For many corporate employees, volunteer work pays


Organisation:  The Hindu

Many companies are encouraging employees to take paid days off work for volunteering; collective wisdom is that people gain certain values and skills in the process

Posted On:  13 Nov . 2017
For many corporate employees, volunteer work pays
 

Balaji Ramani always loved the idea of volunteering with a children’s organisation. But holding a senior position in NetApp, a data management company, and carving out time to volunteer was proving to be a challenge.

Fortunately for him, his company believes that giving back to society is an important aspect of corporate culture. As such, Mr. Ramani has not only got the chance to spend time at the Parikrma Humanity Foundation to train students in life skills, but has also become a mentor for a few.

Over the years, the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has taken on a whole new meaning, with many companies now encouraging employees to take a certain number of paid days off work to volunteer with a non-profit organisation the company has tied up with or for a cause of their liking.

“We encourage employees to take up to five days off, or 40 hours of paid time, to volunteer. Employees can take these days together or break them up into shorter durations,” said Harish Arora, vice-president of engineering at NetApp. From May 2016 to April 2017, the company’s employees clocked 3,500 hours of volunteer work, and from May 2017 to date, they have crossed 5,000 hours.

Useful games

Mr. Ramani, along with 24 of his colleagues, helped a group of Class 11 students from Parikrma Junior College develop interactive games to assist junior school students in learning grammar, mathematics and historical concepts.

At Intuit India, a company that develops software for business and finance enterprises, employees can be part of what is called the ‘We Care and Give Back’ community. The company offers employees up to 32 hours of paid time off a year for volunteer work during working hours. “We recently organised the ‘Week of Service’. During this week, employees could volunteer for a range of programmes such as lake cleaning, spot fixing, and spreading menstrual hygiene awareness among rural children. We recorded 736 volunteer hours, with over 250 employees volunteering for nine different activities,” said Somnath Baishya, head of HR, Global Development Centres, Intuit.

Vishaka Modi, an employee of Intuit, participated in a spot cleaning event that was organised in collaboration with The Ugly Indian. “It was a completely different kind of experience for me. Within two hours, 50 volunteers together changed the way the Bellandur flyover looked. The best part was that we all had so much fun together, coming out of our usual workplace and doing something new.”

Global networking major Cisco Systems Inc. has taken up a ‘Time2Give’ initiative, under which employees can take up to five days off in a calendar year, with pay, to give time to a cause of their choosing. “Last year, more than 1,400 employees used ‘Time2Give’ and chose to give their time and talent to help NGO partners for causes such as education, community development and animal welfare. In 2017, more than 33,500 hours were put in for volunteer work,” said Rohini Kamath, Community Relations Manager, Cisco India and SAARC.

Companies say that volunteering not only gives employees a sense of social well-being and satisfaction, but also helps them discover new talents, gain critical skills such as interpersonal communication and teamwork, which ultimately helps them at the workplace.

For first-time volunteer Gaurav Verma, a software professional with NetApp, working with children has been a lesson in leadership. “I was responsible for creating a programme for the project at Parikrma. Also, working with children made me realise that I could teach. Now, I continue to teach them during weekends,” he said.

 

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