An Empathetic Approach to Workplace Wellbeing: Our Interview with Creative Options Regina

An Empathetic Approach to Workplace Wellbeing: Our Interview with Creative Options Regina

Updated: May 1

CMHA Mental Health Week is all about sharing stories. At Headway, we love sharing stories of how others are making strides to improve mental health in the workplace. Throughout the week, we will be sharing best practises from interviews with experts and leaders working to champion mental health in their organizations. We hope it inspires your team to take action!

In our latest blog, we sat down with Casey Sakires from Creative Options Regina (COR) to learn more about their mental health initiatives and how they are creating a culture of balance and wellness by leading with empathy.

 

Founded in 2009, Creative Options Regina (COR) is a for-impact, charitable organization that develops personalized support services for people experiencing disabilities. They recognize the unique and often emotionally draining circumstances their employees can work under when caring for vulnerable populations day-to-day, leading them to a “care for the caregiver” approach to employee well-being.

We became familiar with COR as a fellow recipient of a Canadian Workplace Wellness Award for excellence in mental health and wellness initiatives. Through our own Headway initiative, we look to shine a spotlight on businesses championing mental health and share best practices to inspire other leaders to take action. We sat down with Casey Sakires, Employee Experience Advisor with COR, to learn more about his company’s balanced approach to wellness and why open, honest dialogue is key to creating a mentally safe environment.

According to Casey, these are some of the initiatives they’ve seen success with:

Judgment-free debriefs.

If someone has had a challenging day, a judgment-free conversation will help them make peace with the emotions inside. Casey mentioned that team members can debrief with anyone they desire from the CEO to directors to coordinators, all judgment-free. This enables a strong support system so employees will not have to suffer in silence and bottle up their emotions which we know can put a strain on our physical and mental health.

Collaboration with community professionals.

COR understands that stress can come from anywhere and prioritizes caring for the caregiver so that they can provide the best care possible for those they serve. This inspired COR to consult with experts in various areas to focus on the holistic health of their supports. For example, finance experts from CPA Saskatchewan, RBC, CIBC, and Leipert Financial conducted sessions to help ease the financial stress that employees were burdened with. It better equipped the teams with financial know-how, and people made real community connections that lived on beyond the sessions, enabling more trust and rapport.

Enabling personal initiatives.

COR takes it upon itself to facilitate well-being in the workplace and enable employees to fulfill their well-being journeys outside of work. To round out the body element of their holistic approach, COR offers employee discounts on gym memberships, yoga classes, and spin classes in collaboration with local businesses. These are done as a fitness bursary everyone can take advantage of to improve their physical health which we know can help ease mental health struggles as well.

When it comes to new learnings, Casey says the shift from in-person to virtual was a learning experience for their team:

When the pandemic hit and the world became unfamiliar, COR learned to rely on its central purpose to guide them. Their central purpose is to ensure people experience connectedness, companionship, and community. They acted through intentional listening and learning directly from employees to better understand their needs and the needs of their loved ones. Knowing what was uniquely important to each member allowed them to respond meaningfully to best support COR employees as they continued to endure the pandemic. During the pandemic and still today, success to COR is knowing that their workforce feels safe and valued, making psychological safety paramount. And while COR managed to stay connected during the pandemic, their employees are glad to be back to interacting more in-person today, as this improves the impact of their wellbeing initiatives that much more.

We want to thank Casey and Creative Options Regina for sharing the ups and downs of their well-being journey. We hope these learnings will inspire your company to consider new ways of working and create a mentally healthier workplace.

Read the full article here.

Designed to inspire action, our Headway Program helps business leaders take the next step toward creating mentally healthy workplaces. Navigating this complex topic can be tough. Our team can help with resources, tools, and a tailored plan based on your unique needs. Email us at headway@sklarwilton.com.

Meet the COR Family: Landon Gordon

Hi there! I am Landon! I am the Youth Experience Advisor at COR! I have been at COR for 12 years now and first started as a support which eventually led me to become a key support, and team leader, and then to the position I am in today! Believe it or not, I actually found out about COR through Kijiji! One of my favorite projects is helping start new teams! It is so amazing to watch the progress of the people we support as well as watch the progress of their teams! One of my favorite parts of COR is just being there! It is such a great organization and supports people in the best way possible! If I had any advice for anyone who is thinking about joining COR, it’s that COR is a great place filled with even better people.

Fun facts about me! 

  • My favorite book is S. by Doug Dorst
  • My favorite quote is “Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”

  • In my spare time, I like to visit with friends and family.

Gentle Teaching Stories: “There is no need for force when someone just wants to be understood and heard.”

Meet Our COR Family: Shannon Wiebe

Hello!!  My name is Shannon. I am one of the mentors and have been with COR for the past five years. I also facilitate Coaching and Gentle Teaching Training, as well as complete Personal Outcomes.  My days are filled with many different and meaningful opportunities to connect with others. From spending time with those we support and their families to all of you! Prior to COR, I was the Coordinator with Regina Residential Services Co-management Committee.  For 18 years, I had the privilege of planning with families.

I always look forward to the summer BBQ’s when I visit with families who share with me how happy they are that their son or daughter is living a purposeful, meaningful, and loving life. A few of my favorite memories over the years have been 100 Acts of Kindness, cardboard box sledding, and chats I have with families.  I also am inspired when someone says to me –

“Guess what I did?”

This could be someone we are supporting who tried something new,  just got a job, met up for coffee with someone, or learned how to garden. It could also be someone I’m mentoring who conquered one of their own personal goals. I’m cheering for all of you!!

Fun Facts about me!

  • My favorite book is my Bible!

One of my favorite quotes is –“Humility is the most beautiful virtue that we can develop”- Joyce Myer.

  • Something people are surprised to learn about me is that I have my motorbike license.   My husband and I enjoy taking trips on the bike together. The farthest we have gone is Monterey Bay, California. In my free time I enjoy walking our dogs, Murphy and Mochaccino, reading,  journaling and spending time with my grandkids (and the rest of my family too) 😉

Meet Our COR Family: Alexa Kupchyk

Hi, I’m Alexa! I am a support worker for individuals who experience intellectual disabilities. I have been at COR for about 5 years now and first learned about it through a friend after hearing about how much he enjoyed his work at COR! I am currently a part-time support since I am in school at the moment! I have completed my Bachelor of Arts in psychology and sociology, and currently in my third year of a bachelor’s in social work! I am very interested in pursuing a Masters in social work with a focus on counseling so I can become a counselor for people with disabilities one day! Another aspect of COR I am a part of is being the creative encourager! I also teach a dance class during the spring and summer! I have been teaching my dance class for a couple of years now and I really enjoy getting to meet and teach different individuals! Often times I end up learning new dance moves from the people who come to the class which is always a blast!

My proudest moment at COR was when I supported an individual during a difficult evening, and just my presence and the relationship I had built with them leading up to that moment allowed the individual to be very vulnerable and honest with me about their feelings. I felt proud that they felt comfortable enough with me to open up, and also that they were able to express how they felt in a healthy way which is something we had been working on for a long time. My relationship with that individual has only continued to grow since then and even though I am no longer on their team, I still see them as much as possible and I consider them a true lifelong friend. My advice for prospective COR candidates is to go in with an open mind and learn as much as you can! COR offers so many incredible training courses that help make us not only better supports, but better people too. I’ve found myself using lots of what I learned in training and through support in my daily life.

Fun facts about me!
-My favourite quote is “failure means you tried”. Trying new things and getting creative is one of my favorite things to do as a support and a creative encourager. Even if things don’t go as planned, I know I tried which is always better than doing nothing. We can always learn from failure, but we can’t learn from doing nothing.
-In my free time I enjoy going to the gym, kickboxing, and spending time with friends and family. I am truly blessed to have so many incredible people in my life and I love being able to spend as much time with them as possible.
-A fun fact about me is that I love adventures and anything that gets my adrenaline pumping! I have been skydiving twice now, and my next big adventure will hopefully be swimming with sharks!

Meet Our COR Family: Dillon Schmidt

Hi. I’m Dillon! I began as a support on the adult side of COR in 2018. Approximately six months after starting, I was approached to join a new team on the youth side. I jumped at the opportunity and within that team, went from support to Key Support to Team Leader. I spent a little over a year as a Team Leader before taking a three-month parental leave. When I returned from leave in June 2022, I stepped into my current role which is a Youth Experience Advisor. My main role is capacity building within the youth teams. I work directly with supports to help build competence and confidence both as individual supports and as a collective team. I work with everyone from new hires to Team Leaders to accomplish this goal. I have also recently become a trainer for multiple pieces of training and workshops. I became a certified ASIST trainer in the fall of 2022. I also created an FASD workshop with the goal of filling what I perceived as an organizational knowledge gap. I’ve begun facilitating both and will be quite busy with them in 2023! Unlike most people in COR, I was not referred by a friend or family member. I wanted an organizational switch while still staying in the same field of work and happened upon COR in my search!

It has long been a goal of mine to become a training facilitator. In the fall of 2021, I was offered the opportunity to enroll in an online university certificate class centered around FASD. I did so with the goal of creating an FASD workshop to be disseminated within the organization. With the class and my parental leave completed, I was then able to create the workshop from the ground up. While I’ve only facilitated it a couple of times, I’ve received very positive feedback thus far and look forward to sharing my knowledge further in 2023. Additionally, I was also given the opportunity to become a certified ASIST trainer. Again, I’ve only facilitated ASIST a couple of times at this point but I look forward to continuing on a journey toward a goal I’ve had for several years!

COR is not a traditional job, nor is it a traditional organization. The organizational culture is unlike anything I’ve experienced elsewhere. While we expect a lot from all of our support, hard work is always rewarded. Positions and promotions are merit-based and you can be assured that going “above and beyond” will be recognized in tangible ways.

 

Fun Facts about me!

My favourite book is the Black Company series by Glen Cook.

I’m the father of a 15-month-old girl so my free time is spent guiding and watching a human being form before my eyes. Her being hilariously entertaining at all times is just an added bonus for me!

Everyone needs to feel safe, loved, loving, and engaged to grow and nurture their true spirit.

Meet Our COR Family: Kristyn White

Hi! I’m Kristyn, the Literacy Facilitator for Inclusion Regina/Creative Options Regina. I began my journey at COR as an undergraduate student at the University of Regina. Jim Temple came to one of my classes to talk to us about COR and the philosophy of Gentle Teaching, and before the class ended, I had already sent in my application. A few weeks later, I was hired as a Support Worker. As 2023 approaches, it will mark my 8th year with the organization! WOW, time flies, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of the COR family still.

I was a Support Worker for several years and eventually transitioned into the role of Team Leader. During this time, I also began facilitating Tell It Like It Is – a sexual health and wellness initiative that COR offered. I became passionate about supporting the sexuality of people living with disabilities, and this led me to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Regina. Shortly after becoming a graduate student, I started my role as Literacy Facilitator! My role involves the development and facilitation of Inclusion Regina’s literacy initiatives. People with disabilities and those within their support networks deserve access to comprehensive, accurate information on sexual health, financial literacy, technology use, reading, and much more. The opportunity to connect with the people we serve and those in the community is the best part of my role!

I am incredibly proud of the growth I have experienced at COR, not just with my career but also with myself! I was in my early 20s when I started at COR, and when I turned 30 this year, I realized I have quite literally watched myself grow up with the organization. My experiences at COR have been invaluable. This past October, I had one of my proudest career moments when I helped to organize a Sexuality & Disability conference that COR, Inclusion Saskatchewan, and Saskatoon Sexual Health hosted in Regina. The conference featured presenters from Saskatchewan and Alberta, a self-advocate panel, and over 100 attendees who came to learn about supporting the sexuality of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The event was a first of its kind in our province, and I am still beaming with pride as I reflect on the day. I am so lucky that I get to work alongside colleagues who I not only admire and learn from but who also support me and my aspirations. I am excited to see where my role at COR takes me in the future!

Fun Facts about me:

I was born and raised in Regina, and although it might not be the warmest or most exciting city, it is home. I have always believed that where you are doesn’t matter; what matters is who you are with. Spending time with the people I love is what makes me the happiest! In my free time, you can find me at our family cabin at Moosomin Lake, up North in Waskesiu, or camping with my partner, Jon. I love to explore new places and am always down for an adventure or road trip. I am obsessed with our pets (Sienna and Luna), and if I am not at the lake, I am likely spending my time telling them how cute they are.

Here are some facts you may (or may not) know about me: I have been vegan for over five years and love to cook, I taught myself how to build outdoor furniture, I hate watching people brush their teeth, I drink too much diet coke, I always forget how to spell the word ‘definitely’, I was once on the same flight as Pamela Anderson, and I hope to one day own a cabin in the mountains!

I hope you learned something new about me! Come and say hi next time you are in the COR Studio!!