Monthly Archives April 2020

What Will Returning to Work Look Like?

The coronavirus outbreak has caused widespread concern and economic hardships for consumers, communities and businesses alike. The situation has evolved rapidly since it’s onset, and business leaders across the globe have found themselves tested on everything from their crisis management skills to operations and supply chain alternatives.

In a PWC survey, finance leaders across the United States listed their top three concerns with respect to COVID-19 as financial impact, a potential global recession, and the effects on the workforce/reduction in productivity. Indeed, some of the biggest companies in the world are preparing to tell their employees it’s time to return to work.

While some companies will undoubtedly reinvent themselves post-pandemic, for many it will be a race back to business-as-usual. Whether your business is taking a new path or trying to hold steady, let’s take a look at some of the changes that will likely stick around – even after things start returning to normal.

Working From Home

If there’s one thing that is certain, it’s that more businesses will note the effectiveness of employees who work from home even as offices reopen. While the flexibility that working from home offers can reduce turnover and increase productivity and morale, it also can greatly reduce a business’s overhead expenditures.

How many companies will close or dramatically reduce the size of their offices in favour of continuing to work from home after they’ve been forced to give it a trial run? Power bills, rent, office supplies, amenities – these are all expenses that are reduced or outright eliminated when your workforce works remotely. While there are certainly great benefits to having your employees under one roof, it’s likely that we’ll see a major increase in telework after the pandemic ends compared to before it started.

Online Shopping & Delivery

While online shopping isn’t anything new, social distancing has turned the dial up to 11. In particular, food courier and grocery delivery have seen major upticks in popularity as people strive to avoid public places. Everybody has to eat, after all.

Even as our businesses reopen, our shopping habits have likely changed for good. People across the globe have found a new appreciation for the ease of buying things online. While brick-and-mortar stores aren’t likely to disappear overnight, e-commerce will continue to grow at a rapid pace.

Service Industry Methodology

The coronavirus has the potential to permanently shift the way many service industries operate. Consumers across the globe will think much harder about the health implications of squeezing many people into small areas. Crowded restaurants, movie theatres, concert halls – the coronavirus has been a true test for businesses that depend on social gathering.

In Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak began, service industry business owners are finding that consumers are still reluctant to gather even as everything reopens. As the world’s population continues to grow every year, how can the service industry account for humanities newfound appreciation for personal space?

While the business world is eager, any and all return-to-work efforts will undoubtedly be a gradual process. The return will happen in waves as our demand for certain products and industries grow. These times are truly unprecedented – only time will tell how our coronavirus-induced anxieties will affect the world in the long term.

Disinfecting Your Home and Safely Disposing Waste

Cities across the world have been experimenting with different waste collection regulations since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Many have increased the household garbage bag limit, while others have suspended curbside pickup or opted to close recycling centers. Some governments are also issuing special waste disposal guidance to those who are in self-isolation with symptoms of COVID-19.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s pandemic recommendations, medical waste (trash) coming from healthcare facilities treating COVID-19 patients is no different than waste coming from any other medical facility. The CDC states that management of laundry, food service utensils and medical waste should be performed in accordance with routine procedures.

In other words, there is no evidence that waste generated in the care of patients with COVID-19 requires additional considerations for disinfection or disposal than routine medical waste disposal. This is because coronaviruses are susceptible to the same disinfection conditions in healthcare settings as other viruses.

For those with symptoms of the virus, there are several steps you can take both when cleaning and disinfecting your home as well as when disposing of personal waste such as used tissues, face masks, and disposable cloths.

When cleaning and disinfecting, you should wear disposable gloves. Focus your efforts on routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces. Doorknobs, light switches, keyboards, countertops – these are all high-touch surfaces that you should be cleaning often.

After cleaning with soap and water, the CDC recommends the use of Environmental Protection Agency-registered household disinfectants. You can check if your disinfectant of choice meets the EPA’s criteria for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 by checking the list on their website at www.epa.gov. Diluted household bleach solutions can also be effective if appropriate for the surface. Not all bleaches are suitable for disinfection, so make sure to check the label to confirm.

When disposing of personal waste, the CDC recommends a dedicated, lined trash-can for anyone with symptoms if possible. You should use gloves when removing garbage bags and disposing trash, and always wash your hands afterwards. You can also consider double-bagging your personal waste by placing it in a garbage bag, making sure it is securely tied, then placing it in a second bag and keeping it separate from your other waste.

If you’re an essential worker and required to use Personal Protective Equipment in the course of your job, make sure you know the waste category your PPE falls under when you go to dispose of it. Management of contaminated infectious waste follows state and local bylaws, and there can be hefty fines for not properly disposing waste if it’s considered medical. Check in with your local health unit to confirm whether or not your PPE falls into the medical or general waste category.

It may also be prudent to refrain from putting out any unnecessary waste for the time being. As the weather heats up, many of us enter spring cleaning mode – but delaying your spring cleaning will help reduce extra strain on the system during the pandemic. While it may be tempting to get rid of our hoarded winter items, we should all do our part to keep our trash collectors safe and the system running smoothly.

Best Practices for Working From Home on a Team

We all have our strengths and weaknesses – and as more and more of us work from home, those strengths and weaknesses can be compounded – or even reversed. Maybe a change in environment is exactly what the procrastinator needed to become more productive. Or maybe it’s an excuse for them to focus on their household chores instead of the work they should be doing.

Either way, our strengths and weaknesses define us. They especially define how we work together. By playing to our strengths in a team, we become much more productive overall. But by giving in to our weaknesses, we can easily derail a meeting and negatively influence our overall agenda.

Here are some best practices (and things to avoid) while working from home as a member of a team.

Ideas – Yours and Mine

The only thing better than a team member having an excellent idea is when you have an excellent idea – but either way, both are to be encouraged and celebrated.

If your team member has a great pitch or idea for solving a problem – it’s important to build them up and expand. Ask questions and help flesh out how it will work practically. Be cognizant of the potential negatives, but instead of saying it won’t work, do your best to brainstorm with them to find the path through.

In the same vein, when you have an interesting thought, share it! Don’t keep quiet – bright ideas are always desired in a team setting. Invite your team to help you work through the issues, and you’ll inspire them to contribute too.

Keep in mind – your goal should not be to dominate the conversation. Don’t speak over others, and don’t interrupt. But if you think your idea is great, let it be heard. And let your team members work with you to make it even better.

Keep the Ball Rolling

One of the worst feelings while participating in an online meeting is looking at the clock, realizing you’ve hit your allotted time for the meeting, and noting that your team hasn’t accomplished anything. Whether there were distractions, arguments, or confusion – it doesn’t matter. The time was unproductive, and you’re nobetter off after the meeting than you were before it.

One of the most valuable skills you can have in a team setting is being aware of everyone’s time. Encourage your team members to focus on the agenda. If a distraction comes up, try to shift the focus back to the issue at hand – respectfully. Online meetings become much less fun when you think your time is being wasted. Endeavour to be the person that keeps the team on track, and everyone will thank you for it.

If you do have someone that often derails the conversation, whether on purpose or by accident, remember to kindly thank them for their input on the topic, but encourage them to share their thoughts on the actual issue at hand.

Step Up and Take Action

Awkward silence can be the death of a productive meeting. When no one else is willing to speak up, strive to be the one that does. By taking action and moving the conversation forward, you encourage others to participate and you make sure that your meeting doesn’t run short with nothing of value said.

Use the tools you’re given to keep people engaged. Send photo examples or use the virtual whiteboards and other tools that modern video conferencing apps have en masse. If the conversation grinds to a halt, shift to a different angle and re-approach the issue. No matter what you do, by simply taking action, you’re providing a great value to all your team members. It’s much easier to work off of a catalyst then silence.

Again, the flipside here would be the quiet team members who seem to just be along for the ride. Some great methods for getting your quieter members to speak up can be assigning them something to research beforehand so they can prepare, or simply asking them directly to share their thoughts during the discussion. There generally aren’t any right or wrong answers during a meeting – it’s all about getting everyone’s input and crafting your solution to the problem in turn.

Remember to Keep It Light

Let’s face it – most meetings are boring. But they don’t need to be. While it’s important to focus on the task at hand, don’t be afraid to make jokes or show off your pets on camera. A little lightheartedness can go a long way – especially in these difficult times. Aspire to be the one that brightens the mood. You might be shocked at how much more productive and valuable a meeting can be when everyone isn’t dour and serious the entire time.

Above all, make sure to remind yourself and your teammates that while things may be tough right now, you are all resilient and you will make it through to sunnier days.

Coronavirus Scams Targeting You and Your Business

“If you are a small business that has been affected by the coronavirus, press “1” to ensure your Google listing is correctly displaying. Otherwise, customers may not find you online during this time.”

If you’ve received this call or something similar in the past few weeks, you’re just one of the millions of businesses across the U.S. and Canada that have been targeted by robocall scams designed to exploit people’s COVID-19 concerns.

In fact, both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Secret Service have issued warnings that scammers are imitating companies, government agencies and healthcare providers in unprecedented numbers – and cybersecurity experts say that the attacks are just getting started.

Here are some scams you should be looking out for in order to keep you and your business safe:

Robocalls:

According to the FTC, any robocall trying to sell you something is illegal unless a company has your written permission to call you that way – excluding some calls such as candidates running for office or charities asking for donations. And if someone is already breaking the law by robocalling you, there’s a good chance it’s also a scam.

These calls are running the gamut from offering fake COVID-19 testing kits and free sanitation supplies to fake government financial support. The only correct response to these robocalls is to hang up – do not press any numbers, even if directed to in order to remove you from the call list. By pressing a number, you confirm to the scammers that your number is active and you open yourself up for more scam calls in the future.

Note: There are no anti-robocall laws in Canada, but they are subject to CRTC regulations. Regulations include a clear message identifying on whose behalf the call is made, a mailing address, and a number at which a representative can be reached.

Business Email Scams:

Uncertain economic conditions lead to confusion, panic, and irregular transactions. Scammers are taking advantage of the confusion to double down on business email scams. An example from the FTC is the CEO scam – wherein an employee gets an email from their boss directing them to do something – wire money, transfer funds, send sensitive information. Except the email is actually coming from a scammer that has spoofed the boss’s email. The issue is made even more difficult with the massive influx of professionals working from home. A puzzled employee can’t just knock on the bosses door to confirm the request.

The best way to combat these scams is to make sure staff has a central contact that they can reach out to in order to verify any requests they may receive – irregular or not.

Fake Cures and Public Health Scams:

Teas, essential oils and colloidal silver all have something in common – none of them are a cure for COVID-19. The FTC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have jointly issued warning letters to seven separate sellers of unapproved products claiming they can prevent or treat the coronavirus. The companies that have received these letters have no evidence to back up their claims, which is required by law in order to advertise their products. The FDA states that there are no approved vaccines or drugs available to treat or prevent the virus.

Furthermore, scammers are sending messages claiming to be from public health offices and officials aiming to steal confidential information or installing malware on your computer. They are asking for Social Security numbers and Tax IDs. They are sending “infographics” that are actually keyloggers in disguise.

Remember not to download any attachments or click links in any unsolicited emails.

Fake Charities:

During difficult times, incredible charities and non-profits often step up to the plate and provide crucial assistance that keeps our most vulnerable safe. Unfortunately, for every legitimate charity working for those in need, a fake one pops up looking to take your money.

They use websites that look legitimate, with real emails, signature blocks and phone support lines. They even use names similar to real charities in order to trick you. And during times of need, such as pandemics and natural disasters, they are even more active.

Before you give money to a charity, make sure you’re doing the proper research to ensure your donations are going to the right place. Websites like CharityWatch and SmartGiving seek to give you information on avoiding scams and point out the red flags. For example, most real charities will accept credit cards or checks, because they’re safe and easy. Any charity that will only accept wire transfer or cash should be immediately suspect.