health & wellness
Back at the office at SAP Vancouver, Agnes Garaba was the HR
business partner for Shafiq’s unit. She didn’t know Shafiq at the
time, but remembers the tremendous faith her managers and team
had in her ability to recover.
“Felicia was off for a long time, but her team never doubted that
she would be back,” said Garaba. “I’m really proud of the team for
making sure she wasn’t forgotten in the years she was off and making
her feel welcome and included in the SAP life.”
Today, Garaba is the head of HR for SAP Canada and believes
in the importance of supporting the diverse needs of all employees.
“In a time when it can be very challenging to find the right talent,
it’s imperative for organizations to be attuned to what our
talent needs,” she said. “Sometimes, that means people go through
ups and downs. Even if it takes 3.5 years to get back to work, it’s
important to support them.”
According to the Canada Labour Code, most employers must
protect employees from dismissal, lay-off, suspension, demotion
or discipline because of an absence due to illness or injury for any
absence not exceeding 17 weeks.
However, some companies, including SAP Canada, offer extended
benefits that accommodate longer-term disability leaves
and leaves of absence for a variety of reasons. Garaba says their
programs serve to help employees bring their best to the workplace.
“Whether it’s recovering from an illness or pursuing a passion,
we provide employees with opportunities and programs that give
them time off without having to worry about their job being at
risk,” said Garaba.
SAP Canada’s short- and long-term disability program allows
employees to touch base with the company if they fall ill and need
to be off for more than 10 consecutive days. If an illness requires
more time off, a member of the Leave of Absence team gets involved
“Our Leave of Absence team is in place as an intermediary to
help employees talk to our insurance vendors and provide the information
they need,” said Garaba.
When Shafiq was ready to return to work, SAP Canada arranged
an ergonomic assessment to determine what kind of set-up
and equipment she might need.
“For the most part, everything is as it was,” said Shafiq. “We made
sure the monitors were at the right level, my seat was comfortable
and that I had a low-profile keyboard to help with my hands.”
It wasn’t long after she was digging into new and old projects
at work that Shafiq was approached by a physiotherapist about
joining a sitting volleyball team. It hit a sore spot: even watching
standard volleyball on TV made her emotional.
She dismissed the idea, but told a friend about it.
“He told me to do it,” she said. “My friend said, ‘I can see you
on a podium one day accepting a medal for sitting volleyball.’”
She gave it a try. Last year, Shafiq and her sitting volleyball team
competed in the Parapan Am Games in Toronto and qualified
for the 2016 Paralympic Games. They travelled to Rio this past
September to play.
The pursuit of this passion has meant intensive training, including
flying to Edmonton once a month. Once again, Shafiq availed
herself of SAP Canada’s progressive leave options. Garaba says the
company is happy to support her.
“We’ve found that when we allow people to take time away from
work to pursue personal goals, they are enriched,” said Garaba.
“The energy they get from fulfilling a goal comes straight back into
A flexible work environment, including working from home and
self-managed hours are just a couple of ways they make it work.
“We don’t have a written program about our flexible environment.
Each department has its own subculture about what works
and what doesn’t,” said Garaba.
Shafiq also takes advantage of SAP Canada’s Month of Service
program, which allows employees to volunteer time to non-profit
organizations. It’s no surprise that she’s teaching kids with different
abilities how to play sitting volleyball. She says it’s job benefits
like these that help her make the most of her life – before and after
“The kind of support and care that SAP gives me makes me
want to give back to the company,” she said. “I’m more involved in
different projects and initiatives and I’m interested in participating
in projects that go beyond the scope of my regular work. It motivates
me to do more.” n
“IN A TIME WHEN IT CAN
BE VERY CHALLENGING
TO FIND THE RIGHT
TALENT, IT’S IMPERATIVE
FOR ORGANIZATIONS TO
BE ATTUNED TO WHAT
OUR TALENT NEEDS.”
– AGNES GARABA, SAP CANADA
34 ❚ NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL