Skip to Content

How Workplace Giving Can Improve Mental Health

By August 11, 2021

By: Cécile Poyet, Director of Product Marketing for Philanthropy Cloud at

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a crisis in mental health. Studies show the pandemic triggered a significant rise in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. Over 42% of respondents surveyed by the U.S. Census Bureau expressed symptoms of anxiety or depression, reflecting an increase of 11% from the previous year. What can companies do to support their employees who struggle with mental health?

In a recent webinar titled “What a Year — Let’s Talk About Mental Health,” I talked with Dr. Kim Norman, psychiatrist and distinguished professor for adolescent and young adult health at the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, about how research shows that giving is one way to combat the mental strain people are feeling. The familiar proverb that it’s better to give than receive has scientific backing. In fact, science supports that the more you give, the more you get back in return. This understanding is essential to help people move forward during times of crisis.

Team of co-workers sitting at table smiling
An opportunity to participate in corporate philanthropy can improve mental health, which can then have other positive effects on employees, including productivity, engagement, and workplace satisfaction.

Managing the Pandemic Mental Health Crisis

The global pandemic sent many people into a whirlwind of fear, panic, and confusion. Even those who were generally grateful for their livelihood and community have felt the pangs of uncertainty and anxiety as they’ve watched loved ones become sick, businesses close down, and the economy move toward a recession.

A study from the Kaiser Family Foundation broke down the mental health consequences of COVID-19 by age group and discovered 56% of adults ages 18–24 experienced a depressive disorder, anxiety, or both. Additionally, 48.9% of adults ages 25–49 and 39.1% of adults ages 50–64 had the same experience. This represents a significant number of people who are of working age.

Dr. Norman provided hope for employers who might be seeing some of the mental health effects in the workplace. By using the information we have about increasing happiness through giving, the workplace can get back on track quicker after this past difficult year.

Workplace Giving and Volunteering

Employees are a company’s number one stakeholder, so it behooves any company to provide access to programs and tools that improve their health and well-being. It follows the same principles that companies use when they provide on-site gyms or childcare facilities. An opportunity to participate in corporate philanthropy can improve mental health, which can then have other positive effects on employees, including productivity, engagement, and workplace satisfaction.

Dr. Norman explains that when we give from the heart, a neurobiological reaction occurs in the brain that can affect our whole being. This can be detected on a functional imaging device similar to an MRI.

Employers can implement a workplace giving and volunteering program to help employees with their mental health. Corporate philanthropy is a vehicle for businesses to be a platform for change, and in this case, it helps both a company’s employees and the community.

Dr. Norman goes on to explain that philanthropy means “love of mankind.” It implies giving goods or services to others with free will. Philanthropy includes any kind of giving. Whether it’s money, time, encouragement, good acts, or promoting social justice causes, it all has a place in workplace giving. The most interesting aspect of generosity is that as you give, you gain in return. While it may seem counterintuitive, people who donate money, volunteer their time, or participate in corporate philanthropy get great joy from their actions, and this positively impacts their mental health overall.

Studies show that giving and volunteering boost your mood, make you feel happier, and help fight mental health disorders. As mental and physical well-being are essential elements for a healthy workplace, employers would do well to create citizen philanthropists out of their workforce.

More than ever, employers need to support their employees in a tactful and effective way.

Learn more about the science behind workplace giving by watching our webinar. To explore how you can implement a workplace giving program in your company, contact us.

About the Author

Team of co-workers sitting at table smiling
Cécile Poyet 
Director of Product Marketing for Philanthropy Cloud at
Cécile Poyet is dedicated to product marketing for Philanthropy Cloud. Prior to joining, she built and led the co-marketing machine for top ISV partners and resellers at She has 13 years of experience marketing innovative technology for large and small IT companies, including IBM and Hortonworks.