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HEALTH CONNECTION

A happy workforce makes for healthy business

By Susan Poizner
Special to The Toronto Sun


For employees of Statistics Canada, it's hard to not feel loved. During the day they'll be working on one of the 350 surveys carried out by the organization each year, covering all aspects of Canadian life. Maybe they work as mathematicians or economists. Maybe they're technical officers or administrators. Maybe they provide clerical and secretarial support.
At Statistics Canada, which was awarded this year's Canadian Awards for Excellence's Healthy Workplace Trophy, employees enjoy many perks, including an in-house gym.


But it's the options that Statistics Canada's 5,800 employees have outside their daily responsibilities that making working at this agency so different.

For instance, there are 40 different clubs for employees to join, including a book club, a softball and volleyball league, a choir, a singles club and a needlework group.

There are support groups for parents of children with allergies, for people struggling with mental health problems and for those hoping to quit smoking.

An in-house gym makes it easy and convenient to stay fit. And parents love the in-house child-care centre so they can spend time with their children during lunch breaks.

These are just a few of the reasons Statistics Canada has earned this year's the Canadian Awards for Excellence (CAE) Healthy Workplace Trophy. The awards are organized by the National Quality Institute (NQI), an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping Canada work better.

"To us, a healthy workplace is a much more extensive and supportive environment for staff," says NQI's v-p, Kathryn Cestnick.

"We look at the wellness of employees even outside working conditions. We're looking at benefit programs, time off for volunteering or to look after aging parents or children."

Sange de Silva, Statistics Canada's director of the labour and household service branch, says the agency has always made its employees a top priority.

"When we say that our employees are our most precious asset, we really mean that. And so we do things to protect that asset and enhance it."

He says Statistics Canada has a three pronged human resource strategy:

First, it chooses its staff very carefully, hiring the best and the brightest, including many new graduates.

Secondly, it pay for new recruits to go through a comprehensive two-year training program, and provides continuing education throughout their careers.

The third pillar of their human resource program is providing employees with a positive work environment through clubs, support groups and flexible working hours.

Sange de Silva says creating a positive work environment often isn't expensive.

"The clubs don't cost us a penny, but we support them. And our in-house fitness centre is self-funded. Staff just pay for the service -- so it's not profit making."

While they're thrilled to receive the CAE award, de Silva and the other managers at Statistics Canada enjoy positive feedback from the people who matter most -- their staff. "We get hundreds of unsolicited e-mails from staff," he says.

Many came after a recent employee appreciation day, when 'Thank You' posters greeted staff at every entrance and a special program of special events and music was planned.

Statistics Canada is proof that a healthy workplace in which people are treated like a precious resource is also a successful one.

"The Economist magazine has said we're the world's number one statistics agency. That's not because we have better machines. It's because we have better people," de Silva says.

For more information about the NQI Awards, visit www.nqi.ca. For more information about building a healthy workplace in your company, visit: www.healthyworkplaceweek.ca.

(Reach freelancer Susan Poizner at (susan.poizner@sympatico.ca).



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