Search Sovereign
Search Icon

Sovereign’s AccessAbility Week contest winner upgrades the office with greenery

5 minute read

Sovereign’s AccessAbility Week contest winner upgrades the office with greenery

By: Sovereign Insurance

Share:mail icon

As Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives gain traction across sectors, Sovereign has embraced this movement – and invited its partners to join the journey.

In honour of Canada’s AccessAbility Week last spring, Sovereign launched a nationwide contest, giving their brokers and partners the chance to win $20,000 in accessibility upgrades for their office space. The winner could choose how the funds would best enhance their space. Suggestions included: ergonomic furniture, such as office chairs or height-adjustable desks; improved signage (for example, in Braille); lighting (for example, dimmable lights or lighting adjusted to circadian rhythms); a corporate wellness room; AODA website compliance (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act); and plants to support biophilia – the idea that humans innately seek connections with nature and other living things.

The contest was inspired by Sovereign’s new redesign of its Calgary office space, which includes accessibility features such as Braille signage, a gender-neutral washroom with a baby change table, enhanced green spaces, ergonomic workstations, adjustable lighting, a wellness room, accessible kitchen appliances and lower countertops, and more. 

The winner – MHK Insurance in Edmonton – chose to “go green” with a biophilia project that included two feature walls and framed pieces that incorporated preserved moss.

“We’ve been at our location in Edmonton since 1987, so an opportunity to invest in a place that we love and has become a landmark in our community was very exciting to us,” says Jana Lumsden, Chief Financial Officer at MHK Insurance. “We were just thrilled to win.”

A small seating area with black leather armchairs  
(MHK Insurance office before installation)

For MHK Insurance, adding plant life to the office was a natural choice. “Greenery in the workplace offers more than an aesthetic value,” says Jana, who was part of a small committee that was formed to look at all the options and decide which one to implement.

In fact, research shows that in addition to improving indoor air quality, plants and greenery contribute to an environment of reduced stress, enhanced employee attitudes, and increased productivity. “Even though we were looking for opportunities to beautify the office, we were also looking to honour the spirit of the contest, which was enhancing the lives of people in our organization,” Jana says.

 To carry out the biophilia project, MHK enlisted a local horticultural service company, Greenjeans Interiorscape, which specializes in interior and exterior plant design, maintenance, and installations. The company crafted custom works of art using preserved moss, and the pieces were installed this past December. 

Two people in blue t-shirts and grey baseball caps are installing a plant walll
(Greenjeans installing moss walls at MHK Insurance office)

“Moss walls are the perfect solution for adding green to a space,” says Jennifer Mills, Design & Estimating at Greenjeans. “They provide a unique biophilic design element, promote calmness and wellness, and offer an aesthetically beautiful conversation piece.” In addition, she adds that moss walls require minimal maintenance, help with noise reduction, and offer a healthier work environment by connecting staff to nature.

For the wall behind the reception desk at MHK, Greenjeans created three, 20-inch maple-framed hexagons, which were painted black and filled with various species of preserved moss and foliage. To play off the colours in MHK’s logo, hints of charcoal and golden yellow reindeer moss were included.

For two feature walls – one in the reception area and one in the boardroom – Greenjeans created floor-to-ceiling mixed moss walls with various shades of green using different species of moss, as well as charcoal and golden yellow reindeer moss. To complete the design, five maple-framed hexagon accent pieces were incorporated in each as well, featuring elements like mini planters, mixed moss, and preserved foliage. In addition, framed hexagon accent pieces were created for MHK’s Calgary office.

While the concept of biophilia in the workplace was new to MHK, the company has an ongoing focus on employee wellbeing. Just last year, for example, MHK made a major investment in ergonomic office furniture. “We pride ourselves on taking care of our employees and we’re always looking for ways to provide a comfortable environment and enhance life at MHK,” says Jana. 

A plant wall next to a leather armchair
(Complete moss wals at MHK Insurance office)

That goes for employees and clients alike. Jana recounts that, just after the moss art was installed, a client walked into the reception area and commented on how beautiful the installations are. “It’s a great conversation starter with clients, and the reaction in-house has been incredible as well,” Jana says. “People love the freshness and appreciate the art that it is. It’s a spectacular addition to our office.”