Lend a hand

So there I was, looking at Facebook, at the gorgeous photo my sister posted, when I noticed that the finalists had been announced in this year’s Tech Girls are Superheroes competition, and YAY!! The team I mentored all year are in the finals!

The goal of the competition is to use technology to make the world a better place and to inspire girls taking Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. ‘My’ team, four amazing Year 10 girls from St Aidan’s (QLD), won the Queensland division with their Paws Out dog walking app, which matches local kids with local dogs. It gets kids off the couch, helps give them job skills, and connects dog walkers with busy people.

As you can imagine, I’m amazingly proud of these four young women. I’m excited, and happy I volunteered to mentor them in the first place. And that got me thinking about volunteering, how important it is and how much it affects our wellbeing.

Look at these facts on volunteering and wellbeing:

  • Volunteers are happier, healthier and sleep better than those who don’t volunteer – doctors should recommend it.
  • 99% of volunteers say that volunteering is related to feelings of wellbeing.
  • Volunteering results in a ‘helper’s high’, a powerful physical and emotional feeling experienced when directly helping others.
  • Just a few hours of volunteer work makes a difference to happiness and mood.
  • Sustained volunteering is associated with better mental health.
  • Altruistic emotions and behaviours are associated with greater wellbeing, health and longevity.
  • A strong correlation exists between the wellbeing, happiness, health and longevity of people who are emotionally kind and compassionate in their charitable helping activities.
  • The experience of helping others provides meaning, a sense of self-worth, a social role and health enhancement. Volunteering is highly associated with greater health and happiness.

You can find sources for these claims in Volunteering Australia’s paper Volunteering and Happiness: The Facts.

So, given the wonderful things volunteering does for us, how come so few of us volunteer? According to Volunteer Australia, the 2011 census rate for formal volunteering was a miserable 19.4%. The same census found that, informally, 11.9% of Australians provided care to someone with a disability, long-term illness or problems associated with old age and 30.2% provided care to a child other than their own. Volunteer Australia also points to a worrying trend, namely that though the number of volunteers is increasing, number of hours volunteered is falling. Is that because of our busy lives, the onslaught of information we have to deal with, or simply compassion overload?

Which brings us to International Volunteer Day (IVD). Established by the United Nations in 1985, IVD is celebrated on 5 December each year. It gives volunteer organisations and individual volunteers the chance to raise public awareness of their contributions to economic and social development at local, national and international levels.

So, with four weeks to go to IVD, I’m issuing a challenge. In these four weeks, think about how you can promote volunteering in your workplace. That’s what Springday’s going to do with our clients next year – build employee volunteering into their ‘wellbeing game’. Gamification can inspire people to engage with their workplaces and also increase participation in the wonderful programs on offer but often under subscribed. That way, we’ll buy into what must be the most win-win arrangement on the planet.

Now back to the girls at St Aidans. Wish them luck for the national Tech Girls are Superheroes awards, this Sunday, November 8, and don’t forget to check out their fabulous video.

You’re invited

The Workplace Health Promotion Network (WHPN), now renamed Way Ahead, offers support for those interested in workplace mental health and wellbeing. I’m proud to announce that Springday is hosting the next meeting, and we’d love you to join us.

Guest speakers include Louise Dubois, Group Manager, Health, Wellbeing and Workers Compensation, Asciano and Paul Flanagan, Director, FBG Group.

When – Tuesday 10th November, 9.30 am to 12.30 pm

WhereGround Floor Seminar Room, National Innovation Centre, Australian Technology Park, 4 Cornwallis St, Eveleigh, Sydney

For more information: or to RSVP for the meeting, please contact Sharon on (02) 9339 6008 or email WHPN.

What’s going on

Gamification 101: thinking of introducing gamification but don’t know much about it? Need some help? This article, from the Huffington Post, gives a brief overview of gamification’s core elements – and this infographic, from Game Effective, neatly illustrates how to go about it.

Remember the ice bucket challenge? Well, one year later, it’s achieved a major breakthrough in a brutal nerve and muscle disorder.

Remember the guy who increased his employees’ pay packets to at least $70,000? We’ve mentioned this story a couple of times. Dan Price read an article which said that $75,000 is the perfect salary for happiness. He used his own salary to increase those of his staff – and then all hell broke loose. This is the compelling, inspiring account of what really happened.

Why you should sometimes work for free: we know volunteering is worthwhile but how do you feel about doing your job for free? Well, it appears that working for nothing (sometimes) can also be good for you.

Paleo-sleep, anyone? There’s lots of current noise about how, because of bright screens, social media, work stress and modern life in general, we don’t get enough sleep, and certainly not as much as our ancestors did. But a study of hunter-gatherer societies disproves these theories and – forgive the pun – lets us sleep easy about getting our zzz.

Allergies – why are we getting more of them? Allergies are becoming more frequent in the Western World. In fact, one in three Australians will develop an allergy at some time in their lives. So what exactly are allergies, and what do we think has caused their increase?

Nearly one-third of cancers are avoidable: this article analyses a study, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, which argues that nearly one third of cancers could be prevented if people altered their lifestyles to avoid certain risk factors. Incidentally, this is the study that’s been making waves because it identifies red meat as a risk factor. See what you think.

How the Apple Watch helped a heart patient: you know I’m a great advocate of the Apple Watch, don’t you? Well, this just proves how good it is. Ken Robson, an American, had been feeling sick. He measured his heart rate on his Apple Watch and took himself off to hospital. Once there, he discovered how else his watch was helping him…

Tech tips

Gamified apps to save the environment

Our most valuable resources are in the earth. They’re finite and they’re disappearing at an alarming rate. And even though the green movement is gaining momentum, it’s a race against time. We need to learn environmentally sound habits and live an earth-conscious, sustainable, lifestyle…but how?

Answer: gamification, of course! Here are five gamified environmental apps for sustainable living. They include apps to help you live a greener lifestyle, conserve energy, get rid of junk mail and support like-minded people and organisations.

Join in, and make saving the planet fun.

And another thing

Can you spot the best part of this photo? Have a look, find out what it is, and why it matters.

What jobs could a 100-year-old do? It’s claimed that today’s kids will live to 120 and work till they’re 100. If they do, where would they show up in the workforce?

Helicopter grandparenting, perhaps? Here’s an ad you might like to see – it’s by a Danish travel agency, telling Danish mothers to send their adult kids on holiday… to encourage them to (ahem) help stop the country’s falling birth rate.

Thought of the day

No act of kindness, No matter how small, is wasted

– Aesop