Recent research has found that work commitments are a primary reason why people don't volunteer. Work commitments can make volunteering tricky - particularly in organisations that operate primarily within office hours. Could corporate social responsibility days which offer people the opportunity to use work time for volunteering activity help to encourage more people to volunteer?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) days are offered by organisations to their employees to give them the opportunity to undertake activities that have social value - such as volunteering. They can be extremely useful for all involved, offering charities access to volunteers whose time is normally tied up in working hours; giving staff the opportunity to pursue their interests and develop new skills; improving an organisation's image and increasing staff satisfaction levels. However, lots of people don’t really know what corporate social responsibility days are, let alone whether their organisation offers them. So is this an under-utilised resource which could support more volunteering across the charity sector?

CSR day policies can take a range of forms. In some cases, employers designate a particular charity or cause, sometimes aligned to their brand values or mission, for which employees can volunteer during work hours. In this instance, staff spend work time individually or as a team attending a volunteering day for the charity they are supporting. In other companies, staff members are able to spend their allocated days volunteering for whichever charity they choose. For example, here at Renaisi we are allocated three CSR days each year, agreed between individual staff members and their line managers, to use as we decide throughout the year.

This is something I personally have taken advantage of during my time at Renaisi, as I recently started volunteering with the Helen Bamber Foundation. Using CSR time offered me the opportunity to help out at a daytime event with service users. Being available during working hours was what made this possible without using up annual leave. As such, using my CSR time was a great opportunity to spend some extra time supporting an issue I’m really passionate about and helped to encourage me to get involved in volunteering outside of work as well.

Work inevitably will restrict the amount of time individuals have to volunteer, but with the right approach I believe it can also be encouraging and enabling. Given this recent research, going forward we need to think further about how work and volunteering can fit together better and not be seen as mutually exclusive.