More Than 700 People Gather Online For The Upside Of People, HR Conference & Expo


One thread of learning wove its way throughout many of the sessions over the two days of the Upside of People, HR Conference & Expo, seemingly coming up regularly in both keynote and breakout sessions.

That thread: loneliness 

Over and over again, that 10-letter-word popped up as being the root cause for many of the problems HR professionals encounter on a regular basis. From mental health to workplace culture to employees behaving badly to substance abuse to retaining/hiring staff to diversity, inclusion and equity—loneliness worked its way into so many of the great sessions—in one form or another.

So, in a nutshell, if you missed the event on Sept. 27th & 28th ensure your employees know you are there for them and they are not alone. Simple things like genuine compassion, care, communication and empathy can go a long way to alleviating many kinds of workplace issues.

Ironically, despite the entire event being virtual and most people in fact learning alone—loneliness appeared to be the last feeling attendees were having as many actively engaged in the live sessions, the Q&As with speakers, polls, networking opportunities, the scavenger hunt, the photo booth and interacted with the more than 50 vendors.

The activity breaks were one of the more popular attractions and featured yoga, posture training, a dance party and Bhangra lessons. 

In total, if attendees go back and watch each and every session, they will accumulate more than 23 continuing professional development credits.

Dr. Roberta Bondar

Dr. Roberta Bondar opened conference reminding us about how biases can both directly and indirectly impact our growth, and how we should never let biases get in the way of achieving the things we want.

One lesson she shared with us that she learned while in space was, in life, when we’re on the ground, we are often constrained and follow what we know, i.e., I’m on the ground, my feet are down there, the sky is up there and so on. In space, there really aren’t any constraints on you. You float around and your feet, the ground and the sky really could be anywhere at any time.

Having no constraints on you allows you to see and imagine the world differently.

Next time you encounter a problem you’re having troubles solving, try removing the constraints around it and looking at it differently.

Lastly, she left us with her thoughts around how strong teams are built.

Try looking at your team as a ‘person’. There are many parts that make up a good person just like there are many parts that make up a good team. Your team should reflect your shared values and different backgrounds and perspectives are key to great teams.

Kelly Lendsay

Kelly Lendsay closed the first day of conference by offering up a brief history lesson about Canada’s shared past with Indigenous People and reminded us all how new and fresh the important topic of reconciliation really is.

For all of us to move forward, we first all need to learn about each other and why certain things are important.

One lesson Kelly hoped CPHR BC & Yukon members would commit to was incorporating land acknowledgments into their meetings, communications and marketing strategies.

To paraphrase him, they’re really easy to do. They show respect to the people whose lands you’re on, that came before you. They’re fun. And in reality, they really only take 15 or so seconds to do. There really isn’t a good argument to why you shouldn’t be doing them.

If you’re looking for advice on how to do them, there are many great resources online to help you with land acknowledgements or you can try connecting with your local Indigenous community—they will likely be more than happy to provide you guidance.

Secondly, Kelly called upon businesses and HR leaders to read and take action on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, point number 92, which is focused on things businesses can do to work towards reconciliation. 

With the Indigenous population growing faster than almost any other group in Canada, the way we move forward is together and that starts with understanding each other. If you’re looking for ways to increase your workforce’s awareness of Indigenous history and culture, Kelly offered these six ideas.

  • Have employees read an Indigenous author’s book then talk about it
  • Have staff watch an Indigenous movie then talk about it
  • Adopt land acknowledgements in your workplace—website, email signatures and prior to meetings are a few suggestions
  • Encourage staff and leaders to be mentors to the Indigenous community
  • Visit an Indigenous community – you will be welcomed
  • Adopt the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action

Johann Hari

Kicking off day two, was bestselling author Johann Hari, who attempted to solve the mystery of why is it, every day that he’s been alive (40+ years), depression has seemingly increased every day?

His theory, that while some factors for depression are biological and need to be treated accordingly with medicine, most of the factors that cause depression are in the in the world around us.

Johann highlighted this with a story about a rice farmer who was depressed and angry with the world because working in the rice fields, day-in-and-day-out, was causing him extreme pain in his prosthetic leg. How his community looked at treating the man’s depression wasn’t with medicine, but rather by asking why the man was so depressed and angry.

His community concluded that his occupation was the root cause of his depression and anger. Because his occupation was the issue, they asked the question, does this man need to be a rice farmer, or could we maybe give him a cow and make a dairy farmer?

The community all pulled together and bought the man a cow. He’s been happy ever since, so in some sense you could view the cow as an antidepressant. 

He then shared stories about why people feel so much lonelier since the Covid-19 pandemic began 18 months ago.

People once thought that loneliness is measured by the amount of people you talk to in a day—the more people you talk to, the less lonely you are.

This is false.

The key to solving loneliness is how many reciprocal relationships we have in a day, not how many conversations we have in a day. We need to have daily reciprocal relationships to undo loneliness.

Johann concluded by highlighting the single biggest contributing factor for depression in the workplace—employees not having control over their work.

HR should be empowering employees to have control over their work.

Nora Young

The conference came to a close with CBC Spark host, Nora Young sharing her thoughts on how the world around us has evolved over time and how big data is impacting our lives.

To showcase how the world around us is always changing Nora told a story about the telephone.

Did you know that when the telephone was first invented, we answered it by saying, “What is wanted?”. This later transitioned to, “Ahoy” and later to the more common,” Hello” that we use today.

She told this story to showcase how when things are new, we often don’t really know how to use them to their full potential—kind of like how we’re all currently figuring out how big data can and should be used in today’s world.

One way data is being used to better our lives for the most part is the data that is collected by Google while you drive.  As you drive, Google tracks you and how fast you’re getting from point ‘A’ to ‘B’. This data is then used to give us all an idea of how traffic is flowing and what may be the quickest way to get from point ‘A’ to ‘B’.

Nora did caution that while using data for something like this may seem great, we do need to be aware that increasingly, the data we collect is out pacing our policies, which could become problematic in the future.

The keys are trust and transparency in data collection and storage. When collecting, using and consenting to data collection we should always be mindful of how the data is being used and will people agree with the use.

Getting Social

Here are some of our top Tweets from the breakout sessions.

Looking for all our great takeaways? Give us a follow on Twitter.  

Thank You Sponsors


  • Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia
  • Western Compensation & Benefits Consultants
  • Optimum Talent
  • First Advantage


  • BCIT School of Business + Media
  • Roper Greyell LLP
  • Integra
  • TELUS Employer Solutions
  • LoganHR


  • ADP Canada
  • TeksMed Services Inc.
  • EHN Canada
  • UBC Sauder Continuing Business Studies
  • Harris & Company LLP


  • BC Association of Clinical Counsellors
  • TD Insurance
  • MindBeacon
  • ScreeningCanada



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