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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Van City Credit Union has chalked up two awards, the first as the best place to work in Canada and another as one of 10 U.S. and Canadian companies recognized for programs and policies that create psychologically healthy workplaces. The first honor came from Maclean’s magazine, with a circulation of almost three million. For three years the weekly has published an annual list of the top 100 employers in Canada. This year, for the first time, the magazine tapped VanCity as the top employer in Canada. What made VanCity stand out? Maclean’s answered the question this way in an article profiling the credit union: “It’s been doing for years what others only now recognize as workplace trends. It gives employees autonomy. It gives them good pay and smart perks. It gives them fun. And it gives them a clear conscience.” Evidently VanCity’s desirable status as a workplace is no secret. The article noted that in 2003 the credit union, with 1,600 employees, received 12,000 job applications. Maclean’s noted the “list of benefits and perks is extensive: three weeks of vacation in the first year, plus an option to trade unused benefits for more days off; low-interest loans, mortgages and credit lines; tuition subsidies; transit subsidies for Vancouver’s light rail transit system. The head office, which straddles a SkyTrain station, has meditation and lactation rooms, an employee-run library, and subsidized parking for those who carpool. The company pays the full cost of a flexible benefits plan.” Another VanCity feature: “Last year it handed out $5.2 million in community donations, a whopping 13.5% of earnings. By comparison, donations by Canada’s eight largest banks, while much greater in dollar amount, averaged only one percent of their earnings.” Just as the VanCity staff was celebrating this honor in early October, in mid-month word came of still more recognition when the American Psychological Association ranked the credit union among the top 10 companies for contributions to employees’ psychological well-being. The APA picked nominees from a list of more than 180 state- and provincial-level Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award winners. The association argues employee psychological health is more than a touchy-feely factor. It cites estimates from the American Institute of Stress indicating workplace stress costs the U.S. industry $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, and direct medical, legal and insurance fees. A poll this year by the APA found one in four workers had called in sick or taken a “mental health day.” -

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