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Johnston Group employees volunteering at a Manitoba Marathon.Provided

High-fives and playground-style swings reveal a lot about the culture at Johnston Group Inc. That’s the view of Brittany Hart, a special projects co-ordinator for the group benefit plan administrator based in Winnipeg.

“Soon after I joined Johnston Group five years ago, we attempted to set a world record for the number of consecutive high-fives our team could manage in three minutes,” she recalls. “It was a fundraiser for the non-profit KidSport. I wasn’t on the team, but it was a lot of fun. I remember going home and thinking, like, where do I work? I’d never heard of something like that in the corporate world.”

As for the swings, there are two located in a common mezzanine area off the lunchroom that also includes a staff library, comfortable lounging areas (napping allowed), and board games. By all accounts, the swings are quite popular; Hart herself enjoys them from time to time. “For a moment,” she notes, “you can just be a kid, relax and decompress.”

Before construction of Johnston Group’s new head office, Hart points out, employees were asked to weigh in on the design. What they got was a bright, airy headquarters. “There are no offices on the exterior walls,” she says, “so there’s no blocking of natural light. You can be touched by it no matter where you are in the building. Plus, we have a ton of plants and a living wall, which offers that moment to take a deep, calming breath and have a connection to nature outside.”

The building also has an on-site gym with regular classes; Hart enjoys doing yoga every week. Johnston Group president Dave Angus says promoting employee fun and well-being is paramount. “The purpose behind many of the things we do is that if we are enjoying ourselves, that’s a wellness contributor. It’s better for our mental health, we’re more productive and we want to come to work.” In addition, he points out, happy staff members lead to better relationships with the company’s clients. Johnston Group serves about 33,000 businesses across Canada, including 350 Indigenous organizations and communities, with more than $800 million in premiums under its administration. “How we treat our staff affects how we treat our customers. That’s part of our secret sauce.”

Johnston Group has myriad policies and programs to support employee wellness. Since the advent of COVID-19, it has implemented a hybrid work arrangement – two days at home, three days in the office – abetted by an annual $500 lifestyle account that can be used for setting up a home office or anything else, from new workout equipment to learning a new language to art classes to taking care of a pet’s medical needs.

As well, the company provides up to $2,500 annually to pay for mental-health practitioners and an annual $500 health-spending account.

Overall, says Hart, she feels privileged to be part of a company that does so much for its staff and its community – the company supports more than 100 local organizations. “I get to be a part of our holiday party and of our Pride celebrations or winter events. I always find a moment when I’m a contributing factor in getting someone to smile, because this is just such a great place to be.”

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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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