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Respectful Workplaces

WD’s positive workplace can be attributed to several factors, not the least of which is a culture of leadership at every level. WD employees understand that public service values and professionalism call on us all to help create and nurture a respectful work environment.

WD’s senior management takes a “people-first” approach to managerial decisions. This is evidenced by strong Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) results, low complaint rates, and one of the lowest reported harassment rates in the Federal Public Service. Throughout 2015/16, WD received no complaints related to harassment, staffing, discrimination, or human rights and received a very low number of grievances.

Part of the pride of working at WD can be shown by the results of Alberta’s Top 70 Employers Award. In recognition of WD’s positive work environment, such as providing an opportunity for employees to balance work and their personal lives, WD was awarded this distinction in 2016.

WD has often gone above and beyond expectations in sustaining its healthy workplaces. Examples include:

  • Moving to Office Modernization (“Workplace 2.0”) accommodations in several of our offices over the course of 2015/16. Employee committees were established to work on this project to ensure the voices of all would be heard, and management transparency was ensured through the use of step-by-step updates to all staff and repeated invitations to raise concerns through local working groups. To date, WD has modernized the Saskatoon, Ottawa, and Edmonton offices. Project kick-off meetings and planning have begun for the Winnipeg and Calgary offices, while the Vancouver modernization project will begin in the coming months.

    Changes to the workplace can be stressful and disruptive to employees. Therefore, the National Occupational Health and Safety (NOHS) and Regional Occupational Health and Safety Committees play a key role in mitigating health and safety issues by supporting staff during workplace changes and making recommendations to senior management. The committees’ involvement and participation in all areas of the office modernization initiative ensure optimum employee health and safety, and allows for lessons learned to be applied to any future workplace change.
     
  • Regional action plans developed and implemented in response to PSES results. Despite very positive results in the 2014 PSES, WD continues to collaborate with employees in addressing areas of concern. A specific example of this is the coordination of a regional presentation by the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner on disclosure and recourse methods, which was designed to ease reported fear of reprisal for initiating formal recourse processes.
     
  • Encouraging the resolution of workplace conflict or any kind of interpersonal concerns through the least formal methods. Our experience with the use of proactive Informal Conflict Management Services has demonstrated that face-to-face discussions and a frank discussion of issues leads to the most lasting and satisfying resolutions for all parties.
     
  • Fostering a healthy work environment by management through understanding of and adherence to the rights of employees that are enshrined in legislation, collective agreements, and employer policies. WD managers respect the value of transparency in their staffing decisions by making appointment announcements that describe the choice of process used, the candidate’s background, whether a Public Service Commission priority appointment was being made, and more.
     
  • Deputy Minister’s “Let’s Talk” sessions. In the spring of 2015, WD’s Deputy Minister travelled to each of WD’s offices and met with all employees in small groups for open-ended discussions regarding the organization’s accomplishments, continuing challenges, and opportunities for business process improvements.

    An action plan was developed following these meetings that grouped the nearly 40 ideas and concerns. WD’s Executive Committee and associated work units have already committed time and effort to address more than half of the actionable items raised. For example, language training – interest in a departmental approach and access at all levels – was an action item raised by staff. In response, WD’s Key Learning Priorities now address language maintenance and development. In addition, WD’s Guidelines for Learning and Professional Development outline a phased approach for support in language learning. Lastly, WD also supports its bilingual employees to maintain their language proficiency by providing the opportunity for staff to join the Official Languages Twinning Program developed in partnership with other RDAs.

    The remaining ideas/issues are ongoing and continue to be acted upon. These longer term action items have been broken down thematically into the following sections: Learning; Professional Development and Career Progression; Systems, Practices and Procedures; and Health and Wellness. WD believes that it is through our collective efforts and engagement that issues will be addressed and ideas will generate innovative and lasting change.

Mental Health

WD is committed to providing a safe, healthy, and respectful working environment for its employees. Through our work on Occupational and Health Committees, Workplace Renewal Local Working Committees, information sessions, and our ongoing day-to-day interactions with one another, we are striving to create a workplace where employees are respected and encouraged to reach their full potential.

WD has pursued a robust workplace wellness and mental health program inspired by the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace and has made significant progress in complying with the requirements of this voluntary standard.

WD’s actions to date are aligned with the Federal Public Service Workplace Mental Health Strategy. The National Occupational Health and Safety Policy Committee (NOHS) has made mental wellness a pillar equal to physical well-being in its WD Wellness Activity Plan. WD’s 2016-2017 Wellness Activity Plan encourages both physical well-being and mental wellness of its employees through nutrition, physical fitness, work-life balance, stress management, and other activities which support personal wellness. Most of the activities that comprised the 2015-2016 Wellness Activity Plan have been completed.

  • Appointment of a champion for mental health
    Because the mental wellness file falls within the NOHS portfolio at WD, our champion for mental health is also the NOHS National Management Co-Chair and Occupational Health and Safety Champion. Bram Strain, Assistant Deputy Minister for Manitoba and Saskatchewan Regions, occupied this role until his departure from the organization in the spring of 2016. In his absence, the roles of Occupational Health and Safety Champion, and Mental Health Champion have been filled by Martin Sutherland, Director, Policy, Planning and External Relations, and senior Executive on the NOHS committee.

"I have been hearing this mantra for years that we need to destigmatize mental illness and it finally seems as though our culture is really changing to make that possible. I have been astonished by the courage that people have shown in our workplace, during town halls and mental health training sessions, in speaking up about their own experiences dealing with a mental health issue. As an employer and as a workplace we are finally realizing that protecting the wellbeing of employees means treating mental health as equally important as physical health. Raising awareness, combating stigma, and continuing to support our colleagues not only makes good management and business sense, it's fundamentally the right thing to do."

Martin Sutherland (Occupational Health and Safety Champion, Mental Health Champion)

  • Employee learning sessions
    Contracts were arranged with the National Speaker’s Bureau and the Speaker’s Bureau of Alberta to provide a series of Resiliency workshops to all staff. The Canadian Mental Health Association was also engaged to provide Mental Health @ Work training to all WD staff. Employee Assistance Services (EAS) continues to provide presentations to employees on the counselling services available to them via EAS.
     
  • “Not Myself Today” (NMT) campaign
    WD’s current Corporate Wellness Activity includes participating in the Partners for Mental Health organization’s “Not Myself Today” (NMT) campaign, which is led by the department’s national and regional occupational safety and health committees. Launched by WD’s Deputy Minister during Mental Health Week, the goal of the NMT campaign is to raise awareness and to combat stigma by demystifying mental illness, debunking myths associated with mental health, and encouraging dialogue around various mental health themes. The campaign includes promotional material, regional awareness-building activities, considerable online resources for employees, and weekly infographics on mental health displayed on the WD intranet (WDnet) to keep the dialogue open.

    These efforts have led to ongoing discussions about the effects of mental health issues in the workplace and the role various departmental staff should play in identifying and addressing warning signs. These discussions have led to increased awareness and dialogue on the subject. A great number of employees have signed and displayed their pledge to support a workplace focused on mental health.
     
  • Flexible working arrangements
    WD has made efforts to increase awareness of flexible working arrangements that may be requested by employees and has outlined principles and considerations for managers who are tasked with approving these arrangements. By supporting an increased utilization of flex-time, compressed workweeks, part-time schedules, telework, leave with income averaging, and pre-retirement transition, WD aims to reduce employee stress, while supporting family and personal health and wellness.

Ongoing activities throughout the year include: brown bag lunches with speakers, posters displayed in offices, regional fitness challenges, and the sharing of information to staff pertaining to Body Bulletins and several major national health campaigns (e.g, Diabetes Month, November).

Official Languages

WD fosters employee understanding of their Official Language (OL) obligations and promotes tools that are available to help staff learn and maintain OL skills by having a clear framework to manage and implement OL policies and strategies. Activities include:

  • Establishment of an OL Team that spans across the Department and is guided by Terms of Reference and Roles and Responsibilities;
  • Development of a departmental OL Policy;
  • Creation of a multi-year departmental OL Action Plan that is monitored and the results of which are reported to WD’s Executive Committee (EXCOMM). The 2016-19 WD OL Action Plan focuses on Diversity and Inclusion: Canada’s Linguistic Duality;
  • Staffing practice that results in staff who are appropriately assigned to positions and are able to communicate in both official languages to effectively serve the public in the language of their choice; and
  • Participation in federal strategies for Official Languages, including the Roadmap for Canada’s Official Languages 2013-18: Education, Immigration, and Communities.  Incremental to WD’s own investments for Official Language Minority Communities (OLMCs) and official languages, the Roadmap provided WD with $3.2 million under the Economic Development Initiative (EDI) to be delivered in Western Canada.

During the month of November, WD sent out a staff survey regarding the Language of Work in the Federal Government. The results will assist WD in determining if the Department is on the right path to reach our objective of a bilingual workplace. Other activities that help support Official Languages within WD include:

  • OL Champion messages, WDnet Bulletins, HR or OL coordinator messages, OL Champion and OLA coordinators communications;
  • Promotion of OL awareness and learning to staff;
  • WDnet OL tools and resources (i.e. learning a second official language, use of official languages in the workplace and serving the public, links to the OL Action Plan);
  • Promotion and celebration of OL events for the public service such as Linguistic Duality Day and Rendez Vous de la francophonie; and
  • Formal and informal bilingual learning events and social events that encourage maintenance of official language skills.