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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Todd playing foosball in the office

 

Let me preface this blog with the fact that I cannot play foosball. It’s not that I don’t want to, or I don’t care to it’s simply just one of those games that I cannot succeed at. I’m a klutz by nature with absolutely no hand-eye coordination so playing the game of foosball just never fared well for me.

 

However, I do love how much joy it brings my teammates, I desperately miss the sounds and laughter of my colleagues over lunch challenging each other. Whether or not each individual chooses to play, it’s an important part of our culture at REM and gives us a little bit more than just a lunch hour break.

 

When asked why Foosball is such an important part of the REM culture our designer Christine had a lot to say:

 

“Foosball at REM builds comradery between coworkers and teaches us good sportsmanship, friendly competition and owning up to mistakes, while being silly and goofing around. It adds excitement in our office, we cheer loudly for our coworkers when we compete, which builds confidence in other areas of our lives, like our jobs. Foosball gives us an opportunity to laugh and witness aspects of each other’s personality we don’t normally see and is a great way to 'break the ice' and welcome a new team member into the group. It encourages us to create strategies and 'think outside the box,' thereby stimulating the innovative, problem solving parts of our brain.

 

"Besides the emotional and mental benefits, it’s also physically good for us and here’s why – Foosball encourages us to get up and move, even if it’s mostly our arms that are moving. We use quick, powerful motions with our arms and wrists during the game, which loosens our forearm muscles, helps circulation and relieves tension. It also increases our heart-rate, promoting good health. We’ve proven this by looking at our smart-watches with heartbeat monitors. One time, Sean S. was super dialed into the game and his heartbeat rose to more than 120 beats/minute (that’s in the fat burning zone!).”

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Home office with white walls and chair

 

With the continuous increase of COVID cases in the KW region, our small but mighty team transitioned back to fully working from home until further notice. The WFH lifestyle is definitely something that I’ve struggled with in the past and I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to share some tips and tricks I’ve come up with over the past year to help keep myself on point.

 

Create a dedicated workspace

Whether it’s in your basement, a second bedroom turned office, or a closet turned into a desk - having a dedicated workspace makes all the difference in the world. It was incredibly important for me to create a space that allowed me to be productive with little distractions, a place that I could go to and remove myself from when needed. If you’d like to see what our workspaces look like check out our Battle Stations blog!

 

Breaks

One of the things I struggled with at the start of working from home was breaking. I felt that when I was working from home, I needed to be accessible 24/7 and it caused me to burn out. It’s important to allow yourself to take breaks. This time around I have kept the same rest/work cycle as I would at the office, and it really has helped me. The only thing I miss is hearing the team playing foosball (we’ll get to this in another blog).

 

Get Dressed

I remember the days when I would say “I could totally just wear pajama’s all day and work.” Yes, I can but I really felt a dip in my mood and productivity when I didn’t get up in the morning, have my coffee and get “ready” for work. Rolling out of bed and turning the computer on did not work well for me. I have now reverted back to my routine and take the time to prepare myself for the day ahead.

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Home office setup with a glitchy effect

 

It’s been quite some time now that most of our team has been working from home, we miss each other and our awesome office. 

 

One of the most important things when working remotely is having a dedicated workspace to stay engaged and ready for action. A well-armed, personalized, organized, ergonomic home office makes all the difference when battling one’s foes, also known as daily tasks and routine. For most of us who are nerds and/or gamers, we wanted to show off our sweet setups, complete with multiple monitors, LED lights and peripheral equipment/devices. There are some perks to working at home for me – I get to snuggle with my dog on my breaks and make really good lunches!

 

We decided that it would be great to share what our at home “battle stations” look like and give you a few ideas for yours!

 

 

Sean S.'s home office setup

Sean Sanderson

 

Christine's home office setup

Christine Votruba

 

Sean L.'s home office setup

Sean Legge

 

Sean M.'s home office setup

Sean McParland

 

Ryan's home office setup

Ryan Covert

 

Rob's home office setup

Rob Matlow

 

Todd's home office setup

Todd Hannigan

 

Matt's home office setup

Matt Stern

 

Shauna's home office setup

Shauna Ramsaroop

 

 

 

For more tips on how to create a great workspace, check out this blog post: “A Streamlined Work Environment

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

A row of matches burning in succession

 

As we all navigate unknown waters in the world we’re living in today, there are a significant number of factors that could potentially cause you to burnout and sometimes we don’t recognize we’re doing it to ourselves. Whether it be the result of working from home around the clock, changes in childcare or lack thereof, some of us are working multiple jobs. Right now, it’s easier than ever to run ourselves to the brink of a burnout – I thought I would share some time tips on how I blow it up!

 

  1. Hydrate – I know this seems like a no brainer, but instead of reaching for that 2nd or 3rd cup of coffee, drink water. When I started back at REM, I was coming out of an extremely demanding job that I found I was pumping myself with far too much caffeine and not enough water. It wasn’t until one of our Sean’s and Rob said “Shauna – you need to drink more water”. They were right, something as simple as water helped reduced my headaches, gave me more energy and most importantly helped me focus on tasks at hand without suffering from caffeine dips throughout the day.
     
  2. Schedule “Me Time” – also known as breaks. Force yourself to get up and remove yourself from the screen time throughout the day. It’s exhausting constantly on your computer, on your phone, answering emails and phone calls, being in Zoom meetings. Be diligent in reviewing your schedule at the beginning of the day and scheduling in 5-15-minute breaks for yourself. Stand up, stretch, go for a quick walk, be conscious of how much time you’re actually spending in front of the screen and interrupt it. You’ll notice less headaches and you’ll see an increase in productivity.
     
  3. Breathe – I know this one may sound silly we all breathe. However, do you ever take 30 seconds to really dial in and focus on your breathing? It’s a great exercise and helps you connect your mind and body. Especially if you’re troubleshooting an issue or working on a problem take 30 seconds and pay attention to yourself breathe, take deep breaths in and out focus on your diaphragm and how it moves with each deep breath. It helps you re-centre your frame of mind and alleviate stress!
     
  4. Talk to your Manager/Boss – If you feel yourself burning out, odds are so is your direct report. Sit down and chat with them about it and I bet they are full of advice on how to manage your schedule, shine a light on tools that you probably forgot are available to you to help manage your time. At the end of the day, our managers want us to succeed – when we are performing at our best, business is good, and they are there to help.

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Graphic of a 3D rendering of the Coranavirus in a grey background

 

In previous blog posts I chose not to even type the name “COVID-19” mainly because I was exhausted of hearing about it, frustrated with the pandemic, doing my best to force a smile behind my masked face. Here we are again – amidst the second wave and although it’s not the greatest feeling, I feel like we’ve come together to make it more bearable.

 

How is our REM team coping? I think we’re doing a pretty great job! We are in the office (our little bubble is not open to the public) and we’re all more than 6 feet away from each other. It’s nice to feel a sense of normalcy – coming into an office in the morning and leaving in the afternoon. While in the office we sometimes need to be in closer proximity to each other, we mask up – especially in shared spaces such as our washroom and kitchen.

 

We’ve removed things such as shared towels and installed a hand dryer in the washroom (Thanks, Rob!), we don’t bring in shared treats, nor do we eat lunch together anymore – which I’m the first to admit I miss, but safety first! We have also been given the flexibility to work from home when needed – which is fantastic, especially for those of us with young ones. Our team really and truly has adopted a very flexible work schedule, and we are far more sensitive to everyone’s limitations which is truly a beautiful thing.

 

At the first sign of any feeling of being ill, we stay home and determine whether we should get tested, quarantine ourselves for two weeks and then resume back in the office.

 

Luckily for us we have not had an issue, we’re all still healthy and most importantly we’re here for you!

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

A graphic that says Happy Thanksgiving

 

Being raised as a first generation Canadian by my Guyanese grandparents meant that food was not something to take lightly. My grandmother raised and fed three children and three grandchildren - she really had a knack for feeding us all on an extremely tight budget. This meant that Thanksgiving became quite a tradition in our home. It was a meal that we all looked forward to each year, it brought us together and it was always elaborate. For as long as I could remember it was the one meal that my grandmother cooked for us that we had in common with everyone else we went to school with. Which naturally made me very grateful when marching back to school with a lunch made purely of leftovers just like everyone else.

 

Over the past 10 years I personally have taken over the task of cooking Thanksgiving dinner, filling my home with our loved ones and serving up everyone’s favourites including my own – Mashed Potatoes. I have perfected my recipe which is an amalgamation of my grandmother’s and mother’s and makes me drool just thinking about it.

 

 

As I plan out this year’s meal, I figured I might add something new into the mix, so I asked the REM team for their help – for them  to share with me their favourite thanksgiving foods and why:

 

 

“My favorite food is the Turkey that Kim (my wife makes).  I am not just saying that for brownie points.  She does a great job with it.  In fact, the entire thanksgiving meal she does is a yearly cuisine highlight!” – Rob Matlow

 


 

“Like many people we have a turkey meal on thanksgiving, but when it comes to my favourite part, I would have to say it’s pumpkin pie. Now when I say pumpkin pie I don’t mean a slice of pumpkin pie on a plate with a little shot of whipped cream on top. I mean a slice of pumpkin pie located somewhere beneath an avalanche of whipped cream. Basically, the rule of thumb is if you can decern that there is indeed pumpkin pie located somewhere on the plate then you need more whipped cream.” – Sean McParland

 


 

“All things pumpkin! Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie ice cream, pumpkin seeds… Because it’s PUMPKIN! Do I need to say more!” – Todd Hannigan

 


 

“Pumpkin Pie – If I ever leave room for it, its been my favorite since I can remember. It usually only comes around once a year and is a tradition for my mom and I enjoy, even if we are the only ones that ever like it.” – Sean Sanderson

 


 

“Because I’m Filipino-Canadian, my favourite Thanksgiving food are traditional Filipino ones such as lechon (roasted pig), pancit (stir-fry noodles) and lumpia (deep-fried spring rolls). We eat a traditional Filipino feast to celebrate Thanksgiving.  We gather as a family and serve the dinner as a pot-luck, that way each family has to contribute one type of food to the party; there’s always plenty of leftovers the next day because I have a lot of relatives!” – Christine Votruba

 


 

“Cranberry sauce. The jelly kind. I don’t like finding bits of cranberry stems in my sauce.” – Ryan Covert

 


 

“My favourite Thanksgiving food is the whole meal- from the Turkey to the cranberries.  But most of all is the time spent with family.” – Matt Stern

 


 

“My favourite thanksgiving food is carrots and neeps. It’s a delicious dish that my Granny started making for our Thanksgivings, then my father took over, and now I’m making them. So, it’s a bit of a family tradition now!” – Sean Legge

 

 

As you can see, I have a fair amount to work with, but I would love to hear from you! Please comment and share your favourite Thanksgiving eats – who knows, it may work its way onto our Thanksgiving table next year!

 

Everyone here at REM would like to wish you and your family a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

 

Please note that REM will be closed Monday, October 12th and will re-open on Tuesday, October 13th.

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

White arrows on pavement

 

Just over two years ago I made the personal decision to leave REM Web Solutions. After 3 years of growth and development I felt that I needed to try my hand at a new adventure and see where life would take me. In my two years away, I had the opportunity to work in two positions that have given me an abundant amount of skills and provided me with some interesting life experiences.

 

In my first position post REM I had the opportunity to work with dozens of early stage tech startups. I learned the ins and outs of the challenges they face at different stages of their growth. I was lucky enough to guide them through programming available to them in the region while assisting them in building their business plans, completing market research, and preparing themselves for the long journey ahead while supporting their passions. I learned how to speak in front of large groups of people, spent significant time with the graduating classes of University of Waterloo’s MBET program and meeting some pretty cool people like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau! My time in the role was very humbling, sitting with small to medium sized business owners and watching their struggles while they put their livelihood on the line gave me new perspective on life and business.

 

My second position post REM was a whirlwind to say the least. I decided I wanted to try something that wasn’t as customer focused, I became a project manager for a local automation company. Hardware was completely new to me, from the very start I couldn’t believe how much there was to learn but I had a fantastic team of PM’s and Engineers who took me under their wings and guided me along the journey. I learned project management best practices, I learned how to communicate with different cultures as majority of my clients were overseas, I learned how to build project schedules, use industry driven tools and most importantly I learned that there was no challenge I was not willing to take on.

 

I thrived in both positions and learned a lot but no matter what I did, the connections and friends I made, neither role or company felt like home. In early June an opportunity presented itself for me to come back to REM and without hesitation I said yes. As wonderful as both jobs were, and as grateful as I was to have the opportunity to work at both companies, it was time for me to return. REM Web Solutions was where I started in the tech industry. It’s where I built relationships with my colleagues that I consider family. We offer a wonderful product, our clients are amazing and at the end of the day I feel accomplished, inspired, and most importantly happy to be home.

 

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This is a headshot of Brad Anderson.

Conceptual image of a man with crumpled paper around his head

 

This is going to be a bit of a meta post. As I was struggling to come up with some good ideas for blog posts this month (it can get a little dry constantly posting about how to change your web content and what to do when it comes to web security etc.) – I realized I had the perfect topic sitting right in front of me – writer’s block.

 

Change It Up for a New Perspective

Getting the inspiration to write about something fresh or new can be tough! Sometimes if I find myself staring at a blank page without even a topic idea, the best thing you can possibly do is just do something different for a little bit. It is a pretty quick and apparent thing if you do not have something obvious to write that there are not going to be words randomly materializing on the page – you need to get your ideas from somewhere!

 

Chat Up a Colleague

For inspiration, the first place I will usually look is to others, but in an indirect manner. Strike up a conversation with a friend or co-worker about the day or something unrelated to what you are doing. The unexpected elements of conversation can often act as a catalyst to ideas and new sources of writing. The same can be said for taking a walk somewhere or going out to take care of an errand (something of that nature) if you are stuck writing. It can simply break up the day a bit and when you return, you may just have the inspiration that you did not have previously.

 

New ideas can be tricky as sometimes this can require extensive research on the topic you’ll be writing about, but take this as further sources of inspiration! You may find something else you want to write about next time too while hunting for information.

 

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This is a headshot of Brad Anderson.

Business woman looking at stickie notes

 

There is no doubt that human beings are creatures of habit and routine for the most part. Yes, we do need a certain amount of diversity in our day to break things up and make things slightly interesting, but for the most part we crave routine and it makes us happy, really without us realizing it for the most part.

 

Routine is Key to a Good Workflow

For the majority of us, we do have our individual routines and these can be very distinct and different at work than at home. I think as long as both routines are consistent, they can be different, this is fine. At work, the routine becomes very important as the lack of routine or the shake-up of the norm can really throw a wrench into workflow. Using tools such as scheduling platforms and calendars can help you organize your day, but if it lacks structure from the beginning this will do you little good other than to show you how busy you are.

 

Categorize and Organize Your Tasks

There are generally certain types of tasks a person is generally responsible for on a daily basis, even if the specifics for the task changes. A common strategy is to set blocks of time in your day to deal with certain categories of tasks, and once your time has elapsed to finish what you are doing and move onto the next block. This can not only help keep your day moving, but if you are noticing one particular task is remaining unfinished every day it points to either more time needed for that category, or the fact that those tasks could be being done quicker.

 

Little Things Make a Big Difference

Simple parts of the routine are important too. Didn’t get your morning coffee? Well this could drastically affect your ability to properly function in your day if it is part of your routine. Road delay caused you to be 10 minutes late? If this affects your routine, it is going to cause a lot more than 10 minutes of delay for you in the day. Make sure to take care of your needs every day as well, as it can be hard to stay at 100% in your routine (easier to cheat or deviate from it) if you lack sleep, proper nutrition, hydration etc.

 

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This is a headshot of Brad Anderson.

Woman listening to music with headphones

 

Listening to music is a deeply personal thing, and everyone has different attachments to different music. Some people cannot get through their day without a constant soundtrack, while others can only handle 1 song or even dislike music altogether while they are trying to focus on tasks. For myself, there are certain genres I go to depending on the nature of the task at hand.

 

Calming Classical Tunes

If I need to answer a large number of customer emails or deal with any sort of situation which requires assisting a person/diffusing a situation, there is something about Classical Music that really helps with this. Whether it is the calming peaceful nature mixed with the brain-stimulating orchestration I do not know, but it allows you to pleasantly deal with just about any situation while still thinking clearly. I highly recommend this for the “Email” phase of your day.

 

Rock Out!

If there is tedious or grunt work to be done, the rock music comes out. This could be anything from data input to assisting a customer with a technical issue (doing the work, not the email reply). It helps to just put your nose to the grindstone and power through, and it does help with your energy levels I find.

 

Stimulating Lofi Electronic Music

When I need to do research, I will often put on a very low-key electronic music of some kind to stimulate thought, as if I am exploring new ideas, I want place myself in a mental state where I will be more receptive to these ideas.

 

These are examples, but find what works for you as it is again deeply personal when it comes to music selection. There is great power in music though, and it can help with your day!

 

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Contributors

Shauna Ramsaroop
33
January 18, 2021
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Christine Votruba
28
January 15, 2021
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Rob Matlow
103
December 31, 2020
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Ryan Covert
48
July 26, 2019
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Sean Sanderson
63
July 23, 2019
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Matt Stern
4
July 16, 2019
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Sean Legge
1
June 28, 2019
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Sean McParland
17
June 28, 2019
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Todd Hannigan
47
November 13, 2018
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