back during the 9-to-5 stand to win points with employees—both current and prospective.

Currently, 26% of employers offer volunteer paid time off, according to a 2019 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. In a study by Boston College on the benefits of corporate volunteerism, 95% of these businesses say they saw a “positive correlation” between participation in volunteer initiatives and employee engagement. Additionally, by offering these opportunities, these companies were able to present their corporate brands favorably and attract and retain talent.

Employees who give back may be less stressed, feel more confident and even live longer. But despite these benefits, making time to volunteer isn’t always easy. Offering volunteer time off allows your employees to do good without sacrificing valuable time with family and friends.

VTO Drawbacks and How to Overcome Them

As with any workplace benefit, the value of VTO depends on whether your employees actually use it. And the fact is that not everyone will want to volunteer.

According to the BLS survey above, the group most active in volunteerism includes people aged 35-44 (29%), followed by those ages 45-54 (28%), with 24- to 34-year-olds representing the lowest numbers of volunteerism (23%). This means that a good chunk of your workforce may not even be interested in VTO; alternatively, your more veteran employees in senior positions might, and having many of these key players out of the office could pose challenges.

One way to ensure VTO doesn’t derail workflows is to regulate it just like PTO. For starters, if your employees have to accrue PTO each quarter before they use it, the same should go for VTO. Additionally, require employees to log their volunteer hours into a central payroll calendar, allowing them to roll unused time over to the next year if it makes sense to do so. This way you can assess your employees’ use of VTO to decide whether you should increase or reduce the number of days in the future.

Volunteering can give employees a broader perspective on their ability to help others, but you’ll need to trust those leaving the office for VTO to use this time as intended. Don’t micromanage from afar. Instead, relay the expectations surrounding VTO and approve the projects ahead of time, choosing ones in line with your company values and, ideally, close to the office.

Integrating VTO Into Your Corporate Social Responsibility Program

Aside from simply offering opportunities, your company can volunteer together. For example, your office can devote a half-day to working at a food bank or tutoring center. This is a great way to build awareness for your brand, unite your workforce, and set the tone that giving back is important to your business model.

Don’t make these outings mandatory, but do encourage as many upper-level players to join in as possible. By actively participating, they can set the example that giving back is a good thing and ultimately foster a workplace culture where using VTO is encouraged. The more active your workforce is in volunteerism, the more socially and environmentally responsible your business stands to be.

Through VTO, businesses have the chance to make a significant impact on the surrounding community and important causes. It’s also a valuable personal and professional development opportunity, as employees hone their problem-solving and leadership skills while volunteering, and may reap significant health benefits as well. Compensating employees for this time with a paid day off is a great incentive to get more people involved.

To attract and retain employees, benefits matter. Check out the Plan Navigator on United Concordia Dental’s website to compare and contrast different plans.

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