As a (very) busy mom and wife, I sometimes find myself regarding circus performers with unadulterated scorn, thinking to myself, "Look at him, juggling his knives like it's hard or something. Pfft! Try juggling a full-time job, a husband, two (almost three) kids, one dog, four schedules, a house, and bills - and then ask me how tough juggling just plain knives is!"

Note, I didn't say I'm proud of these moments. Just that I have them.

I also have moments when I feel myself getting bogged down in the minutiae of keeping all the juggling going and think, "I'm not letting myself just enjoy it enough. I need to step back and carpe diem!"

But, who among us - in this 24/7 world - has an entire diem to carpe? Not me, and probably not you or your employees either, I'd bet.

So, I was intrigued when a media relations rep for UnitedHealth Group sent me an article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune that profiled a new outlet UHG had created for employee altruism, called "micro-volunteering" that allows individuals to give back to their community just 15 minutes at a time.

According to the article, UHG micro-volunteers "use their job skills to help nonprofits brainstorm marketing ideas, design logos, proofread brochures, build databases and much more" in as little as 15-minute stints - sometimes even from their work desks.

Target, Kraft Foods, IBM, Microsoft and Deloitte are among the other employers implementing micro-volunteering programs, MST reports, through vendors like, and the Points of Light Institute's A Billion + Change campaign.

I admit I was wary of how much good 15 minutes really can do. But just one UHG employee has donated $4,000 worth of time in 15-30 minute intervals, and she and fellow micro-volunteers have assisted on such projects as helping groups that train seeing-eye dogs, counsel victims of violence, coach people with autism and feed the poor.

Seems like a world of good to me. Plenty of carpe-ing without spending a whole diem. Even a master juggler like me can't sneer at that.

So, is micro-volunteering the next big thing? Commenters to the EBN blog, Employee Benefit Views, were split. Although one commenter, maduncan, wrote that "micro-volunteerism is an interesting concept [and] would love to learn more about the actual projects [it allows]," commenter ddcummings thinks it would be "just another task, and as overloaded as I am in my job, I think I would resent this type of volunteering and probably would not do it."

What do you think? Is micro-volunteering something you'd consider implementing/have implemented at your company? Email me your thoughts.

Send letters, queries and story ideas to Editor-in-Chief Kelley M. Butler at

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