Merge's Blog

Here’s how you can create a compassionate workplace

If you’ve heard me speak in recent years, you’ve heard me say that being compassionate is one of the most important skills that leaders need today.  Certainly, living through the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to this, but our demographics have shifted as well.  Here are three interesting statistics:

  • 35% of the Canadian workforce (6.1 million people) are juggling work and caregiving responsibilities.
  • Every year, Canada loses about 560,000 full-time employees due to the demands of caregiving and paid work.
  • Grieving employees who were not supported at work lose an average of 30 workdays each year.

[Source: Pallium Canada]

compassionate workplaceWhich is why I was delighted to meet Peggy Austen recently.  Peggy is Director, Corporate Partnerships at Pallium Canada.  Pallium has recently launched the Compassionate Workplace Campaign​, designed to help companies improve their “care culture” by proactively supporting those among us who are caregiving, grieving, or living with a serious illness.  Their tag line is “Creating a more compassionate workplace environment is everyone’s business,” and I couldn’t agree more.  So I asked Peggy to be our guest blogger today, and was thrilled when she agreed.

Creating a Culture of Care and Belonging

A friend of mine recently faced a challenging situation when his mom was diagnosed with a life-limiting illness. As the primary caregiver, he wanted to give his mom the best quality of life.  He tried to balance his work and caregiving responsibilities. However, the physical and emotional stress exacted a heavy toll. Ultimately, he felt he had no choice but to leave the workforce. 

Unfortunately, this is a very familiar story. 

As leaders, at some point in our careers, we will need to support employees, like my friend, who are caregiving or grieving the loss of a loved one. Beyond the pandemic, these experiences are becoming increasingly universal with Canada’s major demographic shift and the dramatic increase in the number of people over 65. As well, with advances in medical practices and treatments, people are living longer but with more chronic life-limiting illnesses and complex medical conditions. As a result, an ever-increasing number of employees are concurrently juggling work and caring for aging parents.

Often when employees are dealing with caregiving responsibilities or grieving, managers and co-workers are hesitant to reach out to support those struggling – not knowing what to do or what to say. Conversely, many employees suffer in silence for fear of stigma or the age-old adage that work and personal challenges should be kept separate. 

Creating a culture of care and belonging makes good business sense as a leader. Research indicates that creating a supportive workplace can increase productivity and engagement, reduce employee stress, and improve employee retention.  

The Compassionate Workplace Campaign

Pallium Canada’s Compassionate Workplace Campaign addresses these issues. It focuses on workplace culture to strengthen the sense of caring and belonging for employees dealing with the complicated issues of caregiving and grief.    

The Compassionate Workplace Campaign goes beyond raising awareness of the issues and provides solutions with interactive activities, communication materials, tools, and resources focused on driving workplace engagement and learning.

To learn more about becoming involved in the Compassionate Workplace Campaign, please visit

As Director, Corporate Partnerships, Peggy plays a key role in leading Pallium’s integrated corporate partnership strategy. Peggy brings an extensive background in designing and implementing many innovative and collaborative partnerships in the health, education and social service sectors.

Please, get involved!  These resources are available to you at no charge, and the positive impact in employee productivity and morale is huge.  Talk about an endless return on investment!  I’d love to hear more about what your organization is doing to promote a compassionate workplace.  Please share by adding your comments below.

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