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Phone Company Invests in Employee Volunteerism

November 15, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ AT&T Corp. is encouraging its work force to do something good for others, offering all 127,000 employees worldwide a paid day off to do some volunteer work.

It is by far the largest corporate-backed volunteer program ever, said Cathleen Wild, a researcher who conducted a study on the issue for the Conference Board, a business-sponsored research group.

The move will cost the nation’s No. 1 long-distance carrier $20 million, but AT&T hopes it will raise employee morale, improve the company’s public standing and yield higher profits down the road.

AT&T’s new policy begins on Thursday, when it will pay for more than 2,000 employees in 16 cities and the District of Columbia to work at programs for the elderly, paint housing projects, clean up zoos and serve hot meals to the homeless.

``If you are planning to get involved, in and around Thanksgiving seemed appropriate,″ said Burke Stinson, an AT&T spokesman.

Stinson said the move is a response to employees who wanted to volunteer but had to choose between their families and community service _ with the families winning out.

Stinson acknowledged, ``Certainly if AT&T becomes more visible in the community, chances are customers in those communities might think more kindly toward AT&T and we might retain customers we have and gain customers we don’t.″

``That would be a nice byproduct,″ he said.

Wild said corporate volunteerism also improves how employees get along and deal with tough workplace issues such as diversity and downsizing.

``This kind of thing continues to make people feel good about the company and about themselves,″ Wild said.

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