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Category Archives: COVID-19 Resources

Resources and information for independent contractors working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

You Need to Have a Routine When You Work from Home

You Need to Have a Routine When You Work from Home

When the COVID-19 pandemic really became a reality for Canada in March, millions of Canadians were forced to work from home on a full-time basis, and many were setting up home offices for the first time. It was a big change, and understandably, productivity was expected to slip as we adjusted to a new way of doing this.

Eagle’s COVID-19 resources have had no shortage of work-from-home advice to help you get set-up and the Internet in general is overflowing with information to help you out. So, it shouldn’t come as a shock that three months later, clients and employers expect that you should now be working at full capacity. If you’re not there yet, then it’s time to build a routine to get yourself moving. And you need to do it now.

Routine will bring a sense of normality back to your day. It helps you build a regular schedule and to-do lists which are going to prevent procrastination and help you avoid bad habits overall. You’ll also begin to develop some great habits and your productivity will return to a level you can be proud of.

Having a routine in place is also critical to your own health. Indumathi Bendi, M.D., a physician at Piedmont Healthcare recently told Apartment Therapy “Carrying out routine activities reduces stress by making the situation appear more controllable and predictable. Preparedness is a key way to prevent stress.”

If you seek out expert advice on “the best morning routines” or “#1 work from home routines to make you a star” you’re going to be overwhelmed with different opinions and theories. The truth is, your routine is going to be different from anyone else’s. It will depend on your personal life (do you have kids hanging around the house?), your personal productive periods (everybody is more productive in different parts of the day), and hundreds of other variables unique to you.

Your best routine is going to mirror the regular work day you used to have — from waking up to commuting to working hours — as much as possible. Here are some elements to consider when creating your work-from-home routine:

  • Your Workspace: Your bed or the couch is not going to cut it. Even if you live in a small apartment without a private office, you still need a small area with a desk/table to keep organized.
  • Start/End Times: Setting specific “office hours” for yourself helps you build work/life balance and clients will know exactly when you’re available.
  • Breaks: Plan a regular lunch break and coffee breaks throughout your day, just as you’d have at the office.
  • Exercise: If you used to go to the gym in the morning or after work, continue to build those workouts into your routine at home. Don’t forget that walk you used to take from your car to the office. Even that void can be filled with a quick walk around the block.
  • Sleep: It’s easy to get into the habit of sleeping in a bit longer when you no longer have to worry about a commute or spending so much time getting ready. But that will creep up on you and, when the time comes, returning to regular office hours is going to be extremely difficult. Continue to wake up at the same time you used to and use that new-found time for yourself. Exercising, meditating or connecting with people are all amazing things we didn’t used to have time for but now the opportunity is there!

Your daily routine doesn’t need to be written down in stone and followed aggressively, but some sort of structure and predictability will do wonders for your productivity and mental health combined. What does your daily work-from-home routine look like?

Spring is Sprung, the Grass is Riz… I Wonder Where the Magic Is? Coping with COVID-19 Accommodations

Spring is Sprung, the Grass is Riz… I Wonder Where the Magic Is? Coping with COVID-19 Accommodations

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

In Canada, winters are tough and as soon as we get past March, we begin looking forward to Spring… more light, warmer temperatures, a sense of waking optimism! That’s the magic of this season. Or, it has been in years past. This season feels a little (a lot??) different. Social distancing, doubt about careers, and worry for loved ones all contribute to a significant headwind against the optimism that Spring typically brings.

Some people take this all in stride — a grand adventure! “It’s not the situation, it is how you choose to react to it!” That’s fine and good for the folks who have the wherewithal to adopt this mental state and if you are one of these, consider yourself lucky. Mental Health has been given increasing levels of press these past years, thanks to the advent of Mental Health Week/Month and advancing education on this important subject. Eagle supports this by running a “Not Myself Today” campaign each year and, during these COVID-19 accommodations we are extending this. We’re working hard to ensure none of our staff are “left behind” struggling to cope with isolation, loneliness, anxiety, or stress. Sometimes the solution isn’t just adopting a tough mental attitude, people need more assistance.

As contractors, you are both “regular employees” and “business owners” With this, the stressors can be double. Uncertainty as a contractor isn’t a new thing, but this COVID-19 world that we live in elevates uncertainty to levels that can be hard to cope with. If you are struggling with this, you need to recognize that you are not alone in feeling this way. But with the necessary accommodations required to stem COVID-19, isolation is a bigger threat. Know that there is a lot of help out there for you. Any number of agencies, government or private, exist to give you the boost you might need to work through your challenges. You need not wait until you are overwhelmed by things to seek help; in fact, the earlier you begin the easier it will be to work yourself into the right mindset. Two terrific sources of support are MindBeacon and the Canadian Centre for Mental Health. MindBeacon is typically offered as a “for-fee” service, but during the pandemic, they have opened up their services free-of-charge to all Canadians that need their assistance and the CCMHS is always available for those Canadians requiring their services. And, certainly, there are other sources of help as well. A quick online search will find many such organizations.

If you don’t need immediate help, but the stress of these times are beginning to wear on you, I thought I’d share a YouTube video that I found to be helpful. It’s theme is pragmatism above pessimism (and even optimism!) I found that it helped to put things into perspective. These next months will be hard but we’ll make it through and it will be better on the other side. Spring magic may just have to wait this year.

I wish you all good health, safety and the perspective needed to persevere!

Tech Wins at Companies Across Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tech Wins at Companies Across Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The news is full of depressing stories, political controversy and plenty of fear. Certainly, these are tough times and many people around the world are suffering in ways nobody would have predicted a mere few months ago. Still, there are good stories around the world, coming in all shapes and forms.

Companies are moving at a fast pace to keep up and adapt. Yes, there have been layoffs and the worst may still be ahead in some organizations, but when we look deeper, there are many encouraging, feel-good stories coming from this crisis.

Here at Eagle, we had a huge win within our back-office team. Most of the company has worked in a predominately electronic environment for many years with the ability to work virtually anywhere and an existing work-at-home program made the move from office to home seamless.  However, our Accounting Team still had a few processes that depended on paper, creating a reliance to work in a centralized location. This pandemic has been an opportunity to completely transition from paper. Impressively, the team built and implemented new processes in a matter of days! Not only does this result in a positive environmental impact, but the morale boost will be long-term. Even after offices open up, this team will now have the option to work-from-home, impacting their work/life balance in a positive way.

Eagle’s story is just one, minor example of using technology to make improvements in the wake of a crisis. Eagle’s founder, Kevin Dee, set out to find more examples and published a series of LinkedIn Posts highlighting tech wins across Canada. Here are examples from three very different Canadian organizations who all used technology to overcome unique, challenging situations:

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

It’s unusual to see the CRA in a good news story, but credit is certainly due given what these public servants pulled off for the country. When Justin Trudeau announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in mid-March, the news brought relief to millions of Canadians, but stress to the employees at CRA. There was no existing system to manage the volumes and speed at which this system needed to deliver.

Still, the CRA team was able to deliver a system in three weeks that not only processed the volume of applicants in a timely manner but also introduced direct deposit payments to banks, which the CRA had not done previously, other than as a pilot. In the end, this helped millions of Canadians and gave the government a high-profile story about a successful, fast implementation.

TD Bank

TD Bank also successfully used technology in two areas to lead the way through the COVID-19 crisis. The first comes from their Trader Group, which was housed on a massive floor of a high rise building, a situation screaming of health risks at the onset of the pandemic.

Trading was soaring as the markets responded to the pandemic so work had to continue. Most companies were sending their people home, or at least splitting teams into smaller groups, and TD Bank knew that they needed to act quickly and effectively in order to compete. They assessed all of the risks and obstacles of suddenly sending their teams home, including security, hardware options, process issues and communication issues. In the end, they managed to pull off the impossible and got 300 of 357 traders home, replicating a high-tech trading floor in hundreds of residential dining rooms and spare bedrooms.

The bank also pulled off a similar feat with its 15 call centres located across North America, employing 9000 people. They moved 95% of those people to a home office and kept the call center operations going.  The logistics involved were huge, but the bank was able to overcome all of them.

In both of these examples, TD Bank transformed the way they do business, which is rare in such a traditional industry. Similar to Eagle’s story, both their Trader Group and call centres have the option to work remotely long after this crisis is over, boosting employee morale and saving them real estate costs.

TC Energy

The final example comes from the Oil & Gas sector in Calgary and demonstrates how proper planning pays off. For the past couple years, TC Energy, which has approximately 8,000 employees – 50% of whom are in Calgary, has been working on a digital transformation project. The project embraced big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence while migrating systems to the cloud.

Because of this preparation and embracing the latest technologies, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, TC Energy was successful at moving to a work-from-home environment in just one weekend. Furthermore, their ability to hire and onboard staff has barely been affected, a major stumbling blocks for many large companies.

Adversity has potential to bring out the best in individuals and companies alike and these examples are a handful of the stories we can find all around us. As we work through tough times, continue looking for positive stories and recognizing those who are overcoming hurdles every day. It’s this attitude that will help you come out stronger on the other side.

5 Tips to Make Working Home with Your Spouse Actually Work

5 Tips to Make Working Home with Your Spouse Actually Work

You love your spouse. We know you do. But how many people have ever worked from home with their spouse more than they have in the past few weeks? Twitter has exploded with comical one-liners of people sharing their experiences and they’ve been fun to read. But there are real challenges that families are experiencing. Dealing with them up-front is what’s going to ensure you can remain productive for your client while maintaining a happy household. And, given you’re probably confined to the home for a little while, that happiness should be a high priority. Here are a few tips we compiled to help you out:

  1. Try and work in separate spaces. Not everybody’s home can accommodate this, but if you can work in a separate room from your spouse, it will help you focus, minimize distractions, and prevent you from stepping on each other’s toes. Just make sure it’s a productive office (Hint: bedrooms tend to be a bad idea)

  2. They are not your colleagues. As tempting as it is, refrain from using your spouse to brainstorm work-related ideas or rant about office politics. This is distracting to them and brings them into problems that they really do not need.

  3. Still respect them like your colleagues. If you work in an open-office, then you know how annoying it is when somebody takes phone calls too loudly, listens to music without headphones, or starts talking to you while you’re in the middle of working on something that requires focus. Don’t be that person at home.

  4. Accept and embrace the inevitable distractions. It’s alright to want to socialize with your significant other through the day, so set some ground rules. Decide on specific times when you will take a break together and have signals when distractions are or aren’t alright. For example, a closed door might mean you cannot be disturbed or working at the dining room table instead of the office could mean some chitchat is alright.

  5. Take a few minutes each morning to discuss. Evaluate the prior day and review today’s schedule. Did anything happen yesterday that prevented you from being productive? Do you have an extra busy day today or are things a bit more relaxed? Discuss these topics each morning before going on your separate ways.

If you haven’t already, take a minute to acknowledge the challenges that you might face with both of you working from home and solve them up-front. Build your routines and plans that work for you. How are you surviving working from home with others around?

8 Ways to Make Your Home Office More Secure

8 Ways to Make Your Home Office More Secure

Millions of people around the world have found themselves working from a home office over the past month, and many of them were not prepared. You might have a home office set-up, complete with a comfortable workspace and the right equipment, but is your client’s information well-protected? You may need to step-up your security game.

We’ve shared tips before on how you can guarantee your individual device is secured, and there are more steps you can take to ensure your client’s assets remain safe. Here are a few steps you can take to move closer to that final goal.

  • Remember Basic Security: Let’s start with the standard practices you’re (hopefully) already doing. Install quality virus protection on your computer and work only on a secure Wi-Fi that’s backed-up by a safe password. Speaking of passwords, stop writing them down where anybody can find them. There are a number of affordable password managers available that will make your life easier and more secure.
  • Be Aware of Online Dangers: There are reports of more email attacks during the COVID-19 crisis. Now more than ever, be extra diligent before downloading an attachment or responding to an email that seems the least bit suspicious. Even if it appears to be coming from a co-worker you trust, if it seems out-of-the-ordinary, double check with a phone call to the supposed sender.
  • Don’t Ignore Security Updates: When your computer or software says that there are updates available for security purposes, take the advice and run the updates. Of course, given the previous point, if any update is suspicious, do your research before clicking the “Install” button.
  • Be Careful When Using the Cloud: Saving files to a cloud service such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive is a helpful idea for sharing files with coworkers, and often securely. Before doing so, ensure that it is an approved service by your client’s security team and that your credentials to that service are also secured.
  • Be Aware When Making Calls: The weather is going to become nicer which means your windows are going to be open and you may be in a fortunate situation where you can work on the back deck. Keep your phone conversations quiet because you never know who is listening.
  • Lock Things Up: So far we’ve been talking about electronic security, but physical items such as documents should also be considered when securing your home office. Break-ins happen and kids can get nosey. Set-up locks on your office and invest in a cabinet that locks to help keep client documents safe.
  • Keep Organized: Forget kids and burglars, your own disorganization could be the reason you misplace important documents or passwords get into the wrong hands. Spend a few extra minutes each day to keep your workspace clean and organized.
  • Shred Paper: If you print any documents that have any sort of private information, you should have a paper shredder in your home office. Your client depends on you to dispose of waste responsibly.

There is a lot of change happening that’s causing all of our lives to be a little more out of order. While some things will justifiably be missed, when working from home, it’s imperative that your client’s security remains at the top of your priority list. Could you improve the security in your home office?

Staying Healthy at Home During Physical Distancing

Staying Healthy at Home During Physical Distancing

You and your family are at home, being responsible with physical distancing. Great! Thank you for helping to flatten the curve. Now, how can you ensure you stay healthy? We recently posted about the importance of your mental health and how to take care of that through the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also important to take care of your physical health. Here are a few tips:

Keep Your House as Clean as Possible

Just because you’re locked in your house is no reason to believe you can no longer contract the Corona virus. Others in your house may already have it, food or other items that you bring home might contain the virus on its surface or you might pick it up while out and about grabbing some essentials.

First, monitor everyone in your house and be aware if they’re showing signs of COVID-19. The Government of Canada published this self-assessment tool to help you assess if somebody is sick. If somebody does show signs, do what you can to quarantine them within the house and pay extra attention to disinfecting any surfaces they may come into contact with. Use gloves around areas they touch, including when cleaning their laundry.

The CDC offers tips for cleaning and disinfecting your house here. They recommend you clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches and toilets. It’s worth noting that cleaning removes germs but doesn’t kill them, it just lowers their numbers. You need to disinfect with chemical to kill germs on surfaces, after you’ve cleaned them. To disinfect, diluted household bleach solutions or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol are best. You can create your own solution by mixing 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water.

This post from ITWorld Canada also provides tips for cleaning cellphones and other devices, including your cell phone, keyboards and mice.

Exercising

It’s the little things that count. Even if you never had a regular workout routine, walking to the office and back from your car, going out for lunch, and taking a few sets of stairs are all forms of exercise we’re no longer getting. You must keep physically fit to stay healthy through these times, but it’s difficult when we barely leave the home and the couch is so tempting.

First, always remember that a walk outside is alright and encouraged by health professionals, as long as you maintain your distance from other people. If you’re looking for something a bit more structured, this CBC article is packed with free, no-equipment online fitness classes. It lists a variety of free apps and channels (ex. Nike Training Club or Fitness Blender), studios offering online workouts (ex. Fit Squad Training, Body Barre Fitness & Training Studio), and other opportunities to get some good family workouts at home. Those with kids can also check out some YouTube channels like Cosmic Kids Yoga and Barre Alley.

Food Safety

There are many questions regarding food, and how to ensure it’s safe, either when it comes home from the grocery store or a takeout restaurant. In a CTV News interview, infectious disease specialist Isaac Bogoch called the risk of contracting the virus that way “so extraordinary small”. He said the virus doesn’t appear to thrive on surfaces like food or paper, but it can survive for hours or days on others.

The same CTV News article provided a few suggestions for keeping safe with takeout. For example, use rubbing alcohol to wipe down the box (but not the food) and thoroughly wash your hands after exchanging packages or cash.

As far as groceries are concerned, experts say this comes down to good hygiene. That should come as no surprise to anybody today. Sanitize before and after entering the grocery store and sanitize your grocery cart before taking it. You can wear gloves during your shopping trip and remove them once you leave the store; however, don’t let them give you a false sense of security. Germs can still spread on surfaces of gloves.

For more details, here’s a video by Jeffrey VanWingen with some detailed tips on how to sanitize your groceries and takeout when you bring them home:

How are you ensuring you stay healthier (or get healthier) while social distancing? Please share your ideas and suggestions with our community in the comments below.

The Top Tools to Host Meetings Online While Working from Home

The Top Tools to Host Meetings Online While Working from Home

COVID-19 has quickly forced many of us from full-access to our teams in-person to working by ourselves at home. Communication with the rest of the team is obviously still possible, but depending on your client’s set-up, productive communication and updates might not be as simple. Separate from your contract work, physical distancing also creates challenges in setting up interviews with recruiters, leading networking events with colleagues, or any other kind of gathering you’d typically have professionally or personally.

There are a number of solutions available to help set-up meetings and accomplish your objectives. The challenge is weeding through them all to find the one that’s right for you. We’ve looked into some of the most common ones and summarized what you need to know here:

Standard Social Media Chat Applications

Let’s get this out of the way first. Facebook Messenger, Facetime, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Google Hangouts all provide ways for you to connect with friends and family, whether by chat or by video. They’re completely free and generally simple to use, so at a first glance, these would look like a fantastic options, but they do have some drawbacks. First, as noted, these are typically used for friends and family and require you to connect your social media profiles. Maybe you’re ok with it, but others would prefer not to have their colleagues following them on Facebook. These applications are also not designed for the work environment and are limited in a number of meeting-related features available in the below solutions.

Zoom

Zoom is perhaps the most popular platform being used today. Sign-up is easy and the free version allows unlimited 1-on-1 meetings. You can schedule meetings or start it immediately, but either way, you’re provided a link to send meeting attendees, which they just click on. Attendees will be prompted to download some Zoom software, but the process is quick and easy. Once in the meeting, users can turn on video as well as share screens. The downside to the free version is that any meeting with more than 2 people is limited to 40 minutes in length.

The paid version of Zoom is still reasonable. The cost is $20/month or you can subscribe for an entire year for $200. This opens up a variety of new meeting features, including up to 24-hour maximum meeting duration. Only the host of a meeting is required to pay for the upgraded version of Zoom. All attendees can have a free account and still attend.

Zoom also has many extra features, including a filter tool that lets you touch up your appearance when you’re on video. This recent Inc. article summarizes 7 tips for using Zoom.

Join.me

Join.me is another popular meeting tool and has been around for years. It contains many of the same features as Zoom but does not have a free version available. The Lite version costs $13/month is limited to 5 participants per meeting and no webcam. There are no time limits or meeting limits, though, so if you’re looking to host small conference calls, this would be a great solution. The next level up is $24/month and allows for up to 10 webcam streams and up to 250 participants.

Google Hangouts Meet

Google’s Gsuite is a business solution that provides access to email hosting, storage and a number of other organizational tools, including Google Hangouts Meet. The cost is $7.80/user/month, so if you’re an independent contractor, that would be your only cost and you get the entire Gsuite package. This solution is especially great if you own your own domain and want to consolidate all of those services.

Similar to the other solutions, Hangouts Meet lets you setup a meeting and share a link, without worrying if other teammates also have accounts and plugins. With a fast, lightweight interface and smart participant management, multi-person video calls are a breeze. Hangouts Meet also integrates with Google Calendar for some extra features and is accessible on mobile.

Microsoft Teams (replaced Skype for Business)

There’s a chance you already have access to Microsoft Teams. It is primarily for collaboration and chats as part of Office 365, and also includes a great meetings feature, that replaced Skype for Business. If you don’t already have access, signing-up is free and just requires a Microsoft account, but there is an extra fee if you want access to the conferencing.

Similar to Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams comes as part of a full package of business services from Microsoft. This starts at $10.20/user/month that is an annual commitment, and also comes with storage and access to web applications.

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting by LogMeIn is another one of the original services and scales up for very large organizations. Their basic Professional level starts at $19/month or $16.25/month billed annually. This package should give you everything you need, including HD video, screensharing, web audio, dial-in conference line, unlimited meetings or meeting lengths, up to 150 participants, plus much more.

Blue Jeans

Another industry leader, BlueJeans, offers many of the same features. Their standard package starts at $15.90/month and allows you to host up to 50 participants, with unlimited meetings with unlimited durations. A differentiator is their Smart Meetings Features which includes meeting highlights, action item tagging and intelligent meeting recaps. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, you can sign-up for a 7 day free trial to see how you like it.

There are tons of meeting tools available and the ones listed above are a selection of the popular ones we’ve come across or used in the past. While Eagle does not recommend any specific one, we do believe that each of these are worth looking at if you’re in the market for a new tool.

What online meeting tools do you use? Do you have a preference? Please share your recommendations in the comments below!

Free Webinar to Help You Ensure Client Security While Working from Home

The new normal of physical distancing is expected to be in place for a while yet, meaning working from your home office on a more permanent basis is now a reality. Fortunately, the nature of IT contracting allows for this fairly easily and there are few complications in serving clients and completing projects.

While clients are thrilled that work can still be completed and productivity can remain high, there are security concerns. More remote workers mean that more information may be stored offsite and clients put their trust in IT contractors to keep their systems secured. That means that on top of being productive for your client, you also need to be vigilant in security to protect their information.

Last Summer, we shared a post written by NPC, an organization that specializes in secure mobile solutions. As the article states, clients depend on you to protect their business interests and “The impact on a contractor from a lost, stolen or compromised device while in a contract can be devastating.” Their service is an as-a-service model that provides secure managed devices with back-up completed each day into a secure data centre.

Free Webinar: Office 365 Basics for Secure Work from Home

Free Webinar to Help You Ensure Client Security While Working from HomeOn top of working on a secure device, you want to know that you’re using the software as securely as possible. One of the most common suites of software is Office 365. NPC is hosting two webinars in the coming week with practical insights regarding Office 365 to ensure your productivity and security during this time of challenge.

This webinar is for anyone that would like to know what Office 365 can do for them to work remotely, or current remote users who would like to be sure they are working securely but may need some clarity on key features. Staying connected to your team is important, doing it securely is critical. In this free 60-minute webinar NPC will walk you through the minimums of what you will need to effectively work from home using Office 365, and how you can be productive using key applications like SharePoint and Teams.

The webinar is open to everyone and will cover topics including: The Importance of Secure Computing from Home at this Time, Specific Cyber Threats, The Essentials for Secure Computing in Your WFH Environment, Connecting to Your Data with SharePoint, and Connecting to People with Teams.

Use either of these links to sign-up for the webinars:

Practical Ways for IT Contractors to Use Free Time

Practical Ways for IT Contractors to Use Free Time

The COVID-19 outbreak is locking the world down inside their homes and many of us are already going stir-crazy. Evening extra-curricular activities have been cancelled, live sports are taking a hiatus, and we’re discouraged from going out unless it’s absolutely necessary. Even telecommuting, as convenient as it is, gives you an hour or two more at home… inside the house… bored.

As we noted in last week’s post, it becomes easy to create an unhealthy routine of rolling out of bed, doing your work, then watching Netflix, all while eating junk food throughout the day. That behaviour is acceptable over the Christmas holidays, but is not ideal. Instead, use your extra time to better yourself and plan some of these tasks into your daily routines:

Professional Development

How many times in the past couple years have you missed out on a gig or higher rate because you were lacking some specific training or certification. Did you tell yourself you’re going to get on it but life is too busy? Now is the time! There are plenty of ways you can expand your skills and learn right from your home. We recently updated this post that contains over 50 different online resources for building skills and earning certifications. Included in that list is ICTC’s newly launched ICTC Ditital Pulse Channel. It will include live virtual events via video conference and available on their Vimeo page.

Perhaps you just need to use some existing skills and develop tangible experience. In that case, try creating  a few made-up projects, similar to this video of Python projects that look good on a resume. Or, you can offer to help a friend or past client with a project at no charge, with the understanding that you are learning a new skill.

Update Your Resume

We see thousands of resumes. Few of them are perfect. Can yours use some polishing? Here’s a checklist of things worth reviewing:

  1. Experience: Review it and ensure you list all technologies and skills you used, in each project description. If you know you will be responding to public sector bids in the future, check out this past post about building a resume for a government matrix. Remember, when you’re in a crunch to get a resume to a recruiter, it will be easier to cut information out of a detailed resume than to write new information to put into it.
  2. Wording: You have the meat, now make sure you’re selling yourself! Check out this post that helps you write the perfect profile summary. It will hook a recruiter into wanting to read more of your resume, then you can sell them on your experience. This infographic contains powerful action verbs to incorporate into project descriptions.
  3. Formatting: It’s amazing how many great resumes are destroyed because the formatting is awful. The biggest letdown is when a candidate gets too fancy and designs a beautiful resume that staffing agencies’ Applicant Tracking Systems can’t read. Then all that work becomes pointless. Even when it gets through the system, some IT contractors still fail to catch a recruiter’s attention. A few years ago, we asked recruiters what IT contractors can do better when formatting their resume, here’s their responses. Does your resume have any of these mishaps? If you’re spicing up your resume, also check out the video series we did a few years ago that gives tips for formatting your resume in MS Word.
  4. Match it to LinkedIn: It is no secret that all recruiters leverage LinkedIn to build their network. You need to have an updated profile to be found by the industry’s top recruiters. You also need to confirm it matches your resume which is one of the top things recruiters look for in a great LinkedIn profile. Use your downtime to update your LinkedIn profile, complete with a great profile photo.

Organize Your Business

Keeping your business running smoothly requires extra time to organize, and frankly, few IT contractors have time for that… until now! Here are a few past posts that will help:

Take Care of Yourself

If all else fails and you don’t want to think about work, use your time to take care of yourself.

  • Add Exercise into Your Daily Routine. It can be as simple as a few push-ups and crunches throughout the day, taking a walk around the block during your lunch break, or finding online workouts to follow along with. Many gyms are offering free live sessions to help cope with quarantines, you just need to search for them.
  • Practice Mindfulness. Especially during uncertain times where stress and anxiety are high, this is a good opportunity learn more about mindfulness. Explore and practice meditation in a quiet area to help focus your attention on the present moment and accept it without judgement. Some forms of yoga can have similar results, and also accomplish that exercise goal!
  • Enjoy Time with Others. Enjoy board games and activities with kids and spouses. Then, when fights inevitably break-out, call old friends and relatives who you’ve lost touch with.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging time for the world and it’s a test for all of us. How we react and move forward will determine who will come out on top when this is all over. These are just a few ways you can take advantage of your downtime to better yourself. What else are you doing to keep busy while stuck at home?

COVID-19 Government Support for Canadian IT Contractors

Last Update: June 16, 2020

The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak is causing drastic amounts of stress and uncertainty for everyone. We recently shared a post with ideas and resources to help deal with the anxiety, but there are many other concerns Canadian IT contractors are dealing with every day.

The Federal Government and various Provincial Governments are all taking measures and implementing programs to help Canadians through difficult times. We’re collecting these updates as they’re announced and posting them to this page.

Feel free to bookmark this page and check back often. If you have any questions, require more information, or have a lead on some support that we missed, please leave them in the comments below.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was announced in March to provide you with $500 a week for up to 16 weeks. That 16 weeks was set to come to an end for many people in July, so on June 16th, the government announced that it would extend CERB by another 8 weeks.

Recipients for the new phase will be required to sign an attestation acknowledging the government is encouraging them to look for work and to consult with the government’s job bank. In addition, employees who make more than $1,000 a month are no longer eligible for CERB, an exception that the government had made back in April..

The Benefit is taxable although tax will not be deducted at source. You will be expected to report the Benefit as income when you file your income tax for the 2020 tax year. Those who have been receiving it in error are expected to return all money received, or else the government says there will be legal consequences.

Are you Eligible for the CERB?

To be eligible, you must:

  • Be residing in Canada
  • Be at least 15 years old
  • Stopped working as a result of reasons related to COVID-19 (if you are looking for a job but haven’t stopped working because of COVID-19, you are not eligible for the Benefit) or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits
  • Have had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of application. That income may be from any or a combination of the following sources: employment; self-employment; maternity and parental benefits and/or similar benefits paid in Quebec.
  • Be, or expect to be, without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period.

How to Apply for the CERB

You can apply for the CERB here.

Applications for the CERB will be accepted starting April 6th and you will require a CRA My Account. The link above includes resources for setting up your account, including retriving your password, setting up an account through your My Service Canada account or setting one up from scratch. To help manage the demand, applications are being accepted based on your month of birth:

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)

CEBA provides much needed credit for small businesses to pay for immediate operating costs such as payroll, rent, utilities, insurance, property tax, or debt service. It is 100 per cent funded by the Government of Canada. Under CEBA, financial institutions will be able to provide interest-free credit facilities of up to $40,000 to eligible businesses. If the loan is repaid by December 31, 2022, 25 per cent (up to $10,000) will be forgiven. If the loan is not repaid by December 31, 2022, the remaining balance will be converted to a three-year term loan at 5 per cent interest. This program is now available at various financial institutions and credit unions.

On May 19th, the government announced an expansion to the eligibility criteria for CEBA to include many owner-operated small businesses. To qualify under the expanded eligibility criteria, applicants with payroll lower than $20,000 would need:

  • a business operating account at a participating financial institution
  • a Canada Revenue Agency business number, and to have filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return.
  • eligible non-deferrable expenses between $40,000 and $1.5 million. Eligible non-deferrable expenses could include costs such as rent, property taxes, utilities, and insurance.

The government says it will work on potential solutions to help business owners and entrepreneurs who operate through their personal bank account, as opposed to a business account, or have yet to file a tax return, such as newly created businesses.

The 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers

This is a three-month measure that will allow eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deductions required to be remitted to the CRA. The subsidy is equal to 10% of the remuneration you pay from March 18, 2020 to June 19, 2020, up to $1,375 for each eligible employee to a maximum of $25,000 total per employer. If you receive the subsidy, you have to report the total amount as income in the year in which the subsidy is received.

You do not need to apply for the subsidy. The subsidy must be calculated manually, either by you or whoever is responsible for making your payroll remittances. The CRA will not automatically calculate the allowable subsidy. Once you have calculated your subsidy, you can reduce your current payroll remittance of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax that you send to the CRA by the amount of the subsidy. You will need to keep information to support your subsidy calculation.

If you are an eligible employer, but choose not to reduce your payroll remittances during the year, you can still calculate the 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers on remuneration paid from March 18, 2020 to June 19, 2020. At the end of the year, the CRA will pay the amount to you or transfer it to your next year’s remittance.

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) 

Incorporated independent contractors who pay themselves a salary may be eligible for a subsidy of 75% of employee wages for up to 12 weeks, retroactive from March 15, 2020, to June 6, 2020. This benefit will apply on the first $58,700 earned or up to $847 a week. There is no ceiling to the amount that an eligible employer can claim.

To be eligible, you must have experienced an eligible reduction in revenue and have had a CRA payroll account on March 15, 2020. You can learn if you qualify and how to calculate teh CEWS here.

Contacting Service Canada

Service Canada is temporarily closing in-person Service Canada Centres to allow them to better prioritize capacity and to ensure critical service delivery to vulnerable clients. You can apply for critical services online and Citizen Service Officers will be providing personalized service support for EI and pensions applications through an e-service available online and on mobile phone. To support access to critical programs and services for clients without access to technology, Service Canada Community Outreach and Liaison Service staff are contacting communities to offer alternate service delivery methods that will continue to support accessing critical programs, services and benefits. Service Canada is also warning that call volumes are expected to be high for the foreseeable future. Please visit Canada.ca for information. If you have difficultly getting through, please try again later

Emergency Isolation Support (Alberta)

Eligible working Albertans can receive a one-time emergency isolation support payment of $1,146 if they are required to self-isolate or are the sole caregiver of someone in self-isolation and they have no other source of pay or compensation. This is a temporary program to bridge the gap until the Federal Emergency Care Benefit is available in April. If you are eligible for federal Employment Insurance benefits, you are strongly encouraged to apply immediately.

Temporary Aid for Workers Program (Quebec)

This program, offered by the Gouvernement du Québec in partnership with the Red Cross, offers financial assistance to meet the needs of workers who, because they are in isolation to counter the propagation of the COVID-19 virus, cannot earn all of their work income and are not eligible for another financial assistance program, including EI. The lump-sum amount granted to an eligible person is $573 per week, for a period of 14 days of isolation. If justified by your state of health, the coverage period for an eligible person could be extended to a maximum of 28 days. Workers can start by filling out the application form here.

British Columbia Emergency Benefit for Workers

The B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers will provide a one-time $1,000 payment to people who lost income because of COVID-19. Applications for the one-time payment will open soon.

Deferred Due Date for Taxes

Canada Revenue Agency is deferring the filing due date for individuals until June 1st. Furthermore, the CRA will allow all taxpayers to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing right now and before September 2020.

Mortgage and Credit Relief at Banks

Banks in Canada have affirmed their commitment to working with customers to provide flexible solutions, on a case-by-case basis. This includes up to a 6-month payment deferral for mortgages and opportunity for relief on other credit products. Contact your local bank branch if you require any assistance.

Job Protected Leave

Most provinces have implemented protected leave for workers who need to take time off to due to quarantines or COVID-19 illnesses. In Alberta, this does not require a doctor’s note nor is there a requirement to have worked for an employer for 90 days. The leave covers the 14-day self-isolation period recommended by Alberta’s chief medical officer and may be extended if the advice of the chief medical officer changes. Similarly, in Ontario, employees are not be required to provide a medical note if they take the leave and the measures would be retroactive to January 25, 2020. In BC, the COVID-19 leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in British Columbia. During this public health emergency, employees can take this job-protected leave for the reasons above as long as they need it, without putting their job at risk.

Childcare

The Government is proposing to increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts, only for the 2019-20 benefit year, by $300 per child. The overall increase for families receiving CCB will be approximately $550 on average; these families will receive an extra $300 per child as part of their May payment.

In the Province of Ontario, the government is providing a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 for those with special needs, including children enrolled in private schools.

Ontario Renewal Extensions

The province of Ontario is providing extensions for driver licences, licence plate validation, Ontario Photo Cards, and Commercial Vehicle Operator Registration certificates, among others. In addition, expiring and expired health cards will continue to provide access to health services.

This extension will be in place until such time that, based on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and public health officials, the current situation improves.

Alberta Utility Payment Holidays

In Alberta, residential customers can defer electricity and natural gas bill payments for the next 90 days to ensure no one will be cut off, regardless of the service provider.

Relief from the Ontario Energy Board

The OEB extended the winter ban on electricity disconnections for non-payment for all residential customers to July 31, 2020. Low-volume, small business customers will now also be protected by the ban. In addition, the OEB is calling on distributors to be more flexible on arrears payment arrangements. The Ontario Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines is looking at programs and policies to support electricity customers during the COVID-19 pandemic and information should be coming shortly.

Additional Resources