Opinion: Time for Albertans to change how we work together

As Alberta organizations move past COVID, people are looking for initiatives that promote workplace wellness. Such programs are important, but work culture plays a bigger role in overall well-being, team success, and job performance.

Positive, inclusive, respectful work cultures produce multiple benefits. Employers are able to recruit higher quality prospects who are more productive and stay longer. Workers are more successful, creative, innovative, happier, and less likely to engage in negative behaviour. All of these outcomes increase the bottom line.

I work for an Alberta-based sexual assault services agency. Why am I talking to you about work culture? Because it plays a crucial role in another important issue; it’s a primary defence against sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment directly affects 1 in 5 Alberta workers. This is not the kind of issue that goes away with remote workplaces. Sexual harassment can happen in any setting, including in-person and online. Still, only a minority are reaching out for help. According to Alberta research conducted for us by Leger, just over one-third of workers (36 per cent) would report an incident of sexual harassment to a leader or manager. Even fewer (15 per cent) would report to Human Resources. These data have serious health and safety consequences for individuals and organizations.

Through our research we found that more than anything, Alberta workers want their employers to have their backs. They also rank leaders and managers who promote a positive work culture as the most important influence on work environments, productivity, and psychological health and safety.

That’s why the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS) is leading a ground-breaking Alberta-wide campaign called #momentsmatter. It’s a three year campaign that celebrates leaders who are taking a personal role in strengthening and growing positive workplace cultures that help people feel safe and supported, help them grow and succeed – and help stop sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment training typically shows people what sexual harassment is and warns them not to do it. Unfortunately this approach hasn’t had the effect we had hoped for. Sexual harassment rates have not changed in decades, and research points to a variety of issues with traditional training approaches that may be contributing to the problem.

Most people understand the value of a positive work culture. How to build and grow one can be a bit of a mystery—but, according to research, it can be easier than you might think. Through simple, relatable stories, the #momentsmatter campaign models workplace cultures that are positive, inclusive, respectful, and free of sexual harassment. Sharing good work stories is the best way to create more of them — one moment at a time. Since people are influenced by their peers, sharing positive stories can help workers be intentional about creating more of them, leading to better work environments.

At a time when Albertans are addressing big issues related to the economy, inclusion, and well-being, #momentsmatter offers tangible and practical help. The campaign is free, easy, and more important than ever. Through the month of June, AASAS will be hosting short info sessions to provide more details on how to participate. We hope you’ll join us in believing that, when it comes to workplace wellness, little moments can make the biggest difference of all.

Corinne Ofstie is Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services which provides leadership, coordination, and collaboration of sexual assault services in Alberta.