When Ryan Tessier started at Vancouver-based workforce analytics firm Visier two years ago, he acknowledges, “we did a lot of what everyone else was doing” when it came to culture. That meant yoga classes, running groups and beer on tap, plus a slew of wellness programs for people who were physically in the office.
Everything changed with the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed the company to look at how it treated mental health for its 400 employees.
“One of the things that got put into place quickly was support groups,” says Tessier, who serves as Visier’s director of marketing communications, adding that it started covering mental health needs and therapy in addition to regular wellness events and challenges, group yoga, meditation classes and book clubs that were delivered digitally.
Visier has moved operations online indefinitely and, in the wake of COVID, given each staff member $1,000 to set up their home work environment by purchasing anything from a standing desk to an espresso machine. Employees’ monthly internet and phone expenses are now covered, and everyone has an annual subscription to digital mindfulness program Whil.
With help from employee surveys and pulse checks, Tessier says, Visier has “managed to maintain health and wellness on par to what we were doing previously.” The company now does biweekly all-hands meetings (they used to be monthly) and has “more communication as a team,” he adds.
Though Visier is a startup that was founded in 2010, Tessier—who previously worked at local social media management firm Hootsuite—doesn’t feel the company has that vibe. “It’s funny; when you talk about a tech company, you think about a startup going from an early period of growth into a more foundational enterprise company,” he says of Visier, whose clients range from auto parts giant Bridgestone to the City of Edmonton.
“The thing I’ve noticed here is they started with that enterprise mindset; they were always very foundationally aware of what they wanted to be as a company. And from a change management perspective, they’ve done a very good job of moving things along.”
Our Community Involvement champ, the restoration company also impressed the judges here. The winner of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 award for Outstanding Workplace faced a challenge when, as for many others, COVID-19 came calling and slowed down business.
“People staying home meant there were less claims,” says Platinum Pro-Claim founder and CEO Tony Scott. “We do a lot of work downtown in apartment buildings, and these days those people are all home, noticing floods right away and taking more and more care of these things.”
Platinum didn’t lay off staff or cut their pay, even though it estimates that the local restoration industry saw monthly revenue plunge 20 percent on average. “We recognized that the team was going to worry about jobs—there were lot of people getting laid off, everyone knew business was slower,” Scott maintains. “The first thing was to make sure everybody felt secure in that they would get the same amount of money at the same time.”
Platinum has also continued its usual slate of programs–like in-house yoga and CrossFit, 25-percent matching of retirement savings and unlimited free mental health counselling–the best it can during the pandemic, with some employees still coming into the office and others working from home. “We take care of our team and their health,” Scott says.
Vancouver communications firm Very Polite was launched in 2017 by four former employees of clothier Kit + Ace, with the understanding that the quartet would play key roles in each project. “No matter how large the team gets, we’re here to work alongside them,” says co-founder Andrea Mestrovic. “It was a huge factor in us starting it, and it’s very exciting for us.”
It also means that the founders get involved in the day-to-day life of the company, which has six other staff–and that those employees are front-of-mind. “Our values are pretty simple,” Mestrovic says. “No compromises, creative output and creating a culture that enables our people to do their best work.”
That might mean excursions to the Vancouver Art Gallery, book and wine club meetings or, you know, a trip to Japan. “We do these themes for every year, and with that comes a field trip,” Mestrovic explains. “The last one, in 2019, was emoji, so we took team to Tokyo, the birthplace of the emoji. It immersed the team in a very different culture, explored stuff from art to architecture. Everyone had a certain brand case study to complete.”
Last year was supposed to bring a journey to Rome around the theme of etiquette. For obvious reasons, that didn’t happen, but the folks at Very Polite, whose local clients include toothbrush startup Brüush and real estate developer Westbank Corp., hope that 2021 and subsequent years will be more travel-friendly. “It’s just one way we encourage and ensure our team is exposed to arts and culture and continually gets inspired,” Mestrovic says.
The Vancouver video game developer, winner of our Indigenous Prosperity award in 2020, has strongly emphasized mental and physical health while growing from a 12-person startup to 130 or so staff.
That includes home office, internet and phone benefits, extended health and dental coverage, and high-intensity interval training (if wanted, of course). East Side Games also offers biannual parties, paid career days (plus a $1,000 career development budget) and industry-leading parental leave.
With more than 1,000 employees in Canada and the U.S., Vancouver-based content studio Thunderbird–also our Diversity and Inclusion winner–has its work cut out to take care of so many team members. COVID only amplified that pressure. So when the virus hit, CEO Jennifer Twiner McCarron launched extra efforts to ensure the overall well-being of all staff, including mental health services for them and their families.
The producer of animated shows, scripted TV series and documentaries also quickly adapted its internal mentoring program to support employees at every level. It began hosting regular town halls, too, giving staff transparent updates and letting them share their passion projects. In some cases, Thunderbird championed those endeavours inside the business and beyond.