alive logo

A Good Place to Work

As valuable as a raise


Money matters - but it’s not the only thing we care about. To ensure employee retention, enlightened employers know the value of a healthy workplace environment.

Money matters–but it’s not the only thing we care about. To ensure employee retention and satisfaction, enlightened employers know the value of developing a healthy workplace culture.

When you consider that most of us spend more than a quarter of our lives on the job, it makes sense that the workplace environment contributes to our quality of life, not just our bank accounts. For a growing number of us, a sense of work-life balance and well-being in the workplace can be just as valuable as the numbers on a paycheque.

From a homegrown organic grocery delivery business in BC to a mega-municipality in Ontario, here are two very different employers who know how much corporate culture counts.

Organically Grown Corporate Culture

According to Dave Van Seters, the founding president and CEO of Small Potatoes Urban Delivery (SPUD), many of the company’s 110 employees, especially the younger people, have chosen to work in an organization that supports their health and environmental ideals. Van Seters explains that the company sources more than 50 percent of its products from local suppliers. He also points out that the environmental impact of one vehicle delivering groceries to many homes is far less than every shopper driving to and from their grocery store. These methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting sustainable agriculture rank high on SPUD employees’ list of company benefits.

Listening to Employees

You won’t see any power suits at SPUD. Employees of this decidedly casual company appreciate the relaxed atmosphere and the egalitarian relationships with management. Without the stifling hierarchy of many work environments, SPUD employees feel equally valued and respected for the work they do and the skills they contribute.

“There is no dividing line between our people in management and in other positions. We all just work together. Because we are growing and changing so quickly, we foster an appreciation for change–not a fear of it. We invite our people to tell us what they think. We value open communication; we want to know what will help them to enjoy their work more and do their jobs better,” says Van Seters.

Municipality with the Most

It’s not just the touchy-feely nature of BC that contributes to corporate culture. The Regional Municipality of York, Ontario was named one of the top 100 Canadian employers of 2007 by Maclean’s magazine. This is not the only feather in the corporate cap of this municipality. Located north of Toronto and encompassing nine area municipalities, York has also been recognized as one of the top 50 employers to work for in the Greater Toronto area. York’s dedicated efforts at building a healthy workplace culture have greatly lowered staff turnover: in 2005 staff turnover was 6.2 percent, compared to 23 percent in 1999.

Work-Life Balancing Act

Every employee knows the stress of trying to balance the responsibilities of home and family life with work commitments. Having the support of employers to find that essential balance not only improves the quality of life for employees but also contributes positively to workplace culture.

In 2003 York region launched several workplace initiatives in response to an employee satisfaction survey. They include a compressed workweek and flex-time program; enhanced employee communication; the “Employee Experience initiative,” a staff recognition program for employees who go the extra mile in doing their jobs; the “Employee Workplace Wellness Program,” which supports all aspects of a healthy lifestyle; and a career development and training program featuring career counselling and corporate mentoring.

Feeling good at work is dependent on a lot more than the size of a paycheque. Knowing you’re working with others toward a common goal, and that your contribution to your workplace culture is valued, can offer equally important rewards.

Eight Ways Companies can Help Prevent Employee Burnout

  1. Ensure employees get quality time off.
  2. Respect employees’ vacation time.
  3. Encourage employees to leave laptops at home when on vacation.
  4. Redirect incoming phone calls and emails so vacationing employees can truly have “time out.”
  5. Encourage vacations longer than one week.
  6. Encourage managers and employees to take all of their allotted vacation time.
  7. Respect that employees have lives outside of work.
  8. Offer flexible working hours.


Innovation for Good: K9s For Warriors and Project Street Vet

Innovation for Good: K9s For Warriors and Project Street Vet

Neil ZevnikNeil Zevnik