Volunteering improves work-life balance, study says

About one-fifth of the Swiss population participates in some form of volunteer work, such as preparing mountain trails Keystone

Individuals who engage in volunteer work alongside normal jobs are happier with their work-life balance than those who don’t, according to a study by two Zurich universities.

This content was published on February 10, 2015 and agencies

Researchers from the federal technology institute ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich asked about 750 workers in German-speaking Switzerland about their work-life balance. About a third engaged in some sort of volunteer work. Despite the extra commitment required, those who volunteered described themselves as happier with their work-life balance than employed people who didn’t volunteer on the side.

One reason for the increased satisfaction for those who volunteer is that they felt their time was well-divided, the researchers said. This feeling of accomplishment and having done something good for society seemed to have had an effect on the subjects’ psychological well-being.

However, the research noted that the documented effect could be due to the opposite phenomenon: people who feel well are more likely to engage in volunteer work. In any case, study author Romualdo Ramos told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper that “scientific work suggests that a relationship exists in both directions - that the two factors reinforce each other”.

Researchers also noted that the positive effects of volunteering are only shown when the individual decides to give his or her time for altruistic reasons. Those who do so to boost their CV or for reasons related to their careers don’t see the same positive effects.

In addition, those positive effects are felt more profoundly by retirees who engage in volunteer work than by people who are employed, the study showed. Retirees may have more motivation to volunteer or expand their social circles by donating their time, the researchers explained.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, about a fifth of the Swiss population engages in volunteer work. The most popular form of volunteering is in a sport group or club, followed by work in cultural organisations, charities and churches.

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