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  • Melissa Chungfat posted an article
    Plan for a safe return to work for your team. see more

    Preparing for a Safe Return to the Office in 2021

    Written by Stephanie Sang at Masked For Work

    As vaccinations roll out in phases in Canada, it’s important to start planning for a safe and gradual return to the office. Because research and information on COVID-19 changes rapidly, it’s crucial for companies to be as adaptable as possible. Right now, the priority groups being vaccinated include health care workers and the elderly.

    We’ll go over some general recommendations to consider as you start planning your safe, gradual return to the office when the time comes.  

    1. Review COVID-19 guidelines at all government levels

    As a company, it’s important to review and comply with all of the local, provincial, and federal legislation that are updated regularly. Based on the recommendations, you can create health and safety policies for workers, including prescreening measures.

    2. Reorganize your workspace with clear signage

    You can rearrange work areas to increase safety including having desks placed at least 2 metres apart, installing barriers, and adding a hands-free door pedal. 

    Add clear signage around the workplace to remind people to practice safety habits like washing their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap, sanitizing their work stations before they leave the office, and cleaning before and after the use of equipment.

    3. Clearly communicate safety policies ahead of time

    There are many changes and information for people to process which is why it is important to communicate the policies well in advance of them returning to work. You can use videos and visuals to help staff remember crucial information more effectively. Establish a way for employees to confidentially validate state of health as well as any concerns they have.

    Why vaccinated people are advised to wear a mask

    It’s important to know that currently at the date of this post, health officials advise that vaccinated people should wear a mask because even if the vaccines appear to be highly effective against COVID-19, there is the possibility that vaccinated individuals could be spreading the virus to other people because they are asymptomatic. 

    Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at McMaster University said, “There’s nothing there [in Pfizer’s data] that suggests that people are less transmissible. All we know is individuals who got the vaccines had less symptomatic disease than people who didn’t get the vaccines.”  

    Dr. Rob Koza, a clinical microbiologist at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto said, “It’s going to take for everybody to get vaccinated, not just in Canada but across the world. The masks probably aren’t going anywhere.” 

    How to keep your team safe as restrictions are gradually lifted

    The Vancouver-based tech company Groundswell Cloud Solutions got custom logo masks for their staff. 

    Kathryn Hall, a Marketing Assistant at Groundswell, said, "We want to provide our people with the tools to help them be the best at their job, and we care about our team members personally. We are a unique cloud computing firm because of our people and have always maintained that we can only be our best if we work together."

    The company provided masks even for their staff working from home. "You still need to know your company supports your health outside of the office,” Hall said.

    Get masks up to Health Canada’s recommended standards

     On November 3, 2020, Canada’s top doctor Theresa Tam recommended that masks should be a minimum of three layers. Two of the layers should be made of tightly-woven fabric like cotton or linen and a third layer should be a “filter-type fabric,” according to the Public Health Agency of Canada

    The World Health Organization recommended three layers back in June 2020. At the end of January 2021, health experts recommended having more mask layers.

    How to choose high-quality masks in Canada

    Even though the Canadian government’s guidelines don’t currently state that masks must be ethically made or made in an eco-friendly way, there are many companies like us at Masked For Work that go the extra mile and integrate excellent social and environmental practices in the production of masks. 

    Canadian-owned mask companies that integrate great social and environmental practices include Plus Guardian, Organic Masks Canada, and the People’s Mask

    When you are choosing masks, ensure that there are enough positive reviews. 


    Vaccinations are being distributed in phases across Canada with health care workers and elderly people being given priority. It will take time for the general public to receive the vaccines. 

    In the meantime, it’s a good idea to start planning early for a safe return to the office by:

    1. Following the recommended guidelines of all government levels

    2. Reorganizing your office space to minimize risks

    3. Getting high-quality masks that meet the government’s recommended standards 

    4. Provide enough PPE for your staff around the office

  • HR Tech Group posted an article
    Restrictions are lifting but will our tech industry return to the office? The short answer is yes. see more

    Will our Tech Industry Return to the Office? 

    Restrictions are being lifted and retail businesses are slowly opening up, but will our tech industry return to the office during this pandemic?

    The short answer is yes, a little bit at a time. It will be slow and staged. Cautious and collaborative. Not all will return. 

    So what does that look like?

    Most tech companies are asking their employees what they want. They are asking them what safety measures would make their return comfortable. What are their needs? Do they want to continue to work from home until the pandemic is over? Or are they desperate to get back into an office setting? Individual needs are being taken into account. One-sized-fits-all approaches are not being taken. Rotations are being planned, with people coming to work only a couple of days per week. 

    Some companies are moving to a permanent remote model. 

    Clear policies and practices are being put in place. Signage, one-way foot traffic, mandatory masks in common areas. Bathroom protocols. 12% of our member companies surveyed have implemented temperature checks. 

    Open concept tech spaces are looking at plexiglass barriers between cubicles. Desk are being reconfigured and spread out. It’s going to look like our grocery stores. Lots of rules and clean as a whistle!

    Kitchens will be bare. Coffee machines, chairs and snacks are being removed. It’s going to be BYOD (“bring your own dishes”) for a while. No creamers in the fridge. Some companies are removing microwaves and water coolers. 

    Interviewing of candidates in the office won’t be returning in a hurry. When we surveyed our members, of those companies that have determined an interviewing strategy, half plan to continue with remote interviewing. Another 48% plan to limit office visits by doing a mix of in-person and remote interviewing. 

    BC Jobs ran a virtual tech job fair last week, with hundreds of tech workers talking with recruiters from companies that are hiring. It was successful and they plan to continue facilitating these events. Virtual job fairs work.  

    Remote interviewing is a trend that will likely stick around.  

    For those who do return to the office in some format over the next couple of months, there certainly won't be any big parties. A few physically distanced picnics and parking lot BBQ’s are being planned but gone are the Happy Hour Fridays in the lunchroom.  

    Ensuring a safe workplace during a pandemic…. This is new territory for all of us. Our networks are vital at a time like this. We can lean on each other (figuratively of course!) and share ideas, solutions, plans and resources. Reach out to your network today.   

    And speaking of resources, here are a few resources that are repeatedly recommended by our HR Tech Group community:

    1. BC’s Restart Plan:  HERE
    2. WorkSafeBC’s Returning to Safe Operation:  HERE
    3. From the Seattle community, a Back to Work Toolkit: HERE
    4. Fasken Law’s Coronavirus Knowledge Centre and webinar series: HERE
    5. And for manufacturing facilities in particular, Tesla’s Return to Work Playbook: HERE

  • HR Tech Group posted an article
    Remote recruiting and on-boarding is hard. Here are 10 tips and ideas from tech industry stars. see more

     10 Tips for Remote Recruiting and On-boarding

    Remote recruiting and on-boarding is hard. 

    We recently hosted a webinar on the topic and were fortunate to have Tim Khoo-Jones, Senior Talent Acquisition Lead at Shopify, Saleema Chaudhry, Talent Acquisition Manager at PayByPhone and Ilya Brotzky, CEO and co-founder of VanHack join us for a panel discussion. 

    With such diverse perspectives from an award-winning start-up, a high growth SME and a tech unicorn, I took a lot of notes! Here are 10 tips and ideas from the conversation. 

    Let’s start with sourcing.

    Tip #1. Virtual hiring events are proving effective for sourcing. Consider hosting webinars for candidates so they can learn about your company. Location is no longer a barrier for attending. Attend virtual career fairsbeing organized by post-secondary institutions and industry associations. 

    Tip #2. Virtualize your job postings. The job has changed. Make sure the posting has too. 

    What about assessment? We’re accustomed to bringing someone to our office where we can interview them, test them and watch them interact with a number of different people. How do you assess candidates’ skills and capabilities from afar? 

    Tip #3. Watch out for unconscious bias. It’s magnified in a remote setting. 

    Unconscious bias training is more important than ever. Do more of it. 

    Build your hiring team’s awareness about potential bias “traps”. Check your own biases before starting an interview. 

    Some additional biases that candidates face in a remote interview setting are:

    • Technical difficulties during interview = inability to work from home
    • Lower than average communication skills = inability to perform the job well 
    • Messy background, poor lighting, bad camera angle = general incompetence
    • Inexperienced = too risky. unlikely to perform job well from home

    These are not facts. These are common biases that candidates are facing right now, in a remote setting. Watch for these, on top of other unconscious biases.

    Tip #4. Be flexible with candidates. Internet connections lag and drop. Construction happens next door. Babies cry. Poop happens! Know that it will and prepare to adjust for it. Work to put the candidate at ease when it happens. 

    Tip #5. Try new assessment tools. They won’t always work so you may need to keep trying. Maybe it’s as simple as using shared Google docs. Give candidates “take home projects” to get a sense for their skills. 

    Compensation and relocation need to be considered in a remote model. 

    Tip #6. Determine your compensation and relocation approach before you’re in the thick of it with a candidate. Some companies are stipulating compensation levels based on the local home country of the hire. If they are living and working in Costa Rica, their compensation is X. If/when they relocate to Canada, their compensation becomes Y. Determine if it’s even feasible to have someone work for your company from another country. You’ll need to pay them through a legal entity in the country in which they reside. Is it cost effective to have someone in a high cost global location? Much to consider.

    Remote on-boarding is hard.  

    How do you welcome people and connect them to your organization and your company culture? 

    Tip #7. Education – Figure out what additional context new hires need. Provide more documentation than you did before. Spend more time educating new hires on your tools, processes and expectations. Be very clear on what's expected. 

    Tip #8. Build connection – Build relationships. Focus on building two-way trust. Have weekly one-on-ones between the new hire and their manager. Get everyone in the company/division/team (depending on your size) to reach out and personally introduce themselves to the new hire. Survey the new hires after 1 week, 1 month, 3 months. Tap your ‘cultural leaders’ to connect individually with new hires and loop them in socially. 

    Tip #9. Watch your language!  Don’t inadvertently create a barrier to belonging. 

    Pre-COVID hires worked together in an office. They have a security ID badge. They met Dale’s friendly old dog and they know the receptionist well. They remember hanging out Friday nights at the beer fridge. Post-COVID hires do not. 

    Remove the ‘in-office’ language and lore from stories, conversations and documentation, especially if remote work is here to stay for many months or more.  

    Employee burnout was identified as a challenge right now. Some good mitigation ideas came forward from panelists and participants, like encouraging accountability partners who can hold each other to task to commit to their stated personal boundaries, like setting core hours for a team, and offering additional wellness and mental health resources. (think of these as bonus tips, leading up to tip #10)

    All that said, from interviewing to on-boarding, empathy was the word of the day. 

    Tip #10. Have empathy.




  • Stephanie Hollingshead posted an article
    Leading through the 4 four seasons of the COVID Crisis see more

    Survive, Revive, Rise and Thrive.

    Leading through the 4 four seasons of the COVID Crisis 

    by Catherine Ducharme, Director, Smart, Savvy & Associates (


    What are you learning about your Leadership as you journey through the pandemic? 

    To say the COVID crisis has been a journey would be an understatement. It’s been more like a high-stakes, un-relenting endurance race that’s demanded agility, decisiveness, grit, stamina, heart, and humanness every step of the way. 

    Never have our leadership skills been tested to this level. This pandemic has separated the true leaders from the imposters. The passionate from the passive. The transparent from the opaque. And the trusting from the controlling. (I was reminded of the March Los Angeles Times story headline ‘Bosses are panic-buying spy software to keep tabs on remote workers’). 

    And, it’s far from over. There’s much more leading to be done. 

    As we map our path forward here at Smart Savvy, our Leadership team took time to understand and define the stages of this journey for ourselves. Frankly, the tension of pervasive uncertainty and the desire to move forward drove our need for some clear context and structure. So, we defined the Four Seasons of COVID Framework and are using it to guide how we think about where we are, how we lead, where we’re headed, and how we make progress. 

    The framework helps us recognize that each season has its own leadership needs and challenges and requires us to flex different strengths and skills — or lean into new ones — as we journey through.

    Each season requires us to shift our mindset, embrace the new realities, seek out new opportunities, challenge people differently and ask new questions. 

    And if we take the time, each season will give us the gift of self-reflection and learning about our leadership. It’s about taking stock of the strengths we’ve developed, the clarity we’ve gained, where we’ve fallen short, and what we can take forward.


    Season 1: Survive 

    March 2020 seems like a lifetime ago. This season marks our response to the global pandemic crisis. Social distancing, working from home, self-isolation and new standards is how we keep safe.  It’s characterized by massive societal impact along with workplace and economic disruption. 

    The hallmarks of strong leadership during a crisis are visibility, transparency, and frequent communications. This season has also required fast decisions, quick action and adaptability. More than giving people access to the tools and technology to be productive at home, leaders have recognized the important of building trusting relationships, connection and empathy, when leading people through change. 

    For many organizations, this season established the Daily Huddle as common practice. At Smart Savvy, our Huddles continue to serve to motivate, inspire, engage and inform. Conversations are authentic and caring, and as a result we’ve never felt more connected as a team.  

    Above all, this season has provided the opportunity for Leaders to control less and trust more. To let go of perfection and embrace vulnerability. To be less distant and more personal, human and compassionate. To learn what it takes to lead with optimism and role model good leadership. 

    Coaching Questions for Reflection

    • In this season, what’s been the biggest personal challenge for you as a leader?
    • What have you learned about yourself? 
    • What have you had to had to let go of? 
    • What have you learned about your team? 


    Season 2: Revive 

    In this season, we catch our breath. The panic has somewhat subsided, and we recognize the need to be solution focused. We accept that the world we knew has changed and yet we aren’t clear on what the new world looks like. As William Bridges discusses in his book,  Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, we are in the neutral zone, and our role as Leaders is to navigate our teams and organizations through this time of uncertainty. This season is about pivoting and adapting, reframing and finding opportunities, making tough decisions and having hard conversations.  

    We’ve become Zoom experts and have embraced new and helpful tools that connect us. Virtual is no longer virtual; it’s the way we do business. We’re exploring how to deliver our services in new ways and paying attention to our brand, employees and customers, because this isn’t the time to be tone deaf. It is the time to be supportive and to learn, adapt and try new things.     

    At Smart Savvy, we’ve focused on investing in our brand and our relationships. To support Leaders, we are taking what we know about leadership, coaching and recruitment and are freely sharing that through content, channels, webinars, facilitated discussions and Zoom web events. 

    And, according to the feedback, it’s been welcomed and needed. 

    As Leaders through this season, the challenge is finding the balance between things that sometimes feel like they are “either or” states:

    • Compassion and holding people accountable for performance.
    • Optimism and realism.
    • Work life and home life in the same space.
    • Working hard and managing our energy so we can show up well.   


    Coaching questions for reflection

    • What’s been tough about leading people through change? 
    • What are you learning about your brand, employees and customers? 
    • What conversations are you avoiding? 
    • How are you managing your energy? 


    Season 3: Rise 

    In Rise, we emerge. We’re well down the road of adapting to the new world of work. 

    We’re excited, yet still cautious, about the steps we’re taking in opening our economy, workplaces, and communities. While we’re not sure exactly what’s next, we have the desire and need to forge ahead, explore new opportunities, test out our new business models and build momentum. This season has a bias to action, trying new things, and is about moving forward. 

    While we are still leading through uncertainty in the neutral zone, there’s more clarity and a sense of direction and purpose. We are more assured that we will get through this crisis. This is the season to delicately seek new business opportunities, encourage creative ideas, foster collaboration, reward action, and embrace failure as learning.

    Smart Savvy took part in the Way Forward Workshop delivered by Domain 7. It was the perfect opportunity for our team to dig deep and begin to answer: What now? What next? We came out of the workshop armed with ideas to help us and our clients move forward. 

    For Leaders, we’ve found our voice and purpose in our habits and intentions which are becoming essential tools to keep with us for the future. We are creating clarity, empowering our people, reconnecting with our clients and embracing our new way of working

    Coaching questions for reflection? 

    • What does your team/org need to be successful as you emerge?
    • What would progress look like for you and your business/org?
    • Where do you have clarity? What else do you need to understand more fully? 
    • What’s a decision you could make today to build your way forward?


    Season 4: Thrive 

    Unless you are in the plexiglass or PPE business, for most of us, this fourth season is yet to be written. It lives in the new normal where we embrace the opportunities the post-COVID world presents. For Leaders, our hope is that we apply all the learnings from the past seasons to set us up to lead ourselves well, coach and empower our teams, build new cultures, redefine our values and establish bold visions

    Our hope is that we emerge as stronger, inspiring, more visible, and compassionate Leaders.  It’s our calling, and never before have we had this opportunity.


    Catherine Ducharme ACC, CLC

    Catherine Ducharme, ACC, CLC,  is a career communicator who brings 25+ years communications and leadership experience, in a range of industries. She is a certified coach and facilitator and is currently Director of Smart Savvy Academy, which delivers leadership development and coaching programs to teams. Catherine speaks to numerous audience (now virtually) on topics related to leadership, communications, and coaching.  She is also Past Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators local chapter and Canada West Region. 


    HAVE AN ARTICLE YOU WANT TO SHARE?  Click here to learn more about submitting a guest blog post.  

  • Stephanie Hollingshead posted an article
    How can we survive stressful times? see more

    How to Survive Stressful Times

    We talk a lot about well-being, mental health, stress and anxiety these days, and with good reason. There is rather a lot to be stressed and anxious about during a global pandemic! So how best to survive during this stressful time?.

    Morneau Shepell considers there to be four aspects to well-being:

    • Mental
    • Physical
    • Social
    • Financial

    Each of these aspects is really worth thinking about. When was the last time you asked yourself:

    • How is my mental well-being?
    • My physical well-being?
    • Social well-being?
    • Financial well-being?

    When one of these areas of our life is “ill”, we quickly become ill…

    Right now it’s rather likely that your well-being, and the well-being of your employees is, at best, strained. But how can you actually do something about it?

    Morneau Shepell has created many wonderful resources to support Canadians in coping during this time.  Here are a few of them: 

    1. WellCan: free mental health app launched for all Canadians

    Morneau Shepell is proud to be part of a team that created a free online app called WELLCAN- for Canadians to use to assist in mental health during these challenging times – Search for WELLCAN in the Apple App store or Google Play, download and set up your profile to start using it.

    2. Managing Anxiety: Blog Post Q&A with Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Brooke Halpern: How to best manage anxiety during the coronavirus outbreak

    3. Emotional Wellbeing Video: Emotional Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    4. Well-being Wednesdays on Facebook Live

    Starting Wednesday, April 8, the Morneau Shepell LifeWorks team will host weekly Well-being Wednesdays Facebook Live sessions from our LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell Facebook page. Well-being Wednesdays sessions will run for 30 minutes in both English and French and focus on one of the four pillars of well-being: Mental, Physical, Social, and Financial.

    Join live for Well-being Wednesdays by visiting the LifeWorks Facebook page. If you can’t make it to a Live event, no problem; the session recordings will be posted on their LifeWorks platform, websites, and social channels.

    Here’s the Well-being Wednesdays schedule for April:

    • Wednesday April 22, 10:00am EST (French) and 11:00am EST (English): Social well-being
    • Wednesday April 29, 10:00am EST (French) and 11:00am EST (English): Financial well-being

    And what about EAP’s (Employee Assistance Plans)? 

    They aren’t something that gets talked about much at work or at home, yet many people have access to them! They aren’t mandatory, they aren’t particularly flashy or new and they can cause people embarrassment. “Oh, I don’t need that. I’m fine!”  

    And quite frankly they are under-utilized…yet they wield powerful returns.

    Let’s take a look at some data: According to a Morneau Shepell LifeWorks client study, 82% surveyed felt it improved their mental health. And from a company ROI perspective, the same study found a 57% improvement in absenteeism and an 81% improvement in productivity.

    It’s estimated that 30% of people in a workplace are impacted by a mental health issue, 28% are caring for elderly dependents, 16% are caring for both children and elderly dependents, 24% have anxiety over debt and 10% are suffering from depression or addiction.

    Those are last year’s stats. We can all safely assume that these numbers have just skyrocketed.

    Now is the time for EAPs to be leveraged by all of us!

    Right now, let’s consider every day a Bell Mental Health Day. Check in with yourself. Check in with your friends, family and colleagues. And take care of your mental, physical, social and financial well-being.  #BellLetsTalk