How employer-supported volunteering empowers your people and your community

How employer-supported volunteering empowers your people and your community


Alison Bawn

Alison Bawn

People Director

Virgin Media O2 Business


5 minutes

03rd May 2023

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When you’re focussed on growth and recovery it can be hard to prioritise environmental, social and regulatory (ESG) issues.


Employer-supported volunteering (ESV) — where you give people opportunities to volunteer during working hours – is a relatively simple yet effective way of working towards your ESG goals while also improving employee engagement.


ESV can take various forms, from long-term projects to charity partnerships, helping you support your employees and your local community at the same time.


In this blog post I’m going to explain more about what ESV is, how it works and why it should be a key part of your employee value proposition i.e. the unique set of benefits that an employee receives in return for the skills, capabilities and experience they bring to your company.

Attracting and retaining talent

63% of UK employees don’t receive paid volunteering days from their employer, according to Perkbox.


But when the battle for talent is still very much alive – 53% of UK office workers were considering leaving their role this time last year, according to our research on the ‘Employee Transfer Window’ – ESV can be a powerful tool, especially among the younger generations.


46% of Gen Zs and millennials in senior positions have rejected a job and/or assignment based on their personal ethics, according to Deloitte. For those people – and that’s a lot of people – being a good business means doing good.


And the same survey found a clear link between the positive impact employers are making (or not) and employees’ desire to stay with them.


57% of those not satisfied at all with their employer’s societal impact plan to leave the company within two years and only 13% plan to stay beyond five years.


Of those who are very satisfied, however, only 34% plan to leave within two years and 31% still want to be there after five years.


And when you look at commitment to sustainability, the numbers are pretty much the same.


ESV is a great way to show your employers you’re making an impact, using action rather than words, while allowing them to be part of it.


At Virgin Media O2 Business we have an initiative called Take Five, which gives employees five paid days per year to volunteer on causes that are important to them.


From putting together food packages to creating a whole new rest space for Swindon’s emergency workers, they use a simple digital platform to search and sign up for volunteering opportunities. And we’ve already seen, so many inspiring stories shared on our internal comms platform.

Balancing volunteering with work

The central aspect of ESV is that it is organisation-led.


You need to make sure you’re providing your employees with the right volunteering opportunities. And it’s even better when these initiatives match your business’s core purpose, like the telecoms industry tackling digital exclusion.


These can be long-term, short-term or one-off initiatives.


Short term initiatives may take the form of career talks, CV workshops at local schools or team challenge days such as a river or park clean-ups. These are great for people who don’t have capacity for longer-term commitments but still want to give back. And it still contributes to teamwork and skills development.


With our Take Five initiative we actively encourage people to use these in small-time chunks rather than as whole days, e.g. a 2-hour workshop on digital skills or an hour helping some students with interview skills practice. That way we give people opportunities that help them balance work and volunteering and, they get to contribute in a meaningful way.


Long-term volunteering initiatives might include things like coaching, mentoring or using people’s skills to help charities with HR, finance, digital or marketing.

Volunteering in action with our Connect More Programme

“Digital exclusion is still a big issue in the UK. It compounds all forms of disadvantage which will become particularly acute during the cost of living crisis. We are delighted to be working with Virgin Media O2 Business providing digital inclusion and Digital Champion training and support to employees so that they are as capable and confident as they can be working in the community.”


Emma Weston, OBE, Chief Executive at Digital Unite


Our Connect More Programme lets employees use their Take Five days to volunteer at drop-ins focussed on helping people improve their digital skills and confidence, apply for jobs, access digital services and connect with family and friends.

“The Drop-in IT sessions were very informal and a nice environment to offer support. It was great to share the skills I have to help others. I know first-hand from members of my family on how difficult things can be when people struggle with digital skills.”


Lynn Bennett, Senior Project Manager, Virgin Media O2 Business


After a successful pilot in Greater Manchester in 2022, we’re now rolling out the programme nationally to more places including Reading, Sandwell and Coventry.


To date, our Connect More Programme has seen Virgin Media O2 Business volunteers commit a total of 369 hours, helping 364 people in the process.


And this is just the beginning.


“The feeling of helping someone with digital skills truly makes your job feel worthwhile.”


Jennifer McNally, Virgin Media O2 Business



Three tips for successful volunteering programmes

  1. Empower your employees. Set aside time for your team to volunteer, then actively encourage them to do so. Internal comms is a great channel for sharing people’s experiences with volunteering and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.
  2. Keep it simple. Create structured, effortless routes for your employees to get involved. It shouldn’t involve more than an online registration and a quick chat with a line manager. Remove any unnecessary steps to encourage participation.
  3. Make it count. Businesses have the resources to make a difference. But local authorities and charities often have the knowledge you need to make that impact even bigger. Work with them to ensure your volunteering is focussed where it’s needed most.

“We’ve long held that businesses have huge potential when it comes to supporting digital inclusion and the development of essential digital skills in the community. Digital inclusion volunteering really is a ‘triple win’; it delivers immediate and tangible value to individuals and communities; it benefits employee volunteers in terms of their own learning and development and social experience; and ultimately it delivers great value to the business to be aligned to meaningful, measurable social impact.”


Emma Weston OBE, Chief Executive at Digital Unite



Want to learn more about employer-supported volunteering?


0800 064 3790

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