Covid-19 and Healthy Work

Safety workplace hardhat

COVID-19 has impacted the health of our workplaces, from human, operational, and economic perspectives.

Two weeks ago BC went from 300% to just 30% in week-to-week new COVID-19 cases, and the week of April 13th showed an increase of 18% new cases. These are significant decreases as they show continual improvement, and indicate B.C. is flattening the curve, and reducing further risk to these perspectives. I’ll update my blogpost this week with the new numbers. 

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Even with these reductions in new cases we still run the risk of exponentially increasing new cases if we stop using the measures we are all applying (hand washing, social distancing, and isolation) which can lead to thousands of new cases and impact our health care facilities.

Consider we just had a sunny Easter long weekend.  With some nice weather, and the recent stretches of isolation people might have been tempted to shortcut some of these measures and get out of the house.  

We won’t know for another week or two, but the weekend could have been detrimental to our efforts to flatten the curve and could erase any gains made in the last few weeks.

Quicker Recovery

If we can stick it out another few weeks there is potential for an even more significant reduction on the long term impact the pandemic will have. There is talk that B.C. may see some restrictions eased, if we continue our efforts.

A few more weeks of low numbers in new cases will have an incredible impact on our health, medical infrastructure, medical professionals, key services, communities and the economy.

This may allow us to consider slowly reintegrating some areas back into some degree of normal.

Gradual reintegration of social and economic activity might mean the economic rebound is slow also, but keeping cases down while doing so may result in a quicker and more sustainable recovery of the economy.

For now, we need many more weeks of continually decreasing new cases to start to build confidence in the possibility of resuming any degree of “normal” economic and social activities.

Managing Safety

As businesses, and organizations focus on maintaining some degree of operations at the moment, or consider what is needed should they be able to start operating again in a few months, there are some considerations from a health and safety perspective that should be included in the return to work plan:

  • Where and how can workers spread the virus?
  • What level of risk exists, and to who?
  • Do we have controls that effectively reduce risk?
  • Consider an exposure control plan if there is high risk of exposure
  • Have they communicated the hazards and controls?
  • Are they monitoring the hazards and controls?
  • Do staff have means to report any concerns?
  • Do staff and managers understand the right to refuse unsafe work?

Safety committees should be getting awareness and training on how to manage these issues at work.  The BC Municipal Safety Association and WorkSafe BC  have a number of resources workplaces can review.

Future Proofing

Our businesses and communities may be a long way from returning to normal, but now is the time to consider what changes may be required if and when businesses and organizations are able to return to some degree of operations. 

Consider:

  • What lessons have been learned?  
  • What areas of the business were strengths and weaknesses during this?
  • What is the plan to reintegrate back into some degree of operational capacity?
  • If your business is going to be limited, or may not recuperate, what are the contingency plans?

The Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce has a number of resources for business in the Nanaimo Stay Strong section of it’s website.

Continuing to stay the course, assess our workplaces, review what we need to do now, and in the future can all contribute to maintaining a degree of health in our workplaces.  Right now, a healthy workplace should be everyone’s priority, from all perspectives.

Cooking and Corona (Virus)

Today let’s talk about a different kind of C.O.O.K.

Yes this acronym stands for keep the Coronavirsus Out Of the Kitchen.

We’ve all heard the saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and no better time than the present to put this into action with our daily practices.

In my home and in my professional kitchen we don’t use a bunch of ready-made cleaners and sanitizers in fact we don’t use any unless we are washing the dishes.

We use the following sanitizer that is also used world-wide for wiping down hard surfaces in the finest of kitchens everywhere and it only takes a dab of household bleach!

1 tablespoon of bleach per 1 gallon of water will give you a 50-200 ppm sanitizing solution. This can be used to sanitize dishes, utensils, food preparation counters and tables.

Source: Sanitizer and Disinfectant – NH DHHS

By implementing common everyday practises we can help mitigate the risk of coronavirus from spreading in your home and giving it to others – it’s more than not shaking hands and washing them frequently.

Here are 5 common reminders on how we can help each other stay healthy:

  1. Washing your hands should last between 20-40 seconds. An easy timer is to sing the alphabet;
  2. Rinsing your soap after you’ve used it;
  3. Spraying your pump dispensers, light switches and taps after touching them;
  4. Preparing your food on a cutting board rather than directly on a countertop;
  5. Keeping cupboard, microwave and fridge handles disinfected throughout the day.

Being aware of where your fruits and vegetables are coming from and who may have had contact with them while displaying them out in the grocery store for your consumption and selection are also areas in which to be very careful of.

Washing your fruits and vegetables has never been more important than it is today!

A best practice to exercise in our daily lives is a simple, cost effective solution of vinegar, lemon juice & water. For this mixture go to the following link: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-your-own-fruit-and-veggie-wash-256797

You don’t have to have a lot of money to make great at-home products that work!

NOTE: this solution will be more effective than running under cold water for washing fruits and vegetables. However it will NOT disinfect. This solution will have no impact on covid-19 or any other virus.

Now of course we can go on an on for the importance of washing all foods and surfaces so to wrap it up let’s close with some dishwashing tips.

  1. Before washing dishes you should always rinse them first.
  2. Always wash dishes in the hottest possible water with a good amount of soap and rinse them well under running hot water. Of course a dishwasher is best if you have one.
  3. Do NOT dry your dishes with a cloth or on top of a soft pad. Air drying is the best way to dry your dishes without encouraging the growth of bacteria. A damp towel is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

According to Time magazine you may be surprised to learn that the dirtiest space in a house is not the bathroom but rather our kitchens! If your interested in the German study about this topic here is a link you can check out https://time.com/5254808/how-to-wash-dishes-sponge/

On a final note please let the Perogie Mama of Vancouver Island leave you with this….. enjoy the necessary break from the hustle and bustle of life that this unfortunate virus has bestowed upon us. Take this time to eat out less and stay home more with family and friends.

What is the difference between ‘brand’ and ‘branding’?

Studio Robazzo Designs Victoria

The difference between ‘brand’ and ‘branding’ is simpler than you might think.

A brand is the total vision and mission of the company and its products. The brand represents how the company engages and emotionally connects to its customers. Typically a company will develop a brand strategy which informs everything that comes next.

Branding, on the other hand, is the method and execution of the brand. Branding creates elements which are then used to reinforce the vision and mission of the brand. The act of branding focuses on the customer touchpoints, that being the moments that a company engages or comes in contact with an existing or potential customer.

What are touchpoints?

Traditionally, the main touchpoints of a business are your logo, your website, your print material, and your marketing efforts. These touchpoints are critical, as many times they are the first point of contact with your customer, but there are so many more touchpoints which differ from industry to industry.

Let’s imagine a new wellness clinic. By not focusing on the whole experience, you can easily create a disconnect between the brand’s intentions and the overall experience of the customer. Let’s say you focus heavily on your graphic brand assets to be sleek, modern and high-tech, but then customers are greeted by a bland, sterile and overly clinical environment. These two opposing experiences create confusion, or cognitive dissonance, of what the brand represents.

A good branding or marketing agency takes a specific approach to creating a brand: they focus on a holistic approach. They look at all the ways in which a customer comes in contact with your company to provide a cohesive & well-rounded brand experience. This comes in many forms, from traditional assets, like logos and websites, to physical objects and space design. The goal is the same for all the elements and the connection between them: to create a seamless experience for your customers.

Great brand design drives great results.

What are the best cloud-based accounting apps?

There are many types of businesses, including newly incorporated start-ups or small to medium-sized businesses looking to move to the cloud. No matter what type or size of business, there is a clear tech stack we recommend any business consider as part of their digital transformation, and continued improvement in the area of financial management.

Xero

Xero is the only cloud-based accounting software we use, and it is by far the easiest to use by both accountants and business owners while providing valuable information to both parties.

Here are some of the highlights of using Xero:

  • Xero can be used anywhere, as long as you have Wi-Fi available. This means you can check out your live data whenever and wherever.
  • Xero can integrate with hundreds of different cloud-based apps. I’ll be listing out a couple of them but there are many more available that can provide added value depending on your business goals.
  • Xero connects to your bank and credit card accounts and will automatically upload your transactions through an API connection. This means you are saving roughly 50% of manual data entry and getting the information on a daily basis (instead of monthly or annually).
  • The support for Xero is efficient and useful and can be accessed by accountants or business owners. 

Hubdoc

Hubdoc is a cloud-based receipt management app that integrates with Xero and provides a quick and easy way to capture your documentation and support for the business.

Our top reasons for choosing Hubdoc:

  • Hubdoc allows you to download an app on your phone and take a picture of your receipt anytime and anywhere. You no longer have an excuse for losing that receipt!
  • For the many recurring subscription services out there, Hubdoc allows you to hook up your account information directly so that receipts upload automatically.
  • In addition to subscriptions, you can connect your bank account which will pull monthly bank and credit card statements all in one spot. 

Plooto

Plooto is a payment processing system that can collect and make payments on behalf of the business by connecting your bank account(s) online.

Here are a few key features of Plooto:

  • You can add a Controller or CFO to the app to make payments on your behalf without giving them direct bank access. An approval process can be set up so that you are always approving and staying involved when needed.
  • Plooto can integrate directly with Xero, meaning it will pull bills and invoices to the app, so you don’t have to go back and forth. Once this bill/invoice is paid, it will automatically mark this paid in Xero.
  • Plooto allows businesses to make payments directly to CRA for GST, payroll, and corporate taxes. These can also be set up on a recurring basis, so you don’t have to initiate it each time.

Wagepoint

Wagepoint is the main payroll provider we use for clients. For salary and hourly employees, it is easy to use and does everything from payroll processing to preparing T4s at year-end.

A few great qualities of Wagepoint:

  • The app integrates with Xero, so all payroll bills push through, and no manual journal entries are necessary. Speaking from an accountant’s point of view, this can save a lot of time!
  • The technical support for Wagepoint is great and their response time is quick.
  • Wagepoint allows you to set “autorun” for pay periods. This means you never have to worry about forgetting to pay your employees – it will automatically run each time.
  • They deal with all the remittances to CRA, so you never have to worry about missing a monthly or quarterly remittance payment.

 And just like that, the top cloud-based apps that will get your business up and running or will simply create that efficiency and scalability your business is looking for. This tech stack is what we will always recommend for any business or start-up looking for solutions. We’ve provided a high-level overview of each app above but there is obviously a lot more to learn!

Making a Business Case for Infection Prevention and Control at the Workplace

The exposure or spread of germs at the workplace has far-reaching consequences ranging from absenteeism from work, loss of productivity, temporary closures, litigation, and damage of company’s reputation.

Such a compelling case on the impact of infection transmission at workplace provides a basis for organizations to make business decisions dedicated to employees’ health and wellness.

Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) refers to evidence-based practices that, when applied consistently, can prevent or reduce the risk of transmission of germs.

Cost-effective analysis for IPAC reveals significant cost-saving possibilities for businesses. In fact, the most important immediate economic return for any organization may lie in outcomes such as a healthy workforce, high productivity and organizational excellence.

Now, the obvious question is that, if IPAC is cost-effective, why are there not more dollars allocated to IPAC efforts at workplace? Perhaps business owners do not fully understand the potential impact or benefit; maybe, there is lack of expert guidance; or perhaps business owner place less priority on employee’s health and wellness. The latter is obvious, however, if we examine the following: how often do facilities conduct infection transmission risk assessment or surveillance? Are there exposure control plans for occupational exposures? Are cleaners trained in basic IPAC as it relates to environmental decontamination? Is there an effective facility IPAC program or is employee immunization (especially for the flu, or other communicable diseases like TB) taken seriously?

To make a good business case for IPAC, it is important to review the cost and benefit of such a program. Some of the direct and indirect cost may include cost for expert consultation, administrative cost, and cost due to IPAC supplies in the facility, but the benefits are enormous.

Some of the benefits include reduction of sick days (absenteeism), employees’ wellness, productivity gains, retention, reduction in morbidity, and prevention of litigation issues. There may also be intangible benefits arising from the protection of the company reputation and public image. This is particularly important as there have been several incidents in BC where hotels, restaurants, grocery shops, nursing homes, childcare, schools, and gyms have been temporarily closed because of disease outbreak. Also, any identifiable risk that clients may be exposed to infectious threats from a facility will say whether the clients or others will return for future business transactions. This is what is often referred to as failure costs that arises from customer dissatisfaction and defection.

Dissatisfied customers are much more likely to talk about their experience than are satisfied customers and that negative word of mouth is more often believed than positive comments. This experience may translate into real purchase or services decisions which is likely to be negative. If this occurs customer retention and loyalty may be greatly affected. Therefore, the time to reflect on your organization’s IPAC program and occupational exposure policy as part of employees’ health and wellness initiative is now.

Consider the Gift of Education for your Grandchildren

the gift of education for your grandchildren

Post secondary graduates earn, about $1 million more than those without a degree…

If you’re a grandparent, you already know the joys of having grandchildren in your life. And, like so many grandparents, you may be looking at ways to help your grandchildren get the most out of their lives.

Perhaps the most valuable thing you could give your grandkids is the gift of education.

Consider this: Over a lifetime, post secondary graduates earn, on average, about $1 million more than those without a degree according to the Census Bureau. So, putting money toward your grandchildren’s post secondary education is a good investment.

Furthermore, your grandchildren may well need the help, because getting an education is expensive and costs continue to rise. Consequently, you may want to contribute to an RESP. Rules around RESPs have steadily become more accommodating over the years. You have several options for how the money can be invested and there is a lifetime contribution limit of $50,000 per beneficiary. Growth within the plan is tax sheltered, and when a student draws funds from the plan to pay for his or her education, the income is included on their tax return. As most students generally have negligible income, the tax payable on the withdrawals can be as low as zero.

If you name one grandchild as a beneficiary of an RESP and that grandchild decides not to go to college or university, you can switch the account to another grandchild – in other words, you maintain control of the money for the life of the account.

Another common way to invest money for a grandchild’s education is through the use of an “in-trust” account. An “in-trust” account is an informal trust because there is no trust deed. However, it’s important to note that once gifted, this money no longer belongs to the donor.

If you put your money into either a formal trust or an in-trust account for a minor grandchild, all income will be taxed in your hands until the child reaches age 18. Any capital gains will be taxed to the child regardless of their age. This is why investments that generate capital gains are ideally suited to this type of arrangement. For this type of arrangement to work properly, care must be taken to ensure that the in-trust account is set up properly and complies with the applicable tax rules.

Whichever option is right for your family, there are a variety of opportunities for you to give something to the grandchildren who give so much to you.

Passing on the Tradition – Story #1925

I thought it was time to share a little story with everyone so here we go.
This is the story about the first time I ever wanted to make  perogies on my own.

In case you don’t know …. I am the youngest of eight. When we made Perogies as a family it was a huge social event. Mom and dad would both make the dough – no machine used in those days. A gigantic canning pot was used to cook the potatoes in. While the air filled with steam and smelled like warm comfort as the potatoes boiled gently a top the stove other elements of the process would begin. Dad would be chopping about a 10 pound bag of onions never complaining about how much his eyes teared up … just getting the job done! Mom would be shredding the cheese. And soon the house smelled of the mixture that to this day I use in our recipe of potato, Cheddar and onion.

The day came when I got married and I wanted to make Perogies on my own. I phone my Mom and said hey I want to make perogies  her reply was “So good for you. Make perogies!”  

I laughed and said “Mom I never made Perogies by myself.”

She replied “What are you talking about you never made perogies?!”

I continue to reason with her and say “Mom I never made them by myself I want to make them for my husband.” She replies “Bring the baby!!”

What the baby had to do with me making perogies to this day I’ll never know but I did as I was told. So off I drove to Mom’s house with baby in tow. 

Arriving at the house Mom greets me at the door and says “Hello give me the baby. “ “Hi Mom” I reply. She says so go to the kitchen and get the flour. I’m thinking to myself “Hello to you too Bella…” I open the pantry door and there inside not so tucked away is a huge green garbage bin filled with flour!

I know exactly where the bowl is to make the dough, middle top shelf. I gaze around and remember, right I’m at Mom and Dad‘s house there are no measuring cups to be had.

I yell from the pantry “Hey Mom how much flour do I put into the bowl?”

Heavy footsteps approach, “Take the baby,” she says. Grabs a plate second shelf right hand side and begins to count in Ukrainian to five while filling said plate with flour and emptying it into the bowl. Her task is complete and she says give me the baby. Of course give you the baby it’s all about the baby, I laugh to myself, thinking how am I going to figure out how many cups she put into this bowl ….remembering my Dad telling me “Garlic-crushing cup is about 1 cup, so if you ever have to measure that’s your cup to measure.”

Excellent! I think to myself, garlic crushing cup it is and I take it and start measuring into another bowl so I would have an amount that I could use when I got back home to try to replicate this recipe. Oddly enough (or probably not) The measurement was 5 cups!

Once all things were “measured“ we began making the filling. Everything I explained above was repeated with not-so-precise perfection. My Mom then wanted to teach me how to season the onions for the mixture.

As she took me into the kitchen she told me that this was her favourite part I didn’t understand until she opened up the pouring section of the pepper shaker. 

She told me to tell her “chekaty” (“Wait!” “Stop!”) As she began to pour the pepper on top of the pan lined with onions. After seeing a whole bunch drop down and my eyes are popping out I yelled “chekaty!” She laughed!!! She didn’t stop pouring that pepper until the top of those onions were black! Today that is still the measurement method I use when adding the spice to my mixture.

That was how Bella Baba Perogies learnt how to make Perogies as a young adult. I hope you’ve enjoyed storytime Number 1925, representing the year my Mother was born.

The Hardest Card To Write

You open the card, you stare at the blank space. “What do I say?” goes around in your head. You have to write a condolence card.

I wrote two this week, one for someone who died too young, the other for an ancient grandmother. How to respond to grief – a complicated mix of loss, sadness, sometimes anger, sometimes relief, wistful memories, fun memories?

Here are some thoughts on what to say:

  • I’m sorry for your/our loss. It’s okay to acknowledge complicated feelings: it’s okay to feel all these things.
  • Share a memory, if you have one, of the person who passed. Or your impression, if you have met them, or your impression of them from your friend. Or you can say, “I am sure s/he was an awesome person, knowing you as I do.”
  • If you have experience of grief, share your reality, without making it theirs. I found grief was surreal: I thought I had a big neon sign on my forehead saying, “I just lost my mum,” but I didn’t, and groceries need buying and people need phoning, and it feels surreal. So I share that and everyone so far has found it comforting.
  • Offer specific help if you can and want to, to the extent you can: taking the kid(s) for an afternoon; laundry; dog-sitting.
  • Don’t include any advice, blame, predictions for feeling better, or discussion of the details of death
  • Don’t think it needs to be long.
  • Late is much better than never. Cards pour in early, and then people often experience a silence. Sending a card weeks late, affirming any continuing grief, can be a huge support. You can also send a second card, or call.

The best advice I’ve come across is in this blog, which includes ideas for specific losses, ie parents, a child, pets: www.thepencompany.com/blog/write-a-sympathy-card/

Just remember, showing support to loved ones in their times of grief is more appreciated than it might seem.

Downsizing Tips

Downsizing can be a stressful process! Here are some tips to getting through the process and feel good about the outcome.

First and most important tip is …

Give yourself lots of time! Rushing just adds to the stress and then it’s harder to make good choices. Most of us are emotionally attached to our home… leaving it can bring up so many emotions, like sadness and apprehension about the move. Having a plan can make it so much easier.

Seeking support of friends or family or a downsizer if needed, is critical to make this process less stressful. Having a 3rd party that is detached and knows the process can make it much easier on everyone. Many people can feel so overwhelmed by the prospect of such a huge change that they don’t know where to start. So help is essential.

4 Steps to help with this process include:

Step #1: Start Early. Give yourself lots of time and have a plan. ASK for help either friends and family or a professional.

Step 2: Minimize your Stuff. Tips for this: take what feels right for you. What items bring you joy and what you need. If there is something that you are really attached to but you won’t have room for, take a picture of it and even have it framed. You will have the memory but not the space it takes up. This is also good for collectables that you may not have room for.

Places to release items include Varage sale, Used Victoria Consignment stores, Big Brothers, Anney’s closet, Lunds Auction and House Thrift on Forth, just to name a few. Many of these services will come right to your door and pick up for you. This can be done even before you have found a new place and makes the process closer to the move much easier. You may find your mind is also decluttering as you declutter the stuff!!

Step 3: Know your new space in square footage and what will fit. You can even do a drawing and make paper pieces of your items and see what fits. Step 4: Take time to celebrate your accomplishments and time to relax and de-stress. This will make the whole process so much easier.

The Secret Ingredient

Ever since I was a little girl I can remember my Mom and Dad making perogies by the stockpot-full!!

The house would be filled with simple aromas from boiled potatoes and sautéed onions. The moment those smells hit your nose your stomach craved for what was to follow. 

Tender pockets filled with harvested potatoes & onions combined with good ol’ Canadian Cheddar served softly boiled with a dollop of sour cream. But of course their secret (aside from a solid dose of black pepper) was the love Mom & Dad pinched into every piece! (I’m pretty sure Love is a true pantry ingredient!)

Being the youngest of eight I had seen many family gatherings but the best ones were those in which our family grew even bigger!

Seriously …we just kept adding & adding. Yes I’m talking about weddings!  It was our family’s tradition to prepare all the food by hand for all weddings. 

It was all hands on deck! And boy did we have hands. Our typical feast consisted of: borscht (beet vegetable soup); cabbage rolls (2 types); perogies (2-3 types) meatballs with gravy; roast beef packed with garlic cloves plus a host of common veggies, and some special mixtures like pepanke (a type of mushroom with gravy) and my favourite garlic mashed beans mmmmmm.

For Us, (a poor Ukrainian Prairie Family) food was more than something you needed to survive. It was a foundation, a source, a way of showing love & a way to pass along traditions. Today I’m happy to believe that this holds true for many families as well as mine.  Be sure to always stock your pantry with my Mom & Dad’s secret ingredient!