Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content guy, bestselling author

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How volunteering boosts your productivity, self-worth, and happiness

Courtesy Shutterstock

The following sample lesson come from my employee training curriculum, Power Space.

No one disputes the overwhelming evidence that volunteering does wonders for our self-worth and happiness. Giving, it seems, really is better than receiving when it comes to how we feel about ourselves and the greater world we live in.

But the power of service doesn’t just begin and end with our own improved happiness. In fact, when we feel better about ourselves, we are much more likely to contribute, collaborate, and ultimately work at maximum capacity, research shows.

This is due to several reasons: 

1. Serving forces us to lead. You can’t help others without taking the first step. Although often simple, volunteer opportunities reinforce the idea that we must lead to help others. The more we volunteer, the better we feel about leading. In fact, a recent Deloitte survey found that 92% of HR executives believe that volunteering improves employee leadership skills. That’s a huge win for every type of worker.

2. Serving reduces stress and anxiety. Often we underperform at work and home because we’re preoccupied or worried about something else. As Sinatra famously sang, “That’s life.” But we don’t just have to take it. As previous issues have shown, there’s a lot we can do to manage and reduce stress. But volunteering is one of the best antidotes for stress known to man. And when you’re less stressed, you produce more because you’re more focused on the task at hand.

3. Serving improves relationships. As if that weren’t enough, serving has shown to improve both our professional and personal relationships as well. When people are happier, in this case due to the positive side effect of helping others, they are easier to work with, more trusting, and more empathetic toward nearly all the people in their life. Not just the ones they were tasked with serving. In short, the happier you are (either through service or other forms of self-care), the better you become at interacting and working with others.

4. Serving increases job satisfaction. There’s no denying it—this is directly tied to gratitude. The more we volunteer, the more grateful we become for the things we already possess in life, our jobs included. “When employees are actively involved in giving back, it can lead to a deeper commitment and connection to their work,” explains Elizabeth Stocker, a consultant at Great Place to Work. So if you want to reevaluate your relationship with work, go find someone to serve.

If volunteering seems like a cure-all, it’s because it is. Although there are other benefits to serving—namely the sheer act of helping others in need—the above are the most selfish benefits gained by being unselfish with our time and talents while volunteering. Now add it to your weekly calendar already, will ya?

PRO TIP: As you look for ways to donate your time and talents, don’t forget to share your newfound knowledge or skills with others. Gifting your experience and lessons learned with others through informal mentorship is another great way to volunteer, make the world a better place, and improve your self-worth and fulfillment as a working professional.

CHALLENGE: Want to get involved in volunteering but not sure where to start? Ask your employer, friends, neighbors, and family members if they know of any openings. Alternatively, you can peruse the websites of Just Serve, United Way, and local organizations for volunteer opportunities in your community. With just a few clicks, you can find soup kitchens, support groups, and even time slots to read to senior citizens with poor eyesight.