Why Husky Energy built a kinder, gentler office space in St. John’s

A lot of the posts I write in this space focus on some area of controversy going on in the resource extraction sector.

That’s the nature of journalism. Conflict is viewed as a more interesting thing to write and read about than ‘good’ news.

But last week a CBC story caught my attention. It highlighted how Husky Energy designed its new office space in downtown St. John’s so it can be used by everybody.

The Calgary-based company, which announced it is going ahead with the West White Rose extension project in May, invited CBC and wheelchair-bound Thomas Rogers to tour the facility.

The move is a great public relations exercise for Husky. It gets the word out that it is an enlightened employer and corporate citizen.

However, that doesn’t mean the company isn’t sincere in its efforts to make the Water Street office space a place that anyone can use or work in – no matter what their disability or physical condition might be.

Not only is doing so good for society as a whole, I think it also helps Husky in its effort to attract top talent to its operations in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This is not an unimportant thing. As companies all over Atlantic Canada, and the world, deal with an aging workforce of baby boomers retiring or near retirement, finding employees who are talented and will help your business thrive is one of the key challenges facing employers.

This is even more challenging for the oil and gas industry. A 2017 survey by EY discovered a large number of respondents in the Gen Z  (16-19 year olds) and millennials (20-35 year olds) age range found a career in the sector unappealing.

That’s largely because they don’t view oil and gas as a favourable fuel choice for the globe.

But if an employer can show it cares about issues like accessibility in the workplace and is willing to do something about it, that can change perceptions.

It can also make the company appealing to employees who have disabilities, which enlarges the prospective labour pool Husky can recruit from.

The time and money spent by Husky to design an office space that can be enjoyed by all in St. John’s certainly is the right thing to do.

It also makes a lot of sense from a business perspective.

Well done, Husky Energy. May other companies follow in your footsteps.

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