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AFSC supports its employees through mental wellness training and increased mental health benefits.Dwight Arthur/Provided

For Joy Cavin, the culture and people at Agricultural Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) have been lifesavers since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in September 2022.

Cavin is a lending relationship manager for the Alberta Crown corporation, which provides the province’s farmers with insurance, lending and income-stabilization options. And she says the organization’s family-like atmosphere has made it much easier to deal with her illness.

“I can’t tell you how amazing the support around me has been,” declares Cavin, who is based in the town of Olds, Alta., home to one of AFSC’s network of 38 branch offices. “It was integral to how well I made it through the initial diagnosis. I am so indebted to my manager and officemates. It was a team effort.

“If there was a day where I needed to go for a doctor’s appointment,” she continues, “there were so many people willing to field phone calls or help me with deals I was working on. AFSC is like a family.”

Cavin also benefited from the organization’s dedication to its team members’ mental wellness. One sign of that: earlier this year, the organization increased its mental health benefit to $3,000 a year, a change that made it easier for the mother of two to see a therapist who could help her develop strategies for coping with MS.

“It was a huge relief for me,” she says of the benefit. “I knew I could see someone on a regular basis without having to worry about the expense.”

CEO Darryl Kay notes that agriculture and agriculture-adjacent services “can be very, very stressful work environments.” This gave rise to AFSC’s mental health strategy, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. The policy, which is implemented by a wellness co-ordinator, includes training about mental wellness for the entire AFSC staff. “We recognize that many factors contribute to mental health, and we’re working to continuously improve in that area. And that we need to be open and support team members in whatever they might be going through. Joy is a great example of us being able to help and support someone.”

At the same time, says Kay, AFSC fosters a day-to-day culture of acceptance and support. “We want all of our team members to feel comfortable being themselves, and to feel acknowledged, appreciated and respected.” Contributing to that mission are AFSC’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategy; its ‘Inclusion Council;’ unconscious-bias training and support for employee resource groups.

AFSC prioritizes the well-being and work-life balance of its staff by offering 10 ‘special leave’ days, flexible working arrangements such as hybrid or remote options, and ‘flex days,’ which allow staff members to work extended hours on certain days in exchange for taking a day off during the week at a time that best fits their schedule. The latter has been a special boon for Cavin, she says, “because there are a lot of professional development days at school and those are often on Friday. I can end up with a three-day weekend with my kids.”

Cavin is on MS medication that’s working for her. That, combined with the support and understanding of AFSC, has meant she hasn’t missed a single day of work since she became sick.

And she is confident that she’ll be with AFSC a long time. “I’m in my forties and this is my favourite job ever. They’ve always been interested in my well-being, and they will continue to understand that while one day, I’m going to be putting out work like a champion, other days I’ll be struggling. And I know they will come up with ways to help me.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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