How to Stay Productive During COVID

In the troubling times that we’re in, there’s no surprise that people are finding it difficult to stay on track at work. Many are burnt out, stressed, and don’t see the point of focusing on a job that may not have any security. However, there are those that still have work they would like to do and want to get back to feeling like their old selves by taking some control of their lives. Here are some ways you can inch closer and closer to being productive at work during COVID.

Pick Your Spot

Having a dedicated workstation is a key move in getting yourself into the work mode. It should be a peaceful place that only you use frequently that inspires productivity. A desk, table, or countertop is suitable and it’s important that you’re not easily disturbed or distracted. This location can’t be too comfortable (beds are not ideal) and it should be a place that you can mentally log off from when you leave. Creating boundaries with work helps maintain balance. Consider some time off as if you were commuting to the office. This allows you to reset your focus.

Find a Routine

Since the pandemic, everyone all over the world has lost a sense of rhythm and is looking to get back into previously established habits. If you’re working from home or looking for work, it’s important to create a structured lifestyle that aids you in boosting productivity. Humans are creatures of habit, so having a clear path or project helps to keep things balanced and increases productivity.

The Right Clothes

Everyone works differently, both in and out of the office, so there are naturally different methods for different people. When it comes to dressing up, many took a break from the formal attire the office required (depending on the job) before the pandemic. For many, getting even slightly dressed up will help put them in the mood to get things done. There are clothes for every occasion and those clothes are designed to physically and mentally prepare you for the task ahead. So that might mean it’s time to start putting on pants again and not be too casual or too formal at home.  

Taking Breaks

Working all day around the clock isn’t healthy and working remotely doesn’t mean you have to overcompensate. Setting aside time for yourself at certain points of the day, whether it’s fifteen minutes of walking or napping, can get you the energy boost you need to finish the job. You can also call a friend or mentor to keep you motivated and on track in case you feel you need an extra boost.

Dontei Wynter | Staff Writer

Five Ways Women Excel as Leaders

Leadership is the engine that drives activity within organizations and nations. Given that millennials and Gen Z constitute a sizeable portion of the global workforce (21%), according to the International Labour Organization, they have expectations for a flexible workplace with a diverse constitution of senior management. A connected 21st century calls for a new breed of leaders. In the previous centuries, men dominated workplaces and gained leadership roles. However, now more people are open to having either men or women as a boss Moreover, a study by Harvard Business Review (2020) looked at how men and women fared in 19 leadership competencies. The results indicated that women were better than men in 13 of the 19 competencies. Let us look at some ways in which women are excelling as leaders through some of the researched leadership styles.

Transformational

LeadersIn, a UK-based organization that studies leadership, has found through research that women leaders exhibit the transformational style the most. A transformational leader seeks to motivate people to achieve the bigger goals or vision of a company. They encourage self-development as they have full knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of their team members and know how they can inspire others to improve themselves. Such leaders exhibit a high preference for ethical behaviour in dealings with others and support a workplace based on integrity and honesty.

Task-Oriented

Task-oriented leadership is understood as a style that focuses on the tasks that need to be completed to achieve targets or goals. Tasks like planning, scheduling and delegating are given the most importance. According to LeadersIn, both men and women have the capacity for this style. However, women tend to be more democratic and inclusive while managing as a task-oriented leader. Men, on the other hand, are prone to be autocratic while doing so.

Directive

Women, like men, can be directive too when it comes to their leadership style. However, if they act authoritatively and come across as domineering, it usually works against them as some people are not used to seeing women this way. Because of this, they may have to resort to pleasing their subordinates in hopes that they will obey, developing a personality that is a mix of autocratic balanced with interpersonal, democratic and communal aspects. While a style that is modified to meet agreement could be effective still, it is hoped that women who know how to deliver in a directive manner do not have to adapt.

Servant

Servant leadership style is assumed to be present in what is considered to be “feminine” characteristics, such as being less authoritarian, being encouraging of others, foregoing one’s interests over combined interests, advocating the use of shared power and considering interpersonal skills as a way to influence others. This mindset realizes that going far in work requires the support of others.

Transpersonal

Transpersonal is a fairly recent style of leadership, coined by the organization LeaderShape, that means going beyond the ego. It places types of intelligences in a hierarchy based on the ability to develop them: intellectual at the lowest rung, emotional in the middle and ethical at the highest level. Transpersonal leaders operate on well-respected ethical, emotional and cognitive principles. Such leaders believe in exemplifying ego-levelling behaviour and coaching others to help them improve themselves professionally. They also care about the moral aspects of their actions and decisions and try and instill the same sense within their organizations.

There has certainly been a radical change in the concept of a leader from someone who just gets the work done, using whatever method suits the situation, to someone who knows how to get the work done using the most positive, uplifting, inclusive and reformational method to do so.

Arslan Ahmed | Staff Writer

How to Effectively Network

For many, it may feel uncomfortable to put themselves out there with the goal of trying to make career-related connections, but networking is an undeniably important skill to develop. Through networking, people can create a world of opportunities for themselves and others. They can be part of a peer group of forward-thinking individuals who actively use connections to supercharge their projects with tailored talent and passionate personalities. Having a network means knowing what other exciting enterprises might be out there for you to be possibly a part of. The opportunities are worth the initial awkwardness that comes with learning how to network. Below are some tips for those wondering how to effectively network.

Get Your Contact Information and Online Presence in Order

Make sure that you’re accessible! Have your business cards ready with your phone number and email address. If you don’t already have a professional-looking email address, i.e. just your name or the name of your company, get one from a reputable email address provider like Gmail. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date as well. Increase the privacy settings on your personal social media, like Facebook or Twitter, which could give off the wrong impression to those Googling your name. Your business should also have a web presence with accessible contact information as well.

Go to Networking Events with the Intention of Talking to Someone New

It can be tempting to go with a friend to networking events, but it usually means that you’ll end up talking to no one new. Go alone and strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know. Ask about them, and what they do both in and outside of work. You don’t need to do much more than have a friendly conversation and get to know who the person is and what they do. Exchange contact information (such as business cards, phone numbers, or LinkedIn profiles) and follow up with a message the next day to remind them of who you are and what you talked about.

Make it Mutual

When you have made a connection with someone, don’t treat them like a resource or one-sided opportunity. Let them know that you are also amenable to helping them find the right people or projects too. A mutually beneficial relationship will last longer and strengthen both parties than an unbalanced one. Even if one party isn’t able to do anything for the other at the moment, they can at least offer to help in the future. Make it clear that you value the person for more than their position or potential. Treat them like a new friend, because that’s what they should be.

Rose Ho | Staff Writer

The Why Behind a Universal Coronavirus Vaccine

In 2020, COVID-19 brought the world to a screeching halt and the effects still linger. Economies are stuck; societies are shaken and tragedy lurks around the corner for many. We have seen a complete and utter disruption. What if we could be prepared to fight the next coronavirus pandemic? Yes, there is still hope for this world; history can be stopped from repeating itself. Scientists in Irvine, California, are working on developing a universal vaccine capable of fighting multiple strains of coronaviruses. There is a bustle at the same time in Pennsylvania as Dr. Drew Weissman and researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) work to find the universal coronavirus vaccine.

What is a Universal Vaccine?

The current coronavirus vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer that primarily aim to ward against COVID-19 are less effective against recent permutations of the virus that originated in the UK and South Africa. These vaccines, classed as mRNA (messenger RNA), inject RNA into the body. RNA is the protein that carries information for the body to make the spike protein that is found on the surface of a coronavirus. Once the body makes the protein, the cell recognizes it as an alien element and sends the message to the immune system to start developing antibodies. This way, if the real virus was to enter the body, the antibodies will fight it off. A universal vaccine works on the same principle as this. However, it doesn’t just replicate the outermost spike protein, which happens to vary in different viruses, but also the proteins in the membrane and the envelope of this outer layer—the proteins in these two other areas are similar in many other types of viruses. A universal vaccine could potentially target many viruses of the same family and even viruses that cause the common cold.

The Case for a Universal Vaccine

If the promise of this universal vaccine is so great, then there is no reason that it should not be made. We must remember that the impact of future versions of viruses can be even more severe; this can be seen in faster-spreading strains of COVID-19, like B.1.351, that have shown greater potential to be an intense form of the disease. We must not downplay the effects on the world economy either. A report by the US Congress’s think tank Congressional Research Service in 2020, stated that the impact of the pandemic on global economic growth is estimated at a negative six percent. Pharmaceutical companies are profit-seeking ventures so they may not prioritize the production of a universal vaccine, but governments can step in and approve funding for projects on vaccine research and development.

Unfortunately, Dr. Drew Weissman, the man behind mRNA science who spent nearly a decade perfecting mRNA vaccines for human administration, wasn’t so lucky to get his funding proposal for the universal vaccine approved by NIH, a body under the US Department of Health and Human Services. He had to strive on his own funds to conduct more tests before submitting another proposal earlier in 2021. This has been happening simultaneously with the pursuit of researchers at NIH to find their versions of the universal vaccine. As of now, Dr. Weissman’s solution seems to hold the most potential as experiments on mice have shown that his design works against COVID-19, SARS and two other strains of coronavirus that currently only exist in bats. In the meantime, before the universal vaccine becomes commercially available, the best bet is to rely on booster shots by Moderna and Pfizer that aim to counter evolving variants.

Arslan Ahmed | Contributing Writer

Work-Life Balance in the Era of Working Remotely

Many people are struggling with working remotely during the pandemic. The line separating work from personal life has not only been blurred; in most cases, it’s been obliterated.

The challenge stems from having a full house, all the time.

Why don’t we re-envision the work-from-anywhere mentality, intentionally transforming it to managing the day? Let’s face it, without a deliberate structure consisting of key tools, a successful work-life balance is unattainable. Trust me. As a fitness professional, writer and single mom with two dogs, the struggle is real.

Here are a few simple things you can do to calm the mind and get into the flow of your day.

Remote Work Tip No. 1: Create a Workspace

•        Dedicate a workspace in your home and pay attention to noise levels and proximity to distractions.

•        Watch the temptation to make do with whatever seems convenient, as it ultimately impacts your ability to perform.

Remote Work Tip No. 2: Create a Schedule & Identify Clear Boundaries

•        Set boundaries. Work hours should have a beginning and an end.

•        Schedule movement breaks in your daily calendar. Ten to fifteen minutes an hour is good.

Remote Work Tip No. 3: Reduce Distractions

•        Clearly define business hours to your family/roommates. Close the door during designated hours.

•        Eliminate temptations and distractions. Close additional computer tabs. Keep a pad of paper nearby for jotting down reminders instead of using your phone.

Remote Work Tip No. 4: Develop a Daily Ritual

•         Create a ritual to mark the start and the end of your workday, like having a cup of tea while reviewing the day’s to-do list.

•         Create tomorrow’s to-dolist before calling it a day.

Remote Work Tip No. 5: Utilize Tools

•        Have one central calendar for both personal and business schedules. Use colour-coding to mark out personal and business events on a physical calendar. You may rely on specialized apps like Google Calendar, instead, to schedule your life.

•        Implement time blocking. Working in 15-, 20-, or 25-minute blocks maintains focus.

Remote Work Tip No. 6: Plan Interaction

•          Maintain colleague connections. Try arriving at calls early to catch up.

•          Maintain a satisfying social life. Schedule virtual happy hours with friends and family.

Remote Work Tip No. 7: Get Your Family on Board

·                   You might not think that getting your family to agree to the idea of you working from home is a big deal, but it is. It’s up to you to ensure that everyone learns to respect your schedule by respecting it yourself first.

•                 Manage expectations. Let them know that just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re not working.

Remote Work Tip No. 8: Don’t Be Afraid to Disconnect

•                 Working remotely, we can find ourselves distracted by the outside world. Don’t be afraid to disconnect when you need to focus and produce. Try turning off all notifications.

•                 Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. Instead, tackle one thing on your to-do list, first, and then check emails.

The same applies to your personal life. Prioritize yourself and practice self-care. This can mean many different things to many different people, however, the simple fact remains that you need to relax, recover, and revive for what comes next—no one else will do it for you.

Valérie Dubail | Contributing Writer

Local Business Leader Transition Research Finds that Businesses Could Lose Millions

The retirement exodus of about 3.3 million Canadian employees over the next decade will have an impact on business continuity, financial stability, and business growth.

Kathleen Ozmun and Marielle Gauthier, both experienced professional leadership coaches, conducted discovery research focusing on retiring and incoming leader transitions in Saskatoon.

“A change in leadership is a time of flux and change for everyone – the leader and the team,” says Marielle Gauthier, founder of Redworks Communications and Coaching. “These transitions create potential risks at every level of the organization and profitability, productivity and positivity can be negatively affected.”

The report found that the financial costs to the businesses if the transition failed were significant – from tens of thousands to more than $3 million dollars.

“When a transitioning leader struggles, the impact goes beyond individual performance,” says Kathleen Ozmun, CEO of Crossing Point Coaching and Consulting. “The leaders’ struggles and the lack of a transition support plan can affect the business services to the point that whole programs are in jeopardy.”

Based on the findings, there are opportunities for greater attention to better manage the transition for the retiring and the incoming leader and from one leader to another.
It is paramount that businesses look at decreasing and preventing some of the challenges as stated in the findings, to ultimately lower the risks, increase productivity and quality of work, and foster better stakeholder relationships, all of which impact the bottom line.

Ruth Kinzel, PhD, CPHR, Kinzel Cadrin & Associates Consulting says that the research provides rare insight into the lived experience of local leaders in transition. Kinzel also states there is a backlog of unaddressed transition issues in every sector, the costs of which continue to accrue and it is in the best interests of organizations and the people within them to move forward proactively.

“The stakes are high and the wave is upon us and these research findings can inform your way forward. Gauthier and Ozmun identify key issues as well as productive ways to address transition challenges,” says Kinzel.

The study findings included challenges and struggles of the leaders; impacts and potential risks to the organizations; levels and types of supports in place and the financial costs if transitions failed.

Business owners can create successful transitions for both their organization and their new leaders by establishing consistent key practices.

Download the full report at https://crossingpointcoaching.com/leader-transition.

Kathleen Ozmun | Contributing Writer

8-Point Startup Checklist

Opening a new business is always an exciting prospect. You spend months, if not years, thinking of all the fun things associated with a business, like calculating profits, being your own boss, and building the best team imaginable.
Before you earn a single dollar from your hard work, however, you need to make sure you have certain aspects squared away. As anyone who has gone through the process can attest to, the true essence of a startup is rolling up your sleeves to ensure the success of your business.
So, what does an entrepreneur need to do before cutting the proverbial ribbon on their new venture?

  1. Understanding Relevant Laws
    Building a foundation of relevant legal knowledge isn’t the most exciting part of being an entrepreneur; in fact, it can be quite daunting. Regardless, you need to spend time creating a better-than-rudimentary understanding of the laws that will regulate your business with respect to employment, taxes and anything specifically related to your industry.
    Consult with both a lawyer and an accountant to learn how to structure your business in a way that is compliant with relevant laws. When it comes to legal matters and protecting your business, details matter. Don’t be shy about asking questions, even if it costs a little more. It’ll be worth it in the long term.
  2. Own Your Business Name
    You need to register your business name with the Canada Revenue Agency and, if possible, secure all pertinent internet domain names. Depending on your type of business, you could look to register it as a trademark. This will give you sole use of your business name for 15 years, at which point you’ll have to renew.
    This is an important early step for every startup. It also reveals whether your business name is already in use, meaning you might have to come up with another clever moniker or pun, or shift to a slight variation on your original idea.
    And don’t for a second think that by using your own name as your business name that you’re in the clear. Your name doesn’t have to be “Tommy Hilfiger” for it to already be in use.
  3. Figure Out Your Personal Finances
    Launching a startup could mean living without a salary for a year or two. That’s the reality and you’ve probably already accepted it, which is great. But acceptance is only a small part of what you need to do.
    While your business is still in the planning phase, make sure your personal finances are in order. Get your savings and investments as high as possible since there’s a good chance you’ll be dipping into them at some point relatively soon. Additionally, make a new household budget that includes what you can spend on non-essential business expenses like lunches or coffee.
    You need to keep your non-work life operational and not fall into personal debt while your business ramps up. This will only compound stress, and there will certainly be enough of that in the early going.
  4. Develop a Marketing & Communications Plan
    Business hours should be devoted to sales and operations, so the best advice is to have your marketing and communications plans in place and ready to be executed on day one. These plans need to be comprehensive and involve tactics that will impact the bottom line for both the short and long term.
    These strategies should cover marketing and communications with respect to digital, print, experiential and community outreach. They should be constantly evolving as more opportunities present themselves. Taking your first year of operations to develop these plans could result in missing out on growing your customer base.
  5. Choose a Payroll System
    Unless you’re the only one working and wearing every hat, you’ll need to pay your employees. The last thing you want is to be so overwhelmed that you miss a payday, which can result in disgruntled employees or even disruptions to your operations.
    With the advent of digital payroll systems, your employees and vendors can be paid promptly and automatically. Before you launch your business – even if you’re the sole employee in those early days – choose a system and familiarize yourself with every aspect and feature.
    Some of the more popular ones are Wave Accounting, Payment Evolution, Quickbooks, and SimplePay. Each is different, so you’d be wise to take advantage of demos or free trials to discover which best suits your needs.
  6. Hire an Advisor
    Having an advisor can be invaluable. Ideally, this is an experienced person who understands your industry and knows how to navigate the challenges of running a startup. If you went through the early stages without a mentor or advisor, try to bring one or more onboard for your official launch.
    This is someone to bounce ideas off, to seek advice from, and to also help you make connections when needed. If you have the capacity, an advisory board can be even more valuable, but make sure you vet every person and use contracts to establish roles, responsibilities, and legal parameters.
  7. Secure Financing
    Opening your business with only one month of financing in your coffers could be problematic, especially when things get bleak around day five after you check your bank account.
    The best advice is to have all your loans secured and all your numbers crunched before launching. You would be well advised to have enough money in the bank to run without interruption for at least a year. If the funds aren’t readily available, you’ll be spending all your time worrying and hustling when you should be selling and managing.
  8. Hire Your Core Team
    It’s unrealistic to think you need to have every role at your company filled in the first week. What you do need is to have key hires ready to start immediately. During the pre-launch period, you should outline the roles that are most important for your daily operations and those that will enable growth. From there, start interviewing and get hiring. This is also a good time to create concrete hiring protocols.
    The Keys to Startup Success
    There’s nothing nobler than being an entrepreneur. Do everything in your power to give yourself the best chance at success so that your business – and you – can thrive. Even when things are tense prior to launch, keep pushing and making sure to take care of the small details. They matter.

Rob Shapiro | Contributing Writer

The End of 9 to 5? How Work Schedules Are Changing

Is the traditional 9-to-5 workday obsolete? Many would say so. There seems to be a consensus among both employers and employees that a shift needs to be made in how the traditional workday is structured. The present-day model doesn’t really promote a healthy work-life balance or stimulate productivity. Too much of a routine can be dangerous. Longer, more rigid hours don’t always equal more work being done. Employees may be coming in for 40-hour weeks, but if they aren’t using that time wisely, then businesses actually lose out in the long run.


The History of the 9-to-5 Workday 

The idea of working from 9 to 5 is a product of socialism during the 19th century. It wasn’t until 1890 that the U.S. government started to track workers’ hours. Up until that point, employees could work up to 100 hours a week and there were no laws protecting children. In 1926, Ford Motors was one of the first companies to adapt the 9-to-5 model and helped to make it more mainstream. In 1938, the U.S. congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which made the workweek 44 hours. In 1940, it was readjusted to the five-day, 40-hour workweek that remains the basic standard today.


The Mindset of Millennials and Entrepreneurs

A 9-to-5 simply isn’t for everyone. If you feel trapped easily, especially sitting in a cubicle, dislike routine and/or mundane tasks, and have a problem with authority, then maybe a job in a more creative setting, or of an entrepreneurial nature, would suit you better. At the top of the list, millennials seem to feel the most dissatisfied with the traditional workday structure, placing greater importance on factors like flexibility, impactful or purposeful labour, and economic security. They’re also more willing to seek employment on their own terms and work freelance.


Structured Benefits

The 9-to-5 model does, however, have some major benefits. While some find the routine repetitive, others may find the predictability comforting. Stability and financial security are two of the main reasons many people in years past stayed at the same job for decades. A 9-to-5 job gives people a set schedule they can plan around, as opposed to shift work, where employees don’t always know what their upcoming schedule will look like from one week to the next.


The Possibility of a 4-Day Workweek

One alternative suggestion that’s been gathering support in recent years is for a “compressed” four-day workweek. Employees would work four 10-hour shifts instead of five eight-hour shifts, with Friday becoming a third day of the weekend. Experts have argued for and against it; some say that it would motivate employees to work harder, doesn’t disturb workflow, cuts down on time-consuming commutes (which in turn reduces workers’ spending on gas or transit), eases burnout risks, and promotes other activities. The counterarguments to the new working pattern are that longer standard workdays would be more draining and stressful, and a revamped workweek would potentially affect working parents, who have to deal with things like daycare services.


Our lives are much more than just our jobs. “Work to live, don’t live to work” is a common mantra. The 9-to-5 model may have worked in decades past, but times are changing. Our world is constantly evolving, and so is society. Thanks to recent advances in technology, many businesses can run from a home or out of a remote location. The traditional ways that most workplaces have run are quickly becoming a thing of the past, as the workweek becomes increasingly fluid.


At the end of the day, however, work schedules hardly matter if you have purpose in your life. Regardless of the time of day or week, the hours will fly by if you’re doing something you enjoy.


Rhea Braganza | Contributing Writer