Original Research

Flourishing in trying circumstances: A hermeneutic phenomenological exploration of volunteer well-being

Aleksandra Furtak, Antoni Barnard
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 47 | a1809 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v47i0.1809 | © 2021 Aleksandra Furtak, Antoni Barnard | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 May 2020 | Published: 22 January 2021

About the author(s)

Aleksandra Furtak, Department of Human Resource Management, Faculty Economic and Management Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Antoni Barnard, Department Industrial and Organisational Psychology, Faculty Economic and Management Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Orientation: Owing to the reliance on volunteer labour for their success, the behaviour and attitudes of volunteers is of central concern to non-profit organisations (NPOs). To optimise volunteer functioning and retention in a unique and challenging work context, it is necessary to understand their well-being.

Research purpose: The objective of this study was to explore the work–life experiences of volunteers to better understand the manifestations of well-being in the volunteering work context.

Motivation for the study: Because of the unique and challenging work setting that constitutes volunteering, and the important contribution volunteers make to society and the economy, research is needed from an industrial and organisational psychology (IOP) perspective on the well-being of volunteers.

Research approach/design and method: This study was directed by a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology. Eight volunteers from an NPO operating in the South African provincial health sector participated in in-depth interviews. The data obtained were analysed using a six-stage theoretical thematic analytical process.

Main findings: Guided by ‘flourishing at work’ as the theoretical framework, four themes were co-constructed from the data: learning and growing in competence, demonstrating an engaged state of mind, exhibiting emotional well-being and feeling socially integrated and connected.

Practical/managerial implications: The results of this study may assist NPOs in developing context-specific interventions aimed at managing and enhancing well-being in volunteers.

Contribution/value-add: This study contributes to the body of knowledge on the well-being of volunteers, who are considered a distinct workforce in the field of IOP.


volunteer; well-being; flourishing; industrial and organisational psychology; hermeneutic phenomenology; qualitative.


Total abstract views: 3304
Total article views: 3618


Crossref Citations

1. Thankful employees: The manifestation of gratitude at work during a pandemic in South Africa
Lusanda Sekaja, Courtney A. Tully, Senzile Mahlangu, Katya de Freitas, Lihle N. Tyelbooi, Bonisiwe P. L. Mjojeli, Masase E. Mokhethi, Tshegofatso Mabitsela
Frontiers in Psychology  vol: 13  year: 2022  
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.941787