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Ontario Dental Association employees can reconnect over educational themes at its team-building days.Provided

Over the past six years with the Ontario Dental Association (ODA), Tamara Gligorevic has moved from administrative assistant to health policy specialist to her current position as senior adviser, health policy. “We are a membership-driven organization, so we put our membership interests first,” says Gligorevic. “But when it comes to hiring and retaining staff, the ODA wants to ensure employees are supported and happy in the workplace.”

That was a motivating factor behind the ODA’s institution of the FLOW (Flexible Location of Work) policy. “It was really developed to address the work-life balance dilemma that many people experience,” explains CEO Frank Bevilacqua. “Going through the COVID-19 pandemic caused a lot of people to re-evaluate what they’ve been doing.”

The policy allows for employees to work anywhere they choose – from full-time remotely to full-time in the office or a hybrid. “We demonstrated during the pandemic that we were able to remain very productive and continue to deliver what we needed in terms of our jobs, but with the added benefit of providing work-life balance,” he adds.

That change was hugely beneficial for Gligorevic, who now works from her home in Midland, Ont. “As a first-time home buyer, there’s no way I could have bought a house in Toronto,” she says. “With FLOW, I get to work from home, and my productivity, my morale and my mental health in general have improved. ODA has been so supportive.”

Four times a year, though, the entire team comes together in ODA’s Toronto headquarters for Anchor Days, which give workmates a chance to reconnect and new hires the opportunity to meet their colleagues. “They are team-building days,” Bevilacqua says, “and they’re designed to improve our work culture.”

Typically, an Anchor Day has an educational theme: this past fall, for example, the ODA held sessions related to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which included a trip to see an exhibit of Indigenous art at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Another Anchor Day focused on cybersecurity. In the summer, the group is more likely to head outside for food trucks and activities.

The ODA fully supports employees’ continuing education as long as it will help fulfill the association’s mandate. Gligorevic is pursuing an online master’s degree. “I am being financially supported, and they have said that they’re happy to support me with work-life balance, whether it’s changing my working hours or moving to part-time,” she says.

For many employees, the ODA is much more than just a job. “It’s being part of an overall mission – to ensure that as many Ontarians as possible have access to optimal oral health-care services,” says Bevilacqua. “A lot of people who come to work here want to be part of an enterprise that is engaged in doing some good for society. There’s some good personal fulfilment.”

It’s a huge incentive for Gligorevic. “Everything I do has an impact,” she says, whether it’s creating policy position statements that affect the membership, providing education on members’ professional, legal and ethical obligations or advocating on dentists’ behalf to the provincial government. “I’m helping to ensure they can run their practice. That makes me feel like I’m doing something with purpose.”

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