Living with Chronic Pain
Volunteering on the Journey Back to Paid Employment
Returning to gainful employment after taking time off due to an accident, injury or illness can be difficult, and in some cases, even impossible. However, too much idle time at home can negatively impact mental and physical health. Doing volunteer work prior to (or instead of) returning to paid employment can prevent isolation and positively impact both the individual and their community.
Benefits of volunteering
Volunteer work has many benefits not only for the recipient but also for the volunteer. It provides a purpose, a sense of accomplishment, valuable social interactions with others, and opportunities to develop relationships. For those who are able to leave their home, volunteering serves as a reason to get out of the house and experience a change of scenery. For individuals who are unable to return to their prior job due to changes in abilities, volunteering provides the opportunity to develop new skills and form social connections that may lead to future employment.
Volunteer work is also good for mental and physical health. It can reduce symptoms of depression, especially depression associated with chronic pain. It can even reduce levels of pain.
Volunteer shifts are often more flexible than regular employment shifts and can be customized to meet an individual’s needs. Also, volunteer work typically lacks performance pressure that is often part of the workplace.
Volunteering as part of a return-to-work program
Volunteering may be part of a return-to-work program for individuals who experience on-the-job accidents. Return-to-work programs sometimes offer paid, light-duty work for a nonprofit organization until the individual is able to return to onsite employment. Volunteering as part of a return-to-work program benefits the employee, the employer, and the community as a whole.
Additional sources used to create this article include The Pain Community and ReEmployAbility.