Volunteer time off linked to better mental health: report

'It reinforces their value and helps avoid isolation and burnout,' says expert

Volunteer time off linked to better mental health: report

Volunteering can be an important aspect of mental health, according to a recent report.

The mental health score of those who have volunteered time or finances to any organization or cause over the past two years stands at 65.6, compared to the national average of 64.6.

Those who have not done so have a slightly lower 63.9 mental health score, finds TELUS Health.

“The stark mental health difference between employees who volunteer compared to others clearly shows how much of an effect participating in community service can have on wellbeing,” says Paula Allen, TELUS Health’s global leader for research and client Insights. “When employers make time for their workforce to pursue passion projects and provide support both inside and outside the office, it reinforces their value and helps avoid isolation and burnout. Given the high proportion of workers who indicate that their mental health negatively impacts their work productivity, support for volunteering is valued now more than ever.”

Top benefits of volunteering

Workers who have volunteered in the past two years get a lot of benefits from experience, and it affects their mental health positively:


Ranking of importance

Mental health score

Making a difference/positive impact



Sense of purpose



Building relationships



Contributing to social change



Personal growth/development




“When an organization prioritizes giving back as a team, the impact goes beyond improving mental health. It also leads to a remarkable increase in loyalty, retention, and productivity,” says Juggy Sihota, TELUS Health’s chief growth officer.

Overall, 61% of workers have done some volunteering over the past two years while 39% have not, finds the June survey of 3,000 respondents in Canada.

Just over three in 10 (31%) of workers say their organizations offer volunteer time off while 56% say their employers do not. Meanwhile, 13% are unsure.

Volunteering hours is one of the best benefits employers can offer to remote workers, according to a previous report.

Volunteering linked to mental health

Among those who have not volunteered in the past two years, the reason for not volunteering impacts their mental health, finds TELUS Health:

Reasons for not volunteering


Mental health scores

No time



Not a priority (too many other commitments)



Lack of motivation/interest



No causes of interest to worker



Unsure of volunteer opportunities



Intimidated by the process



Three-quarters (75 per cent) of Canadians would like to work in an industry where they are helping people, according to a separate report.

Creating a VTO policy

Employers also stand to benefit from offering employees volunteer time off (VTO), according to Lyssa Test of people management platform Lattice. These benefits include:

  • It enables your business to give back to the community.
  • It can bring employees together.
  • It can improve talent retention.
  • It can attract top talent.

To create a VTO policy, Test suggests that employers consider the following:

  1. How employees will be awarded for their time off
  2. Who is eligible to participate in the initiative
  3. How your business will approach time tracking to understand how employees are using your policy