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What a difference a day makes

12/11/2015 5:00 PM CET
Article

With an extra day of paid leave per year, employees at Skanska UK get the opportunity to support an organisation close to their hearts, or take part in an event organised by Skanska’s volunteer programme. As it turns out, the act of lending a hand, has more benefits than one might expect.

Skanska UK's 'Lend a hand' volunteer programme is part of its social sustainability strategy and aims to increase the company's number of education ambassadors, facilitate partnerships with major national charities, and develop external relationships with organizations like Business In The Community (BITC).

The programme is part of an ongoing effort to make community investment and volunteering the norm within our local communities. Many of Skanska's UK sites had already done some community investment and volunteering, but in early 2014, a formal programme was put into place to encourage and support employees who would like to volunteer within their communities. Skanska's programme includes all employees and workers as well as board and senior management members, who have already taken part.

Close to heart

Employees can support just about any event or organization they desire and are not restricted to activities related to business. Just about anything that complies with Skanska's Code of Conduct can be approved. Some have chosen to help out at homeless shelters in central London – and openly admitted to having changed their views on the homelessness issue in the process. Others have helped with fundraising. One employee spent his day training as a volunteer 'blood bike' motorcycle carrier.

A green partnership

Another popular option is to participate in pre-arranged volunteer activities, like organised team challenges – a form of volunteering that many departments have used as team-building opportunities. Other alternatives include school ambassador events and mentoring opportunities. Many of these activities are carried out in partnerships with external organisations. One such is Groundwork, a charity that aims to improve people's prospects and places while promoting green living and working. Groundwork carries out thousands of projects each year and shares Skanska's goals of building stronger communities. During the year, Skanska employees have helped taking care of community gardens, planting trees and taken part in community action days.

Focus on education

Skanska's global Corporate Community Investment-policy focuses on education, specifically in the areas of safety, green and technical know-how. Something that's reflected in one activity called the School Energy Challenge where Skanska employees take on the role of education ambassadors. Working in teams, school children get to build wind turbines out of recycled materials and then try to generate the most amount of energy – an excellent way of engaging young people in the field of sustainable and renewable energy and the construction industry.

More and more popular

During 2015 Skanska UK expects that up to ten percent of their people will have taken the opportunity to volunteer. 'We are on course to the ten percent and are moving towards more and more skills based volunteering' says James McKenzie-Boyle, Community Investment Manager at Skanska UK. 'A lot of people really love it. Especially the team events have gone down very well and many appreciate the opportunity to meet new people, while making a difference in their local community. It's good for business relationships too'.