Employee volunteering via Zoom!

Calley Clay Calley Clay

As I’m sure is the case for many of you, I’ve had to become somewhat of a Zoom pro over the last few months. In the pre-Covid world, all our employee volunteering opportunities took place in person, but from March, we began the move to virtual team volunteering. We had already embraced the online volunteering world with our mentoring projects, Shoulder to Shoulder and Looking Ahead, but this would be the first time we’d attempted to make employee volunteering virtual.

Though some of our opportunities, such as environmental volunteering, couldn’t be taken online, we knew it could work for our conversation-based opportunities. Our first step was to look at delivering our Techy Tea Parties over Zoom. These sessions bring together corporate volunteers with older people who are experiencing challenges using technology in their everyday lives. Volunteers talk them through issues such as how to attach photos to an email, how to set up a Twitter account, and how to watch their favourite show on BBC IPlayer. Employee volunteers don’t need to be tech experts – just friendly people who are happy to spend an hour or so chatting through the challenges our guests are facing and supporting them to find solutions.

We were pleased to find that the Zoom Techy Tea Parties have worked well for both the employee volunteers and the older guests who attend. Not only do they help our guests become more confident using technology (all the more important now that so many services have moved online) but they also bring people together, helping to combat the social isolation many of us were feeling over lockdown.

I’ve learnt a few things along the way about how to run a successful online volunteering session on Zoom. First, it’s always important to spend the first few minutes of a session ensuring that everyone’s audio and video are working, and that they can hear everyone else on the call. I’ve also found that advising people to switch to Gallery view can be helpful as Speaker view can be confusing. Many of us have become accustomed to making sure we’re not on mute before talking, minimising background noise and checking the webcam is pointed at us and not the wall. These things are not so second nature to those who aren’t having regular meetings on Zoom so it’s worth prioritising them at the beginning of the session. In general, I’ve found Zoom to be a pretty accessible platform, even for those who lack confidence using technology, as all you need to do to join the call is click a link. Plus, it’s possible to join by phone if you haven’t got access to a Zoom compatible device.

Second, I quickly discovered some of the extra features on Zoom which make the sessions run more smoothly. One of the key features of our in person Techy Tea Parties was that volunteers and guests worked 1:1. Breakout rooms on Zoom allow us to replicate this virtually. Another useful feature is screen sharing. In person, volunteers could easily take the guest through things step by step as they had devices in front of them. While it’s not possible to make things quite that simple over Zoom, if the guest or volunteer shares their screen it minimises the possibility of miscommunication when they know they’re both looking at the same thing.

Finally, I’ve learnt that not only is it possible for employee volunteering to take place virtually, but there are huge benefits to online volunteering. In the pre-Covid world, arranging a team volunteering day meant taking into account volunteers’ location and factoring in travel time. Now, all the volunteers need to do is log on to Zoom from their desk (or dining table, sofa, wherever your preferred working from home location!) Not only does virtual volunteering break down those geographical barriers, it also makes employee volunteering more flexible and accessible. Though many would be too busy to take a full day out of the office, spending 90 minutes volunteering from your desk is much more feasible.

Techy Tea Parties are a great way to bring your team together to volunteer safely and easily, and to have fun having a natter with a friendly stranger!
If you have a team of 5-10 people interested in taking part in employee volunteering, please contact Calley: [email protected]  

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