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What is VTO and How Can it Benefit Your Business

Photo by ray sangga kusuma

Since the COVID-pandemic started, non-profit organizations have seen a massive drop in volunteer help. With the millennials becoming a major workforce and their genuine urge to make the world a better place, VTO — one of the newest employee benefits has been gaining popularity in the US.

VTO is a rather tricky concept so we highly recommend HR teams to delve into its intricacies and develop policies that benefit employers and employees. Read on to learn how to do it.

What is VTO?

The acronym VTO can refer to one of the two different types of absences: voluntary time off or volunteer time off. Let’s see what these two terms stand for.

Voluntary time off is an unpaid leave of absence granted employees without losing their employment status or benefits. Overstaffing is one of the most common reasons for granting voluntary time off. Let’s say, you have five employees scheduled for the same shift for two, so the other three people won’t add any value and will bring costs instead. In cases like this, employers offer voluntary time off that is an additional benefit to the regular PTO and its single purpose is saving business costs.

Volunteer time off is a form of paid time-off that allows employees to participate in community events as volunteers. Companies offer volunteer time off for employees to volunteer either for partnering organizations or for any other organization of the employees’ choice. Unlike voluntary time off, volunteer time off brings numerous benefits for both parties and is considered a type of employee benefits. Like PTO, VTO should be separate banks of time but unlike PTO, VTO can be only spent on charity work.

In this article, we’ll focus on volunteer time off, its benefits for employers and employees and tips for implementing a VTO policy.

How VTO Can Benefit Your Business

VTO may sound like a burden, especially for small businesses. Imagine you need to lose an employee for a day and pay for their absence, while they help somewhere else instead of generating value for your business. In reality, this short-term disadvantage has numerous long-term benefits.

1. Attract top talents

Employees who enjoy volunteer work share some of these traits: they are exceptionally passionate about their job, reliable and helpful, which sounds like a combination of qualities common for top talents. If you implement a VTO policy and show that your values align with their own, you are likely to retain and attract new top talents.

2. Boost business image

Another VTO benefit is that volunteer work is a great chance to improve brand recognition, reputation, and trust in the community. By partnering up with non-profit organizations or allowing employees to help communities of their choice, you show that you are not just a money-making business but you also want to make the world a better place.

3. Improve work environment

Volunteer jobs encourage employees to develop soft skills including empathy, collaboration, leadership and accountability. If your team could boast these improved skills in the workplace, your team productivity will go up in no time.

4. Increase job satisfaction

Additional days off allow employees to maintain a better work-life balance. If combined with the sense that employees and their company share the same values, they will be less likely to leave your company.

5. Boost physical and mental health

Studies show that volunteer work improves mental and physical health, meaning less sick leaves and a healthier workplace environment. According to the results of a UnitedHealthcare study, 93% of respondents who volunteered in the past 12 months reported having a better mood and less stress.

How VTO Can Hurt Your Business

When implemented incorrectly, volunteer time-off can hurt employee morale and undermine the state of your business. Let’s see the most common VTO disadvantages that businesses might face.

Decreased productivity

If you don’t have leave management software in place, managing time off, especially volunteer time off, can get messy. When your employees are away for volunteer work, someone still has to cover for them. Without proper delegation and workload management, VTO management will become a disruptive initiative.

Administrative pressure

If participation in volunteering activities in your company is obligatory so that employees have to search for organizations to volunteer or spend their VTO balances every year, employees are very likely to feel pressured, especially if administrative penalties or reputational losses are involved.

How to Implement a VTO Program

If you are ready to introduce a VTO policy, consider taking the following steps to maximize its benefits.

1. Develop a VTO Policy

First of all, you need to think through multiple details, including program eligibility, the leave request process, the amount of time and more. Go through the following list of questions to develop a better understanding of your future VTO policy and decide if your company even needs one.

  1. Who is eligible to participate? Is it only full-time employees? Are they eligible as soon as they join your company or what amount of time are they required to have worked before they are? Are employees on discipline eligible?
  2. How many VTO hours is offered? Usually, companies provide between 8 and 40 VTO hours annually.
  3. What organizations are allowable? Are employees allowed to volunteer only for non-profit organizations? What kind of organizations are they? Are they allowed to spend VTO volunteering for political organizations?
  4. What is the VTO request process? How far in advance do they need to request a leave? How frequently can they ask for time off per year? How long is it supposed to take to process a leave request? Who is responsible for leave request approval?
  5. How do you audit if VTO has been used appropriately?

Here are some VTO program examples to help you get started: VTO program of Entrepreneurs’ foundation of SVCF, Thomson Reuters’ charitable donations and VTO policy.

Develop and document these rules in the VTO policy before you move on.

2. Educate employees

If you are launching a VTO program for the first time, you need to communicate the details with your employees. Go through the policy and be open to questions to make edits if necessary and create a policy that works.

3. Organize time-off request process

Managing VTO requires a time off budget separate from PTO. You need to provide employees with tools to schedule VTO, learn the approval status, and review their VTO balance. Most often, companies use HR Suites or standalone absence management software to record and manage VTO and other types of absences.

Ready to Implement a VTO Policy?

To make sure VTO requests are managed swiftly and VTO balances calculated accurately to the minute, consider leave management software, like actiPLANS, that streamlines leave requests, automates paid-time-off and sick leave balance calculations and displays employee attendance in a single team calendar.

Create custom absence types, fine-tune their accrual rules, assign the responsible managers and allow your employees to use them in the online team calendar or from their mobile app. To never miss a single minute of volunteering time and automate balance calculations, connect it with actiTIME — time tracking software to get a robust time and attendance tracking system. Try actiPLANS for free with a 30-day trial (no credit card required).

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