In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Town of Newmarket is prioritizing the well-being of its staff and its community by creating a new role — chief positivity officer.
“First and foremost, it was about the collective health of the organization,” says Jamie Boyle, the Town’s supervisor of customer service, who was given the honourary role at the end of March. “If we are here to serve our residents in the town, we have to be taking care of ourselves as well.”
The position of chief positivity officer makes sense, says Devan Corrigan, founder and principal at Corrigan HR Consulting. “For the Town of Newmarket to be able to step back and [figure out] how they were going to be able to help their employees through this [pandemic] was really smart.”
While the role had no formal job description, Boyle says he was instructed to bolster spirit and morale and increase staff culture. “We’re making it up as we go, from a good point of view.”
Among several new initiatives, he sends out a weekly email called Friday Morning Feel Good, which is full of quotes, fun facts and feel-good stories. “It seems cheesy at times, but it has been our biggest draw. There isn’t a week [that] goes by where I don’t have half a dozen emails saying, ‘Thank you for this. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this.’”
Toward the end of April, the Town of Newmarket also started a “shout-out” program on its company intranet to recognize the everyday actions of staff. For 12 weeks, Boyle picked a “shout out” each week, with the nominator and the nominee each receiving a gift certificate for a local business. “It helped the [local] business stay afloat, but also thanked the staff for doing what they do,” he says.
Promoting a positive employee mindset is key. “Don’t look at the negativity, at the ugly and the grey and the scary,” he says. “Yes, we have to face and accept [the pandemic], but my role here is to also look at what is around and what we are grateful for and what we do need to focus on because it comes back to mental health.”
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While a chief positivity officer is mainly focused on current employees, Corrigan says the role can be a benefit to attracting future staff as well. “You’re creating a positive work environment.”
And job seekers, especially the newer generations, for whom work-life balance and positivity in the workplace are increasingly important, would likely see the Town of Newmarket as a forward-thinking organization, he adds.
For Boyle, it’s about how important employees are to their employers. “If you appreciate the people who work for you, consider that you need a committee or a role like a [chief positivity officer].”
Brooke Smith is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto.