The Down’s Syndrome Research Foundation: A Healthy Workplace – A Success Story

The Down Syndrome Research Foundation likes to think of itself as one big family. DSRF’s mandate is to empower individuals with Down syndrome to reach their full potential – a mission that inevitably extends beyond the students themselves to encompass the families who love and care for them.

That community feeling was on display in early June, when a crowd of 1,000 gathered at Simon Fraser University for the 20th Annual Run Up for Down Syndrome. The event set new records for the Foundation, which raised more than $115,000 through the Run – every dollar of which will be used to provide support to families seeking to make the best possible life for their sons and daughters with Down syndrome.

DSRF’s family first philosophy starts at home, with its own staff. The organization was recognized in 2014 as the Burnaby Board of Trade’s Family Friendly Organization of the Year.

The Down Syndrome Research Foundation is committed to creating a work environment that supports employees as they balance the demands and responsibilities of work and home, by providing a flexible and supportive workplace and an organizational culture characterized by family-friendly policies and practices.

As a not-for-profit organization, DSRF’s team members make many sacrifices in choosing a career at DSRF. The staff work exceptionally hard, in many cases for pay that does not match what they could make in the private sector. They do this because they believe strongly in the cause, and desire to make a lasting impact in the lives of individuals with Down syndrome and their families.

In return for their commitment, DSRF makes every effort to be understanding and accommodating of its employees’ personal needs, while also creating a fun and collaborative work environment. DSRF’s family-friendly policies include flexible work schedules, the ability to work from home, extended Christmas vacation, generous sick and personal day policies, staff discounts on DSRF programs and services (for those staff members who have children of their own with Down syndrome) and opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Glen Hoos, DSRF’s Director of Marketing and Development, came to appreciate the Foundation’s family orientation when his 10-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome, was diagnosed with leukemia. With his daughter in BC Children’s Hospital for two months and three other kids to juggle at home, work necessarily took a back seat as Hoos and his wife traded off home and hospital duty.

DSRF was more than supportive, with management encouraging Hoos to take all the time he needed, and generous co-workers willingly stepping up to fill in the gaps. The flexibility has lasted well beyond the initial hospital stay, as DSRF has given Hoos the freedom to work from home as often as needed to accommodate his daughter’s frequent medical appointments.

This commitment to the well-being of its employees has served the organization well, engendering a deep sense of loyalty amongst a staff team that experiences very little turnover, while extending the same care they have received to the families they serve.