Happy workers more likely to volunteer in their free time

The finding that job satisfaction affects employees’ volunteering should trigger a more serious investigation into the quality of work experiences.
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Employees who are satisfied with their jobs are more likely to volunteer in the community than those who are unhappy at work, a new study from Middlesex University London and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has found.

The study, published in the British Journal of Industrial Relations, tracks changes in job satisfaction over time for over 12,000 British employees and shows that as job satisfaction increases employees are more likely to volunteer in their free time and to volunteer more often. Likewise, when job satisfaction decreases, employees are more likely to retreat from volunteering.

The researchers measured job satisfaction on a scale of one to seven and found the chance of an employee volunteering increased by 6.5 per cent with every increase of satisfaction on the scale.

The study also finds that commuting time has a detrimental effect on volunteering. The findings show that those who commute for 50 minutes are 9 per cent less likely to volunteer than those who commute for 20 minutes. 

The researchers suggest this could be due to employees seeing increased commuting time as stress-inducing and disruptive to the pattern of their day. Moreover, as long commuting means less time spent in the community, employees with long journeys to work may become less attached to their local area.

At a time when many companies aim to fulfil broader social goals through volunteering programmes for their workers, the findings of this study suggest that paying more attention to the job satisfaction of their employees could also significantly increase their social impact.

Commenting on the role of companies, Dr Daniela Lup from Middlesex University London said: “The finding that job satisfaction affects employees’ volunteering should trigger a more serious investigation into the quality of work experiences provided by companies. Unless companies pay closer attention to job quality, their claims of citizenship behavior via volunteering could likely be challenged.” 

As the state is becoming less involved in the delivery of public services and is looking to boost individuals’ engagement in their communities, the finding that commuting is detrimental to volunteering suggests that local volunteering initiatives could be enriched if the realities of work life are considered.

Commenting, Dr Jonathan Booth from LSE said: “Currently, many local government initiatives are focused on disseminating information about existing volunteering opportunities. But in an area with a high percent of employees with long commuting time more creative, tailored approaches to encourage volunteering are needed”.

Behind the article

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The researchers investigated the relationship between work and volunteering by using rich longitudinal data from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) a long-running panel survey of a representative sample of British households.

From 1996 to 2008 individuals were asked biennially about their volunteering behavior. All employed individuals, excluding self-employed, aged between 16 and 65 with information on the variables of interest were considered.

This produced an unbalanced sample of 12, 178 distinct individuals (32, 562 observations).