In the analysis, three main themes describing different aspects of voluntary work at the company were identified. These themes were related to SDT theory and described how voluntary activities served the needs of (1) relatedness, (2) competence, and (3) autonomy. The themes are illustrated with quotes that are poignant and representative of the findings.
One of the most distinctive characteristics of this volunteering program is the focus on local environment and personal contact. An example of this is an annual action of preparing Christmas gifts for the families in need who come from the city where the company is based. All employees are involved in this project. They form teams representing different departments and are responsible for finding a family that needs help. The gifts are delivered in person. These activities allow employees to create bonds with the help recipients.
“After a year, you meet the person you helped, and they remember you. It is a pleasant feeling.”
Although projects are conducted in small teams, employees celebrate and exchange their experiences at the organizational level. For example, during Christmas Party, employees share their emotions and reflections regarding the “Christmas Gift” project by showing pictures and videos of the experience. Respondents expressed that helping as an organization allowed them to create a sense of mutual goals and values with other team members. They often used metaphors of “a family” or “a sports team” when describing their organizational community. They viewed the work at the company and their charity work as coherent, and they identified with both of them.
“The Foundation is not separated from the company and its employees, at least we don’t see it that way. The foundation is ‘us’ and we are the foundation.”
The fact that employees can freely choose a voluntary activity rather than being assigned to one, gives them an opportunity to utilize their strengths, skills and knowledge. As respondents declared, they help in a way that is possible for them.
“Sometimes, we paint a room; sometimes, we teach English. We do what are best at and what we can”.
“We collaborate and share our experiences. Everyone is important! For example, while organizing annual Christmas Gift, an IT employee suggests what IT equipment to buy, an employee who has school children suggests what should be in the school layette, etc.”.
Some respondents saw the wide variety of possible voluntary activities as a chance to develop competences or learn new things. Helping others in need allowed them to develop necessary skills to deal with difficult emotions or situations.
“You have to try new things and leave your comfort zone while helping”.
As the projects are focused on solving concrete problems and are well-planed, respondents declare that they can observe the short- and long-term effects of their efforts. Being personally engaged in helping enables them to perceive the positive consequences of their actions.
“You can provide long-term support and change people’s lives in a positive way”
Having a choice was one of the most important characteristics of volunteering expressed by respondents. Employees highlighted that they feel free to choose a voluntary action, and they described themselves as agents of decisions and actions. A possibility to launch new projects seemed to enhance a sense of agency in the employees as well. The freedom also enabled employees to act in accordance with their values and interests.
“I’m the one who chooses what I’ll get involved in, like I can take the kids and plant the trees on Saturday”.
Respondents stated that when it comes to volunteering, they do not feel controlled. There are no official schedules or implemented ways to monitor employee volunteering activities by the management.
“We treat ourselves as adults. If we commit to volunteering, the company trusts that we will fulfill it.”
Importantly, there are no rewards for voluntary work. Employees treat it as part of their job rather than something unusual. While talking about benefits of helping, respondents spoke about their positive emotions and personal growth.
„While helping you start to appreciate those things that you have and feel gratitude”.