Recognized as one of National Capital Region's Top Employers (2016)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 4, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation / CMHC was selected as one of National Capital Region's Top Employers (2016):
- CMHC offers exceptional family-friendly benefits, including a full year of paid leave for mothers and parental leave top-up payments for fathers and adoptive parents for up to 37 weeks -- employees also have access to a generous subsidy for in vitro fertilization (IVF) if needed (to $20,000), and can extend parental leave into an unpaid leave of absence
- CMHC recently launched a new mental health initiative to help ensure employees are healthy and successful in the workplace -- the initiative includes a range of education, awareness, training and communications activities to enable employees to improve their own mental health as well as others
- Employees working at CMHC's head office can take advantage of a variety of onsite amenities, including a cafeteria with healthy and special diet menus, a quiet room for meditation and religious observance and subsidized access to an onsite fitness facility, which features instructor-led classes such as yoga, spinning and boxing
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 23, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation / CMHC was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016):
- CMHC recently launched a new mental health initiative to help ensure employees are healthy and successful in the workplace, which includes a range of education, awareness, training and communications activities to help employees improve their own mental health as well as others -- the organization also maintains an employee-led national committee on mental health and wellness and recently increased maximum coverage for employees using psychological services
- CMHC manages a housing internship program for First Nations and Inuit youth between the ages of 15 and 30 to provide opportunities to gain work experience and on-the-job training
- CMHC created a unique "special needs" program for individuals with Down Syndrome, which features mentoring, work experience and skills development opportunities
"For me Diversity offers a lesson. The lesson is: For every one of us to agree and be open to that which sets us apart such as gender, race, religion, physical, sexual orientation, mental ability, and language. With this philosophy we can form a community that values the differences in people." Stefania M., employee
Taking positive action for mental health at CMHC
Jessica Harland faces more than the usual workplace challenges. Harland, recently promoted by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), works hard to ensure that her struggles with mental illness don't affect her performance and dedication. And her employer strives to be supportive. "Our workplace is an encouraging environment where we are breaking down the stigma still too often associated with mental illness," says Harland, now Manager, Multi-Unit Client Relations, in the Ottawa-based federal Crown corporation's Calgary office.
Harland spoke out about her personal story last year soon after CMHC President Evan Siddall talked openly about the subject. In launching a company-wide mental health awareness campaign, Siddall spoke to CMHC's 1,800 employees about mental illness in his family and how it has touched him personally. Says Harland: "It was inspiring to hear a leader speak so openly about what society largely feels is a weakness. He made me feel safe to talk about my story."
As a result, Harland, among others, responded to an opportunity to share their stories in an internal newsletter. Now 35, Harland related how she has suffered from generalized anxiety and depression for more than 15 years. "It's still with me, but now I can recognize the signs and manage the symptoms," she says. "There have been challenges along the way, but having supportive colleagues and managers helps."
Indeed, as part of CMHC's Mental Health Initiative, benefits for psychological counselling were boosted by up to $1,000 annually. "Many companies talk about mental health's impact on employees, but CMHC is also doing something concrete to help," Harland says.
After she opened up, Harland initially received some 30 supportive emails from across the country. "People wanted to express their support and share their experiences," she says. "It's strengthened my relationships with many colleagues."
Going to work the day after sharing her story, Harland recalls: "I was a little nervous, but relieved. It was a weight off my shoulders and felt very empowering."
Removing that weight, part of the stigma, is one of the corporate Mental Health Initiative's key objectives. Explains Peter De Barros, CMHC's Vice-President of Public Affairs and its National Diversity Champion: "We want an environment where people feel free to talk about mental health issues." De Barros adds, "We invest in our people for the longer term, and we realize and respect that they have different challenges at different times in their lives."
Such respect for distinctive life situations faced by a varied workforce is at the core of CMHC's approach to diversity and inclusion. "Diversity is embedded in our culture," says De Barros. "It's not a program that we haul out once or twice a year."
Still, there are specific corporate strategies to address particular needs, such as targeted professional development for women - 57 per cent of the CMHC workforce -who aspire to executive positions. As well, employees across the country have access to Quiet Rooms, a place for prayer or, simply, tranquility. "If someone is stressed out, it's a good place to go," De Barros says.
Clearly, CMHC's diversity and inclusion approach is rooted in a strong moral imperative. "It's the right thing to do," De Barros says. At the same time, there are significant spin-off benefits. "When people feel included," he says, "we have a happier and more productive workforce."
Adds De Barros: "It's also critical to achieving our mission of helping to house Canadians. We need a diverse workforce to understand and meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population."
For her part, Harland intends to keep speaking out about mental health. "If I'm not telling my story, I'm not doing my part in heightening awareness," she says.
Meanwhile, Harland says CMHC's Mental Health Initiative is already changing the workplace. "I can now talk more openly without fear of negative reactions," she adds. "In fact it has been quite the opposite, with overwhelmingly positive results."
This article appeared in the magazine announcing this year's Canada's Best Diversity Employers winners, published February 24, 2016 in The Globe and Mail. This article was prepared with the financial support of the employer, which did not write or edit its contents.