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Looking for Work-Life Balance? Volunteer!

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May 13, 2015
by Mei Cobb, edited by Noel Lucero

Feeling stressed, unhappy and like you have too much on your plate? Does the thought of volunteering seem impossible, given you don't have a minute to spare? Consider this: working people who volunteer are happier with their work-life balance than those who don't volunteer.

This was the central finding of a study by researchers at the University of Zurich and the Swiss federal technology institute ETH Zurich and published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The researchers surveyed more than 700 people about job demands, time spent volunteering and work-life balance.

The study also found that people who volunteer seem to be more engaged in their paying jobs. United Way was involved with a different study that found a similar positive effect of volunteering: people who volunteer through their company are more satisfied with their jobs and more committed to their employer than non-volunteers.

Workers in the Swiss survey who make volunteering part of their busy schedules also reported feeling like their time is "well-divided". This reinforces the notion that anything - work, relaxation, family, whatever - will fill up our time if we don't have something else to do. Making and keeping a volunteer commitment means we are making time for others, and for ourselves, as the sense of accomplishment and doing something good for society makes us feel better, even if we had a bad day at work.

And, as counterintuitive as it seems, volunteering actually makes you feel like you have more free time. A 2012 study titled Giving Time Gives You Time, by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Yale's School of Management, and Harvard Business School, found that people are more likely to feel they have more time when they spend time on others.

So, next time someone asks you to volunteer, say yes. You do have the time, and you'll feel like you have even more of it after you've helped out. Better yet, contact us at United Way of McLean County. We'll find a volunteer opportunity that's right for you in no time at all.