If you feel that your job is eating up your life, then you probably also feel like you can’t take on any additional commitments — even though you know you probably should be volunteering at your kid’s school or a soup kitchen or something. Who has the time? Actually, you do, or you’ll feel like you do once you start volunteering, suggests a new study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Its authors found that people who volunteer are happier with their work-life balance than those who don’t volunteer, even when total actual free time is controlled for.
The researchers surveyed 746 full- and part-time workers in Switzerland, 35 percent of whom said they also volunteered at least a few times throughout the year. They asked the study participants about their job demands and their perception of their work-life balance. Finally, the participants also answered questionnaires designed to measure their level of stress and job burnout.
As the researchers suspected, those who volunteered were also less stressed and less likely to feel burned out at work. But these respondents also reported feeling a better sense of work-life balance as compared to those who did not regularly volunteer, a finding which held even after the researchers controlled for the varied job demands and resources of the study participants.
“Volunteering, albeit energy and time-consuming, may contribute to a greater sense of balance for workers which might in turn positively influence health,” the authors write in their paper. And this isn’t the first study to suggest the time-stretching powers of volunteering; a 2012 paper in Psychological Science reported that when people volunteered their time to help others in some way, they reported a greater sense of “time affluence” compared to those who spent those same hours doing something to make themselves happy. Giving your time away doesn’t exactly work the way you’d expect it to.