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Finding ways to embrace culture and balance to the workspace

Ponoka FCSS hosts a special workshop on work-life and cultural understanding in the workplace
Tina Varughese (right), a professional speaker with tWorks spent the day at the Ponoka Legion Oct. 25 educating attendees on changes to the professional work environment. For lunch, folks were able to buy a handmade bowl from the Ponoka Potters Guild with funds from that fundraiser going to the Ponoka Food Bank. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

When it comes to the workplace, cross cultural skills and work-life balance are becoming an increasingly important focus.

To help professionals find that balance, Tina Varughese, a professional speaker with tWorks, presented several ideas to attendees of Ponoka’s Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) Empty Bowls fundraiser event Oct. 25.

Varughese spoke and hosted workshops on several topics such as inclusive leadership, cross-cultural communication and how to find some work-life balance.

“In inclusive leadership we talk about how we work with different people in the workplace and that we want to strive for positive, harmonious workplaces,” explained Varughese.

Some of the challenges leaders face in the workplace can be generational, cultural or behavioural such as individuals who are introverted or extroverted.

She likens the professional work environment to an aquarium that has a diverse range of fish from all over the world. While the fish tank is beautiful, it takes effort to maintain.

“I think it’s so important to adapt our leadership capacity to recognize who we are working with,” said Varughese. “And if we don’t remain adaptable or relevant then we can’t empower the people that we ultimately work with, manage or volunteer with.”

She adds that professionals are now in an environment where there are five generations in the workplace. A strong leadership creates an inclusive environment, explained Varughese.

In a culturally diverse workplace, Varughese suggests that while there are challenges, there are some great opportunities.

Some of those challenges could be in understanding how people from other cultures work while recognizing strengths in each.

“Canadians are known to be very individualistic,” said Varughese.

“Collectivists are people who look more at group harmony,” she added, pointing out that a collectivist doesn’t want to rock the boat.

“They look at hierarchy as being very important.”

Having that cultural understanding could help when a person is interviewing a potential employee. An individualistic person will have no issue selling themselves in a job interview but a collectivist might struggle with that idea as they tend to think of employees as part of the whole.

“They will look at what the group did,” said Varughese.

She pointed out that the pool of employees is changing in Canada with a larger base coming from outside of the country. As an example, Varughese added that this can include people from Germany as well as the Philippines.

Varughese’s focus is that knowledge is power. She suggests that it’s important for both cultures to find ways to adapt.

“I think it’s really important to recognize and understand that we are different, but we are also very much the same. Now, how to mitigate the challenge and embrace the opportunity?” she asked.

For more information on Varughese and her workshops visit

During lunch folks were able to buy a bowl of soup, and get a handmade bowl from the Ponoka Potters Guild. Money from the fundraiser went to the Ponoka Food Bank.