Over the years, employers across the country have bolstered benefits that contribute to employee well-being. Workers now find wellness resources, online financial advice, weight-loss programs, massages and a host of other offerings among their employee benefits. One of these benefits particularly touches the heart and soul of employees: volunteering.

A national trend

Twenty-one percent of U.S. employers offer their workers paid time off to volunteer. This benefit is important to many workers, particularly millennials, who view participating in community service as part of being a whole person.

Offering opportunities and time to volunteer is one way businesses contribute to employee well-being.

Volunteerism builds teamwork and camaraderie between employees who might not typically interact day to day in the workplace. It forces people out of their work silos and can improve communication across departments. And it makes workers feel good about their employer.

How it works

Imagine being part of a crew spending the workday cleaning up a community garden. When the person dumping dirt into your wheelbarrow is your CFO, you have a shared experience. That experience gives leaders an opportunity to have a greater connection with employees at a very human level, and it instills in employees a greater awareness and appreciation of their executives as people, rather than positions.

Such opportunities also expose workers to new skills and help them develop important soft skills such as collaboration and respect.

That greater employee engagement might be one reason why 42 percent of employers have formal community volunteer programs in which they organize volunteer events and days of service.

Pick your style

These volunteer programs can be tailored to the employer’s mission and vision. Successful volunteer programs are meaningful and have a focus, a structure that allows all employees to participate and the buy-in of managers. They should be voluntary, and it’s also important that they are communicated throughout the organization. Some organizations begin by asking employees where they currently volunteer to see if there’s a chance to expand a particular volunteer opportunity to other employees.

From a business perspective, supporting volunteerism earns employers a reputation as a good citizen in the community. That positive public image can be an asset in recruiting and retaining a highly skilled workforce. Such opportunities also expose workers to new skills and help them develop important soft skills such as collaboration and respect.

Whether it’s sorting boxes at a food bank, gathering donations at a homeless shelter, fixing up a home in need or any of the many ways to volunteer, it feels good to do good. And that goes for both employers and employees.