Is Life Getting in the Way of Volunteering?

Employee Engagement, Employee Volunteering, Transformative Volunteering

It’s been quite a bumpy road to recovery in the post-pandemic economy, and many argue we’re not out of the economic fallout yet. However, we’re hearing a lot about how the labor force in some sectors is recovering, how folks are returning to the office, and how life is gradually transitioning into a new routine. But is this true for all of us? 

Maybe not for Women and Caregivers…

It turns out that for men, the above is mainly true, but not for women. Did you know that over one million women have left the workforce since the pandemic began? Women collectively cite the wage gap, burnout, the childcare crisis, and the lack of advancement opportunities typically available (especially BIPOC women) as the cause for their exit and failure to return to work. And when they do return, the issues that made them leave in the first place remain. As we adapt to this new reality, the lines between work and the rest of our human selves have begun to blur.  

According to Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook released by Deloitte, of the women surveyed, “more than half of women are more stressed than a year ago, and 46% feel burned out,” with these rates higher for minority women. Stress also continues to rise, which leads to burnout, which leads to resignation.  

“Burnout is more likely to occur where there is a misalignment or mismatch between an individual’s expectations and the reality that they experience – including in areas such as workload and recognition” – Deloitte’s Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook. 

What about Socioeconomic Factors?

Let’s also not forget the variations of this data across socioeconomic factors. It has been a privilege for many women and caregivers with degrees and other advanced education credentials to be in roles that allow for a flexible work schedule or a work-from-home environment. Women and other caregivers without a college degree typically struggled to navigate childcare or other caregiving roles during the pandemic, and many had no choice but to leave their positions.  

According to a report released by the National Bureau of Economic Research,  the people most impacted by the pandemic “…were the mothers of school-aged and younger children, Black and Hispanic women, single moms, and adult daughters who cared for parents.” Of course, the many parents and caregivers who did have flexible work arrangements or work-from-home setups essentially did the work of both caregiving and their full-time job, meaning there was little time for anything else, which circles us back to more resignations and more role changes to recreate a sense of balance. 

Adult Milestones are Harder to Reach 

Ok, so what about the variations across age groups? 

According to research completed by the Do Good Institute, the United States has experienced a downtrend in donors and volunteers, especially in young adults (ages 22 – 35). While this was slightly adjusted during the upswell of support we witnessed during the pandemic, the current economic trends may forecast a different story.  

Many folks begin to volunteer in earnest when it matches up with more stability present in their life. That traditional adulthood story of owning a home, being employed full-time, getting married, and having children often ties people to a community more securely. Those roots lead more folks to volunteer. Think about it – if you took your family to the same park every Saturday and one day, the Parks Department was hosting a tree planting or staging a city-wide clean-up, you’d be more likely to engage (and long-term!).  

As these traditional milestones have become harder and harder to reach, some have started rejecting those “traditional milestones.” and have been forced to adjust their picture of adulthood, especially given the current economic environment. As a result, traditional volunteering may not fit in quite as seamlessly – and young adults may have little time or affinity for volunteering outside work hours.

The Opportunity for Employers 

This is where an opportunity for engagement in the workplace sits. Many workplace environments offer the opportunity to engage outside their personal circle, providing opportunities for Transformative volunteering experiences that offer a chance for a mindset shift, creating more of an “us” instead of a “them.” This sense of community building significantly impacts employee engagement success.

Natalie Norton

Strategic Consultant

Recent Blogs:

Bringing These Voices to the Volunteering Experience  

At Realized Worth, we talk a lot about the Journey of the Volunteer and how we need to be adaptive to meeting volunteers at their highest level of contribution. This means that a one-size fits all approach to engagement activities won’t work, nor will that opportunity allow space for exploration. How can you create opportunities that fit within busy schedules? How do you create opportunities that elevate the value and importance of volunteer engagement? 

Here are a few suggestions as you design programs that are inclusive and sensitive to the human pieces of employees that exist outside of the workplace and how to get more folks engaged: 

  1. Create activities that can be done during work hours, especially at the office or home office. Encourage employees to take this time out of their day to volunteer by building it into your employee benefits package. Consider enlisting the support of groups that help coordinate global, turn-key experiences. 
  2. Create and support remote volunteer activities, such as individual or team skills-based or pro bono activities.  
  3. Consider activities that allow employees to volunteer with their families. Sharing an employee’s work life with their family can usher in feelings of pride and commitment to your company’s purpose.  
  4. Support volunteering opportunities to meet the need of folks with all abilities. 
  5. Review this recent blog from the RW Institute to utilize nudges to encourage folks to take time to prioritize volunteering. 

It’s also important to consider how you can create a pipeline for volunteer leaders to receive credit for their dedication to purpose and impact at your company. How does their commitment to bettering their community paint a brighter future for the company? Incentivizing, recognizing, and rewarding good works done by your employee volunteers can contribute to the company’s future and its ability to future-proof itself through new skills, resiliency, and retention. For more on this, check out this RW blog. 

Finally, there is an immense benefit in allowing more leadership voices in the room, including volunteer leaders. By including their passion and their “why,” you can showcase your company’s commitment to the value of purpose. Voices, and the many voices of many other marginalized groups, serve as a reminder of our role in large systems we’re all part of – systems that we all need to take responsibility for solving. By encouraging collective action and elevating the voices of as many traditionally ignored groups, we can begin to realize true and lasting change through our employee engagement programs. 

We aren’t entirely returning to a pre-pandemic work environment – we need to ensure that we’re working hard to establish gender equality, creating space for the voices of women, especially those of color, at the leadership table. We can start by reimagining the role we place on gender, caregivers, and marginalized voices in our volunteer leader programs. By considering all the elements that construct the human experience, providing flexibility in volunteer programming, and meeting volunteers where they are on their volunteer journey, you will continue to future-proof your volunteer engagement programs and company. 


Realized Worth helps you take a transformative approach to volunteering. We work with companies to create scalable and measurable volunteering programs that empower and engage employees, focus on empathy and inclusivity, and align with your most important business objectives. Talk to us today to learn more!

Employee EngagementEmployee VolunteeringTransformative Volunteering

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