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