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Julie Castle

Happy National Employee Appreciation Day!

By Julie Castle
Photos by Sarah Ause Kichas
No matter what your business is, people should be valued.

Working Americans spend, on average, 90,000 hours at work over the course of their lifetimes. During a 35-year career, this amounts to about one-third of their overall time and half of their waking hours. Of course, as employees, we’re all compensated for our work and good employers take care to show their appreciation in other ways, such as bonuses and individual acknowledgment. Rewards like these are important and should be a component of an overall approach to employee appreciation, but not the only part.

When viewed through the lens of half of someone’s waking hours, appreciation shouldn’t be transactional or transitory. Appreciation has to be a function of how we do business. While it’s true that those of us in animal welfare are fortunate to have our passion be our profession, the flip side is that our work can be mentally and emotionally taxing. Best Friends’ employees truly pour their hearts and souls into their work, and it’s critical that their workplace is a reflection of how they want to spend their time, one that gives them a sense of ownership and belonging.

Of course, the only way to know how to create a workplace like that is to ask, so we conducted surveys, made sure to have open lines of communication and had essential parts of how we do business driven by what we learned from our staff. We worked hard to have a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace, with all employee-driven programs and initiatives.

During the early days of COVID-19, instead of sending emails about the daily operational changes we were making, I went live, every day, and spoke to Best Friends’ staff. We looked to see how the pandemic affected different groups, such as remote workers and workers with young children, and tailored our programs to meet their specific needs. Our senior leadership has continued to conduct regular live events, including updates on organizational finances, operations and our progress toward achieving no-kill by 2025. People deserve to be informed.

We also know that this isn’t everything that can be done and that there are certainly ways that Best Friends can be an even better place to work, so we’ll keep asking questions and looking at how we can improve.

Not a day goes by when I’m not amazed by Best Friends’ staff. The bigger the challenge, the more they dig in. However high the expectations, those expectations are consistently exceeded. And the more they give of their time, toil and tears, the more we want to give back, not just on National Employee Appreciation Day, but every day.

Yes, Best Friends is an animal welfare organization. We were founded on the principle of kindness, and it continues to underpin everything we do. But no matter what your business is, people want to know they’re valued. And if your employees can feel appreciated by the workplace environment that you helped them create, they’ll appreciate you, too.

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Julie Castle with dog
Julie Castle
CEO
Best Friends Animal Society
Tags: Editorial