Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: IT Contracting

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to independent contracting.

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

Implementing a Business Continuity Plan That Includes Working from Home

Implementing a Business Continuity Plan That Includes Working from Home

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

When disaster strikes (not too hard to imagine these days), most people enter “fire-fighting” mode, change their priorities and deal with it. As a contractor you are a business owner. And businesses require a bit more pre-planning than that. Sure, your business may have only a single employee but that makes this employee pretty important to the company! Even small businesses have suppliers, customers and partners that count on them. A Business Continuity Plan ensures that you know what to do in what order should something unforeseen come up.

Elements of a good BCP vary upon which source you check. In general, they contain these main components:

  • Understanding what is critical to your business’ operations
  • Determining the most important functions within your business
  • Identifying how long these functions can continue to operate during an emergency situation
  • Assigning some measure of risks to each based on your analysis
  • Coming up with a plan that addresses these risks (heavy emphasis on open and timely communications with your stakeholders)
  • Some suggest a final point – Testing the plan. But, depending on your situation, this may not be possible.

There is no shortage of advice online about how to tackle this business planning.

A big part of Eagle’s business continuity plan is how we leverage technology. It’s been over 10 years now, that we adopted technology that fully enabled our workers to work remotely should it come to that. In 2013, the Calgary flood closed the downtown core for many days. No one was allowed in or out and many businesses ground to a halt. Eagle’s BCP kicked in and we continued to service our clients and work with our contractor partners without any significant impact. Key aspects to our technology included cloud-based ERP/CRM, Digital Communications (VoIP, etc.), internal messaging systems and ensuring that all employees have a proper workspace and equipment to be able to be productive and effective from home.

Best Practices for Working from Home

Today, more and more of our clients are directing their staff to work remotely to encourage “social distancing”. As a contractor, this would be required of you as well. Besides the security concerns that would need to be arranged with the client, working from home requires some best practices/skills in addition to having the technology in place that would allow your work to continue when clients shut off access to their offices. Here are some links to past Talent Development Centre posts that share ideas with respect to telecommuting, or as we call it at Eagle, WORKshifting (working wherever you are most productive):

These are strange times and uncharted waters! Hopefully, you have a BCP and are implementing it now. And, if not… well, as the old saying goes… “The best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago. The second best time is today.” All the best to you as the world works through these health challenges! Take care – stay safe.

Protect You and Your Clients from Ransomware (plus an invitation to a free webinar)

Protect You and Your Clients from Ransomware  (plus an invitation to a free webinar)

According to Cybersecurity Ventures’ 2019 Official Annual Cybercrime Report, cybercrime is expected to cost the world more than $6 trillion by 2021, $20 billion in damages due to Ransomware. Attacks are not limited to certain industries or stealing data either. This article from OHS Canada gives an example of an ethical hacker in Italy who successfully took over a tower crane’s radio frequency controller. That can be disastrous!

With these stats, combined with endless stories of the past few years, it’s safe to say that no organization is safe from ransomware and we all need to be diligent. Depending on your contract, some clients allow, and even require, you to provide your own computer to perform work. Others strictly prohibit it. Regardless, you always need to be aware of these threats to protect your client, whether you’re connected to their network or just storing some data on your own machine.

A recent article written by Jason Hardy of Racksquared Data Centers, and published on The Business Journals provides three tips to protect business from ransomware:

  1. Implement a 3-2-1 backup strategy. That includes having three copies of data, on two different types of media, and one of those copies are offsite.
  2. Stay current on security patches. This is one of the simplest, but can also be overlooked due to time or expenses when you don’t have a dedicated team to patches. You may consider outsourcing this to ensure it gets done.
  3. Educate employees on security best practices. As noted above, there are no limits to who and what can get hacked, so do what you can to spread best practices and keep everyone within your team informed about how to stay safe.

Free Webinar to Protect Your Business from Ransomware Attacks

If you’re interested in learning more about Ransomware and how you can protect yourself and your client, NPC is hosting a free webinar offering best practices and defence strategies. They’ll discuss what ransomware is, how it works and how it has evolved, followed by what you can do about it.

The webinar takes place Tuesday, March 10th at 1:00pm EST. You can get more details and register for the webinar here.

NPC provides secure managed laptops, desktops and tablets for professionals who need reliable, secure computing with comprehensive support services. The devices are already sourced, configured, and secured with industry leading backup and security tools. From there, their support technicians continue to monitor and manage encryption and backup compliance, policy enforcement of biometric and strong password access, and overall system performance. If you’re interested in trying NPC’s service, Eagle contractors can get an exclusive offer here.

Quick Poll Results: Do you swear at work?

Workplaces are trending to be more casual environments. Employers are more lean on dresscodes, lounges are popping up in offices, and a number of other progressive perks are bringing a more laid-back feeling to workplaces across all industries. With that mind, we set-out last month to learn if a more casual language is also working its way into the office.

The January Contractor Quick Poll asked our readers, comprised mostly of IT contractors, if they swear in the workplace. The results are clear that the  majority remain professional and are not bringing foul language into work.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: Do you swear at work?

Making Work-Life Balance as an Independent Contractor

Making Work-Life Balance as an Independent Contractor

From the outside looking in, working for oneself as an independent contractor is a dream come true. You get to set your own hours, you have no boss, you only work on what you enjoy… ha! Experienced IT contractors know that for all of the benefits of being in business on your own, there are a number of extra stressors.

A common struggle felt by independent contractors is work-life balance. For sure, employees feel pressure from their managers to work extra hours and get work done, but independent contractors feel a different kind of pressure, and it isn’t as easy to manage. Employees have the benefits of set workdays, guaranteed salaries, and paid time-off. Contractors face a reality that if a job isn’t done, and isn’t done with quality, they may not get a paid. With that narrative always pestering you, it’s no wonder work-life balance doesn’t come as easily in the gig economy.

Lack of work-life balance hurts relationships, takes a toll on your health, and will compromise the quality of work you deliver to clients. If you have a goal to improve your wellbeing, here are a few tips to consider:

Set Boundaries

The first step to work/life balance is to consciously plan for it by setting specific boundaries between the two. Physical boundaries are easier to set if all of your work is done at the client site, but if you work from a home office, this becomes more difficult. Your home office should be only for work with no distractions. If possible, have a completely different space and computer for personal tasks and gaming.

Time boundaries are also important. Just as a company employee has set office hours, do the same for yourself so you know when to call it a day. This includes turning off notifications on your phone after a certain time and eliminating all distractions.

Manage Your Time

Being organized and making the best use of your time is another strategy to ensure work isn’t creeping into your personal life. Use a calendar to plan out your days, weeks and months, as well as to organize to-do lists. You’ll gain an understanding of your hard deadlines, scheduled meetings, and personal events, making it easier to juggle more flexible tasks and ensure everything fits.

Control the Work You Take On

Remain in control of the work you take on to prevent it from getting out of hand and remember that just because work is available, you do not have to take it. If you already have a lot on your plate, tell your client thanks but no thanks, or offer to do it at a later date. When you know a prospective client has a tendency of letting projects get out of control and demanding more than you’d like to give, pass on that work as well. And if your existing client is a headache and is already hindering your work/life balance, think twice before renewing that contract.

Build a Support Network of Like-Minded Independent Contractors

More than just a group of professionals to bounce ideas off of and to provide moral support, a group of professionals in your field will help you manage your workload. Further to the previous point, nobody likes giving up work and letting a client down. If you keep a trustworthy network of IT contractors with similar skillsets, you can hand them contract opportunities that you don’t have time to handle yourself. In return, you may get extra work from them when your well is running dry.

Plan to Take Vacation

Vacation and time away are mandatory for everyone to maintain their sanity, but it’s easy to get stuck in a loop of contracts and never make time for yourself. Plan to take time off, either between contracts or at a specific time of year. Then purchase tickets so you’re financially committed to the plan, making it harder for “Future You” to back-out of that planned vacation.

Independent contractors are also known to avoid vacation because, contrary to employees, time-off means not getting paid. Budget time-off when planning your year and set money aside so you still get a “paid” vacation.

Without a solid plan for work/life balance, any IT contractor is doomed to overwork themselves, burn out, and cause damage to their business and personal relationships. If you’re prioritizing this, we strongly recommend you come up with a plan that works for you today. If you are happy with your existing work/life balance, please share your strategies in the comments below.

Contractor Quick Poll: Who Does Your Taxes?

For many of us, taxes are a confusing headache, like trying to win a scavenger hunt created by the government. Succeed at solving their riddles and providing the right information, and you get to continue with business as usual. Mess it up, though, and you’re into a whole new set of headaches.

A couple years ago we asked our readers who manages their general bookkeeping and accounting. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re asking independent contractors how you specifically approach tax season. Do you take advantage of online tools and services to file it all on your own, or do you hire the help of a professional to take care of it for you?

3 Ways to Turn Around an Unproductive First Day Because Your Client Wasn’t Prepared

3 Ways to Turn Around an Unproductive First Day Because Your Client Wasn't Prepared

Companies love hiring IT contractors because they’re experts in their fields and “hit the ground running”. As much as everyone tries to make that a reality, all independent contractors have experienced first days that seem like a waste of everyone’s time because either nothing was prepared, the right people weren’t there, or the project wasn’t even ready for you. Regardless of how terribly unproductive the outlook of that first day might seem, here are three ways you can turn it around and make the most of it:

Get to Know Your Surroundings

Take steps to get familiar with your surroundings and the people with whom you’re going to work. Use your spare time to familiarize yourself with the building, and get to know where all the facilities, meeting rooms and key people are. You can also silently observe the culture to understand how people interact with each other and gain an overall feeling of the organization.

Any downtime you have on your first day is also a great opportunity to get to know the people on your team and off your team. Without being disruptive, learn names and positions, especially those you’ll need to interact with over the course of your project. When timing works out, join your team for lunch so you can get to know them even better.

Set the Right First Impressions

Speaking of getting to know people, the first day is often your only chance to create the right first impressions, and if you have extra time on your hands, you can work a little harder at it.

Obviously, arriving on time with a positive attitude and willingness to cooperate goes without saying. Experts in the field also recommend you listen more than speak as people give you orientations, but you also want to ask plenty of the right questions to show that you’re eager.

Another tip from experienced IT contractors is to have a short elevator pitch ready. Not the same one that you’d give to a recruiter detailing your career, but one that introduces yourself with a brief history of your field and what you’re taking on in the project. Essentially, you want to answer that blunt “Who are you” question briefly, accurately, and confidently.

While you want to meet people, introduce yourself, and learn as much as you can, you also don’t want to waste anyone’s time. Watch for signs when people are busy to be certain you don’t interrupt work and avoid asking questions that you really could have found the answer to on your own (yes, there is such thing as a stupid question).

Familiarize Yourself with the Project

Strive to learn everything you can about your new project, even if your client isn’t ready for you and the onboarding is going sideways. Anticipate this kind of first day by doing your homework in the time leading up to it. Research the company and talk to your recruiter to grasp an understanding of their site, technical environment and the people on the team. This way you can have a list of questions when you walk in.

As you talk to people — either formally or informally — take notes about your project and understand the expectations your client has for you during your term. It’s also wise to set their expectations as well, especially if you’ll need to time to ramp up. Regardless of how much of an expert you are in your field, you can’t possibly be expected to be an expert in their environment after just the first day.

If people aren’t readily available to help you on Day 1, ask for documentation so you can do as much independent learning as you can. Perhaps they have an IT manual, mission manual, project notes, or any other documentation that will get you up-to-speed.

Eagle sends first day surveys when our IT contractors start a new placement and, for the most part, feedback is positive. Clients are generally great at having everything ready and consultants can jump right in. Unfortunately, we do see the odd train wreck where nothing was ready, and the new hire felt they completely lost a first day. If this happens to you, do what you can to turn around and make it productive. You’re billing your client either way, and they’ll appreciate you did all you could to provide value.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health in Tech

Let's Talk About Mental Health in Tech

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day. A day when Canadians are encouraged to speak out about their struggles with mental health and breakdown the stigma often associated with mental illnesses. In the last 10 years, mental health awareness has taken a front-seat in many organizations around the world and we’re becoming increasingly aware that we’re all impacted by it.

A 2018 study by Sunlife Financial revealed that nearly half of Canadians have experienced a mental health issue, but the reality is that 100% of us have. Mental health issues go beyond more talked-about illnesses like severe depression, addiction, and schizophrenia. They include work-related stress, burnout and anything else that prevents you from being completely present. When not treated, each of these can become more severe and lead to negative outcomes.

Bell Let's Talk Day LogoIT contractors are not immune to mental health issues and, in fact, many believe they are at higher risk. According to the BIMA Tech Inclusive & Diversity Report 2019, tech workers in the UK are at least 5 times more depressed than average, with those in web design and development, admin and project management most likely to experience symptoms. These findings make sense given the nature of the tech industry and many IT jobs. It is not uncommon to hear about developers working late into the night, depriving themselves of sleep, which has severe long-term effects on one’s mental health. But even without that common stereotype, technology-related positions are often isolated and high-stress. They regularly have tight deadlines, implementations lasting hours longer than they’re supposed to, and a lack of ability to “wait until Monday” when things go wrong.

The nature of contracting also has elements that are known to lead to mental illness. A study by the University of California found that 72% of entrepreneurs experienced mental health concerns. They coined the term “Founder’s Blues.” That’s because on top of having to excel at your own position, you’re also dealing with running your own business and always thinking about the unknown as you search for the next gig. Adding to the problem is that independent contractors don’t have the same support systems as an employee. There is no HR department with resources and programs, nor is there an option to take a Mental Health Day without giving up pay.

Improving Mental Health Issues in the IT Industry

Many are already recognizing the increased risk of mental health issues in tech. Open Sourcing Mental Illness (OSMI) is a non-profit organization that is created specifically to help those in the tech sector. They conduct regular studies, share data, and provide access to resources around mental well-being. Another organization made up of tech professionals around the world is Prompt, which encourages conversation of mental health in the IT industry. An initiative of the Travis Foundation, Prompt connects speakers on the subject with conference and meetup organizers.

Of course, you do not need to be part of a non-profit organization to help tackle this issue in your industry. Being aware of your own mental health and knowing when to take action and care for yourself is the first step. You can also look out for others and encourage them to take a break when they need it. Watch for symptoms like headaches, being withdrawn, taking time off, missing deadlines, letting work slip, sudden weight loss or gain, and lack of care over personal appearance.

When you take a cough drop and get some extra sleep because your throat is a bit sore, you can prevent a cold that may have knocked you down for a week. Similarly, recognizing symptoms of a mental health issue and acting upon them quickly will prevent it from snowballing into lost work and damaged relationships.

Quick Poll Results: How much coffee are IT contractors drinking?

For many, a cup of jo is the perfect solution to wake-up, refuel, relax, socialize, or warm-up. Just the aroma of fresh coffee beans can bring peace to some people. According to CoffeeBI, Canadians drink an average of 3.2 cups of coffee per day, going through about 3.9 million 60kg bags each year! That’s a lot of coffee

In last month’s contractor quick poll, we asked our audience, comprised mostly of IT contractors, how much coffee they drink in an average workday, so we could compare our industry to Canada’s national average. It turns out, on average, our readers are below the national average.

Quick Poll Results: How many cups of coffee do you drink each day?

Your Client’s Workplace is Toxic — Time to Get Out!

Your Client’s Workplace is Toxic -- Time to Get Out!

Professionals often go into the gig economy to work for themselves because they don’t want to answer to a boss or manage employees. IT contractors know that, although their company and decisions are their own, they still need to answer to a client and, more dreadfully, work with their employees and put-up with their office shenanigans.

Most client workplaces are great. The weird employees, freeloading team members and awkward individuals will always exist, but for the most part, the environments are bearable and you’re capable of delivering on your requirements. Then, there are those other client sites. The toxic workplaces where nobody is happy, you can’t get anything done and, and it starts to take a toll on your mental health.

How can you tell if you’ve joined an IT project team that’s part of a toxic work environment? There are a number of common signs, many of which are summed up well in this Inc. article. Generally, you’ll notice that a toxic office has low energy and motivation among all the employees. They might seem happy and agreeable, but when you pull back the curtains, you notice that people are gossiping about each other, working in silos and cliques rather than teams, and having unofficial sidebar meetings.

Once you’ve been at the client site for a little longer, additional signs start to pop-up. The lazy people are still getting away with murder, others are getting promoted based on no merit whatsoever, and the few people who were an asset to your project slowly start to leave.

Now the bells are going off and you realize that there is no way you can be successful in an environment like this. Regardless of your experience as an IT contractor, there’s only so much you can do to make technology projects succeed. If the organizational support is not there, you’re sure to crash and burn, and your reputation will take a hit. So, what do you do?

Don’t Give-Up Too Easily

If the contract doesn’t have much time left on it, keep your head down and focus on your deliverables without getting sucked into the drama. Working from home when possible and avoiding the toxic individuals will help.

Cover Your Bases

You also need to think of self-preservation. An environment like this means employees are going to throw you under the bus whenever possible, so you need to be prepared. Document all your work and conversations. When somebody tries to point the blame your way because they didn’t complete a task or messed-up a deliverable, your notes and emails might be your only saviour.

Keep Your Recruiter in the Loop

Staffing agencies bring value to IT contractors in several ways, one of which being that they help you navigate these situations. Let your recruiter know that something’s sour in the environment as soon as you notice it so they can help you find solutions. Most importantly, be upfront if you think leaving might be the only option, providing plenty of notice. This popular post by Morley Surcon includes tips on how to leave a contract early, if it’s absolutely necessary.

A toxic work environment is a brutal place to have to spend 40 hours a week, but unfortunately, they exist across all regions, in all industries. If you find that yourself in one when you start your placement, act fast by either developing your plan to adjust and succeed, or preparing an exit plan that keeps your integrity intact.