Contributed by Val Janz, Interior Community Services. As an organization with workers who face a lot of stress on the job, Val encouraged her employees to take care of each other through their pledges, and inspired their clients to do the same. Read on to learn more.

Why did you make a pledge?

I thought it was really cool- we’re always looking for ways to engage our staff.  And in our organization, we specifically focused on pledges around culture and a positive environment. We didn’t focus specifically on the client services, because we felt that good work happens more naturally when staff feel good about themselves and feel valued, and are happy to come to work.

Where do you work within Interior Community Services?

I’m the Director for Child and Family Services here, and we have about 40 staff. And then there are also Youth Services, and Community Living Services, so there are about 190 staff altogether.

We’re not a health care organization specifically, but we provide social care services and programs.

And what was your pledge?

My pledge was to get people in the organization pledging! They made lots of group pledges, and some people individual pledges too. There were lots of neat team pledges.

What I really appreciated was how all the Change Day materials made it so much easier to share what was going on. The pledge cards and posters were really helpful. And everyone was so disappointed when we ran out of big pledge cards! That was kind of funny.

What kinds of group and individual pledges did you see?

Well, what we tried to do was use Change Day as a way to do some staff engagement and team building, positive team culture, stuff like that. One staff group said they’re going to go out for lunch together whenever it’s someone’s birthday. Another group committed to doing something to bring people together once a month, so they’ve done things like bring in a big crockpot lunch, or over Christmas they did a Secret Santa sock game. They’re still doing that- a lot of pledges are really living on.

And we have one supervisor who pledged to give out chocolate every Friday at 2:00pm to everyone still in the office. Because many staff have a flex schedule, by Friday afternoon many of them are done their hours for the week, but they come back just to get their chocolate! There have been lots of fun things like that which have continued to go on.

Why did you focus on those team-building pledges?

This kind of work is very stressful. It’s not necessarily that the clients are stressful- they’re the great thing about it. But when you’re working with so many agencies and systems, it can burn people out. So it’s important to keep yourself grounded, and be supported in your work. We also try to have some fun! Like every year we do a Christmas decorating contest, and we have a spring planter competition—people like to compete here.

Because the work can be so stressful, you have to have things that keep people in this field, like work-life balance, flexibility. So we try to do a lot of that, but we try to create a workplace where staff members feel that they’re supported and respected.

Have you noticed positive changes in your staff since these Change Day pledges?

Oh yeah, definitely! The Secret Santa was really great. And the Friday afternoon chocolate that brings people back to the office. It’s just fun. And it’s nice when you go into the lunch room one day, and there’s a big crockpot full of soup and a sign saying “Help yourself.” I think it’s just created those positive feelings, that we’re part of an agency that cares for us in different ways.

What did your organization do for Change Day?

We hosted a community event for marginalized individuals in our community. Our office is located in a neighbourhood that would be considered lower socio-economic status, and we’re near the river where a lot of homeless people camp.

So on Change Day we had a big chili lunch in the parking lot of our building, and we gave away a lot of winter clothing to families and individuals in need. We have lots of families who access our services who might need winter clothing for their kids. And we have something like that every year, so people look forward to it.

We had our big pledge tree outside on the window, and we asked people who were coming to get lunch and clothes to make a pledge and post it on our tree. There were some really amazing pledges, like “Maintain my sobriety,” “Get my kids back from care.” Really thought-provoking. One that was amazing was from a woman who was picking up coats for her family, and she said, “I’m going to pledge to give back to someone in need this Christmas.” I thought that was really powerful, because she was in need herself, but she still wanted to give back to someone else.