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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.

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 Rob Matlow.

Woman talking to a friend using video chat

 

When it comes to the way we interact online, things have changed drastically in the last few years. We have seen a migration from the phone to email, from email to instant messenger, and from instant messenger to server-based community groups such as Discord or Microsoft Teams. Likewise, we have seen many programs come and go such as Ventrilo, Teamspeak, Skype, and many others as better and more robust programs replace them.

 

These days, it seems that the options are limitless when it comes to professional conference calling, but what if you are looking for more than this? Microsoft Teams can offer additional features such as meeting scheduling, calendar integration, and group chats within your organization. You can also record meetings for later viewing and send it out to participants. Other programs such as Zoom offer a smoother calling experience, at the expense of many other features.

 

For grouping on a personal level, nothing beats Discord these days. The server customization options are nearly limitless, and for the low cost of $0 it is no wonder nothing even comes close in terms of competition. They even took a major step with the COVID-19 outbreak and expanded their server capacity to allow for up to 50 users to stream video at one time from a server - something even professional services could only dream of offering (and probably at a hefty cost). The UI is unmatched and very easy on the eyes - it is also fairly customizable.

 

Things will always evolve - I do still recall when Skype was king - it will be interesting to see where the future takes us with these communication platforms, but I am eager to see what emerges in the coming years.

 

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This is a headshot of Christine Votruba.

Collage of REM Team playing Mini Golf for a quarterly event

 

Last week, we had our July Quarterly Event of Mini Golf at Max’s Sports World. It’s been so long since we had a Quarterly! Our last one before this was in January when we played retro games at Pin Up Arcade. That’s because the team-building event we usually have at around April was cancelled due to COVID. This particular event was special because there were a couple of my colleagues that I had not seen in person since January. Plus, we’ve welcomed back Shauna into the team!

 

We enjoyed the sunny, summer weather though it was definitely very hot that afternoon. We split up into 3 teams of 3:

  1. Rob, Matt and Sean S.

  2. Sean L., Sean M. and myself (aka Dev-Sean’s and me!)

  3. Ryan, Todd and Shauna

We played 9 holes in the Blue Course, all the while practicing social distancing and/or wearing a face mask. Beyond a doubt, the highlight for me is Sean L.’s (aka Legger) “chipper” move! I totally LOL’d (laughed out loud) every time he did the trick. And what an impressive trick it was! By “chipping,” he jumped the ball pass the barrier, thereby cutting down the strokes it took to get to the hole. It was a risky trick as one time he chipped the ball and made it fly out into some bushes. (Side Note: please excuse my golf terminology or lack thereof as I’m no expert in the subject.)

 

There was a lot of comradery between all of us with a lot of cheers and helpful tips throughout the afternoon. It’s always very amusing and memorable when we play our quarterly event games.

 

A team that plays well together works well together!

 

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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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This is a headshot of Brad Anderson.

Computer with logos for Chrome and Brave browsers on it

 

If you ask the average person today what web browser they use, I think most would tell you that they use Google Chrome. It is a powerful browser with direct ties to Google Services, giving the browser a lot of power under the hood. The Google team itself is also a massive force, so you know the browser has a lot of support behind it in terms of a workforce.

 

Along with this power, comes a great loss in privacy as well as quite a bit of social profiling being done on you in the background by 3rd parties. Google makes a lot of money off of you without you being aware of specifically what they are doing.

 

The Search for Alternatives

I spent a long time looking for alternatives, but there is always a pitfall if you stray from the Chrome platform. If you try and move towards non-Chromium browsers you start to run into compatibility issues on some websites. If you gravitate towards international browsers, you may be feeding your data into unknown or questionable sources. It took a long time, but I found a solution for myself. I want to be clear that this opinion is a personal experience and does not reflect the views of the REM team as a whole necessarily, this is a personal blog entry.

 

Ad-Free Browsing

I was recommended to try Brave by a friend of mine on the basis that it has a native adblocker/tracker blocker, and is based on the Chromium platform. This means it was addressing my privacy concerns at the same time as not compromising to the compatibility issues I feared would occur by leaving the Chromium base platform. What I didn’t know was that it would also give me the option to view “non-invasive” ads for essentially money. The browser gives you the option to opt in to see up to 5 ads per hour in exchange for a small amount of money (I think my cell phone was paid $2.50 last month, so it is nominal). The thing is, I didn’t notice the ads and I didn’t see any other ads for the entire month. My browsing experience was flawless and I enjoyed ad-free YouTube and various other platforms without needing to use 3rd party addons to Chrome.

 

Encrypting Personal Data

In addition to this, Brave also automatically tries and upgrades non-secure http connections to https automatically. This can potentially help encrypt your data across server connections where it would otherwise be exposed. You can also outright block scripts right from the URL bar.

 

While not everyone will benefit from such a browser, especially in a more business-like setting where you may be required to see advertisements etc., or follow a company policy on browser – I personally would highly recommend this browser for home use to help protect your privacy, make a small payback on the ads that you do opt to see, and sacrifice absolutely no quality or functionality.

 

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This is a headshot of Brad Anderson.

an office set up in someone's house

 

A concept many people are becoming more familiar with these days, working from home is something that is only recently becoming practical for many people.

 

In our industry, it is something that can be done easily and seamlessly thanks to the speed of current home internet connections, and the fact that most people do have computers in their homes now. Go back 20 years, and it was the vast minority who could work from home if needed. There are some careers, such as construction, which for obvious reasons will never be home jobs – however for those of us who can work from home, these can be some essential tips and tools for the tasks at hand.

 

Proper Setup

 

You are going to want to make sure you are lined up with all the gear you need before you sit down to begin. I would highly recommend that if you work on a monitor/monitors at the office, you get a peripheral to allow your laptop to connect to your home monitor/monitors as well. Clear your desk of any distractions you may have in your field of view, and try your best to make the surrounding environment quiet enough to work in. Having a good pair of headphones at home will really help, and if it also has a built-in mic, you are covered for your phone as well. Wireless is key here for home, as it will allow you to go to your kitchen and other areas of your home while on the phone. Having a USB hub will also help ensure you have all the connections you may need.

 

Mimic your Regular Schedule

 

Try your best to act like you are “going to work” for real. This means getting up at the same time as if you had to commute, doing your same morning ritual, and getting dressed as if you were going to go to the office. This part is important and the temptation is there to skip out on some of this as you do have the extra time and likely won’t be seeing anyone, but the mentality of getting ready for your workday will put you in “work mode” and help to wake up your brain, which may revert to “weekend mode” otherwise.

 

Try and take your breaks and your lunch at the same time you would at the office as well, as this will help keep your day on track. It is easier to work through lunch, or take excessive breaks if you are not self-monitoring more carefully.

 

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Contributors

Shauna Ramsaroop
24
November 30, 2020
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Rob Matlow
100
November 24, 2020
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Christine Votruba
27
July 28, 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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