Workers and the workplace have come a long way. Today a healthy, positive, and enriching workplace is increasingly valued by employers and employees alike. The bottom line is that workplace wellness is good for the bottom line.
Workers and the workplace have come a long way, at least in the western world, since the dreary days of Charles Dickens. Today a healthy, positive, and enriching workplace is increasingly valued by employers and employees alike.
Arran Stephens, president and founder of Nature’s Path Foods Inc., and Dave Mowat, chief executive officer of VanCity Savings Credit Union, are the heads of two Vancouver-based companies dedicated to making their workplaces better.
Their efforts have earned the companies they run a coveted place on the Maclean’s magazine list of Canada’s top 100 employers. With over 55,000 Canadian companies evaluated and only 100 chosen, this is one of the most prestigious lists in Canadian business.
On the Path to a Healthy Workplace
A private, family-owned business, Nature’s Path has been listed as a top Canadian employer for the last three years.
“My motivation for starting my own business was to be in a place where I could focus on the higher aspects of life,” explains Arran Stephens.
Stephens’ focus has led to the creation of a multimillion dollar company with a holistically healthy workplace. His avowed corporate mission is “nurturing people, nature, and spirit” and that includes his employees.
A free breakfast for every employee every work day is just the beginning. The company provides a generous medical, dental, and vision plan. As an incentive for staff to continue their education, Nature’s Path will pay tuition costs. Employees are encouraged to attend learning events such as conferences and professional development programs, which the company pays for.
Believing in the inspiration and healing that comes from company gardens and gardening, Stephens had an area covered in brambles and weeds transformed into a 2,000-square-foot flower and vegetable garden where employees have their own garden beds.
Stephens’ voice becomes noticeably solemn when he talks about the sad inspiration for building their on-site gym. “When one of our employees, a 38-year-old obese man with a wife and kids, died suddenly of a heart attack, we decided to create a place in his honour where people could work out and get fit.”
Dave Mowat also knows the priceless value of a positive workplace. Designated by Maclean’s magazine (2004) as the number-one place to work in Canada, Mowat describes VanCity Credit Union as a workplace with “room to have fun.”
Not only is he accountable for the financial health of Canada’s largest credit union, Mowat also sees himself as responsible for the workplace well-being of 2,000 employees in 47 branches.
Like many other progressive employers, VanCity shifted the concept of “sick” days to “care” days.
“We all know there are a variety of reasons for needing to take time off work,” explains Mowat. “Being sick is one of them, but there are also times when we have child care or elder care issues. Or we just need time out. So instead of pretending to be sick, employees can feel supported by the organization. Basically, we invest in their care.”
Describing the company’s health plan as a “smorgasbord of benefits,” Mowat explains that employees can customize their benefits packages based on their individual and family needs.
“Involving employees in corporate planning is the healthiest way to fully engage a work force,” Mowat says. Every year VanCity distributes the board of directors’ business plan to every employee. Then they invite open discussion and honest feedback.
“We encourage employees to participate in creating the future of this company,” he affirms.
The bottom line is that workplace wellness is good for the bottom line.
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