According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report, employee engagement is a key driver of company growth. Yet, as is often cited, only 22 percent of U.S. employees are engaged and thriving at work. Active disengagement in the U.S. workforce is estimated to cost between $450 billion to $550 billion a year. While those numbers sound completely bonkers at first, the problem of employee disengagement is more complex than many realize. 

It starts with a simple question: why do we work and what goals do we have for our lives? For most, we want to feel happy, we want our loved ones to feel happy, and we want to help make the world a better place. If we can’t tie our working lives into those objectives, we are prone to just go through the motions while on the job, spreading unhappiness to the people around us and our communities. Before you know it, you’re dealing with the problem of disengaged employees in your workplace.  

At imageOne, we’ve found that community involvement is an effective way to engage team members and spread happiness in the workplace and beyond.  

Why Community Involvement Matters 

Right, so we know that team member engagement is totally awesome, but it certainly doesn’t come by force. A happiness mandate is completely out of the question. Engagement requires connection  to fellow humans, to communities, to something much greater than ourselves. In fact, employee engagement is closely tied to the most durable form of happiness: purpose.  

They say that if you’re feeling unhappy, you should try doing something to help someone else. When you work for a company that embraces the value of community involvement, it helps give purpose to your work. Community involvement pushes you outside of your comfort zone, connects you to people who share your values, and provides you with new perspectives on your personal hardships. Most importantly, it makes you feel that you are doing your part in making the world a better place. 

At imageOne, team members have one paid day off per year to give back to their communities. We are free to choose any project or cause that we are passionate about and schedule it how we see fit. Positive energy is contagious, and we fuel it year-round by posting pictures and stories about our experiences on an internal company messaging system. We also foster engagement by holding quarterly drawings to help spread the word and encourage use of Community Days  each person who takes his or her day and shares the experience with the team is entered into the drawing. The winner receives $100 to contribute to the charity of his or her choice.  

How Community Involvement Boosts Employee Engagement 

At the time of publication, 31 (roughly 60 percent) of our team members have taken their Community Days. Although our team members are spread out from coast to coast, we have uncovered some interesting connections in their work. Two team members harvested beets several months and thousands of miles apart. Two other team members packaged carrots at food banks: one in California, the other in Michigan. Three of our team members, who happen to all be related, chose to take their Community Days together.  

Check out more stats from this year’s efforts: 

Impact: 

Number of states: 9 - Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, North Carolina, California, Iowa, Texas 

Number of countries: 3 - United States, Canada, Israel 

Number of U.S. cities: 23 

Number of families who participated: 14 

Causes & Projects 

Food insecurity: 10 

Gathering, packaging, or distributing for a food bank: 5 

Farming and/or gardening for a food bank: 3 

Environment and the outdoors: 15 

Community Days have become an important part of imageOne’s extraordinary culture. We celebrate the amazing contributions of our team during our monthly company meetings, where we share pictures and speak to each person’s experience. We’ve even made Community Day participation a yearly company goal with actionable quarterly results. It’s right up there with sales targets, profitability, and operational improvements. We’ve learned that community involvement really is that important — because engagement doesn’t just help the bottom line, it powers the positive feedback loop of happiness.