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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Exercise equipment in the background with a white box

 

I found it to be rather refreshing this year that I was not inundated with advertisements for gym memberships as we rang in the new year. 2021 surely started off differently and I assume resolutions look a lot different now as well. For me, this year is focused on my overall health. Not a numerical value in mind, just to feel good.

 

At the start of this journey, I invested in some weights, a treadmill, a yoga mat, exercise ball and a resistance band. I scoured YouTube to help build an at home routine that leaves me feeling energized. I’m not working out extensively like I would normally do at a gym, this time I’m moving in ways that make me feel better about myself, and this is empowering.

 

I think the best part about the 2021 resolution that I have made for myself is that I have created time each day to solely focus on feeling good, and the best part about this, is I’m in the comfort of my own home. I don’t need to go to a gym to feel like I’ve had a successful workout, I just needed the time for myself.

 

In addition to the time that I’ve carved out for myself, some of us at REM have Fitbit’s and make use of the weekly challenges. This keeps us motivated, and as a competitive bunch – it keeps us moving and laughing – the smack talk get’s quite entertaining at times.

 

I know we have all been stuck at home, some of us can get into ruts (I know I did) but making the most of it can be rewarding.

 

I’d love to know how you have been turning these series of unfortunate events into something great, please share your stories with us!

 

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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.

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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Contributors

Shauna Ramsaroop
40
February 24, 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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