Category: Communications (page 1 of 2)

Working Remotely in a time of Coronavirus (Covid-19)

We are going into a new period where a lot of people will have to work remotely for an unknown amount of time. Here are some tips to help make this transition successfully and easy for you, your family, and for your company.

  1. Set up your workspace to be conducive to work. This means different things for different people, but mainly it’s an area without distractions. Sitting in your living room with the TV on while your family comes in and out is probably not the best place. Find a quiet place, set it up so that you are able to work consistently during the day without interruptions.
    • Avoid distractions. Have a pile of personal paperwork on your desk that you’ve been meaning to get to forever? Put it aside, in a closet, or work on it after work hours to get it out of your space. TV on, Netflix playing, radio or Spotify playing? Turn them off and focus on the task at hand.
    • Family Ground Rules. Have a discussion with your family and set some ground rules, for example when the door is closed, do not disturb. Those of us with children will know that they will need attention throughout the day as well, however set up some rules where you can get some deep work done. 
  2. Over Communicate. One of the biggest challenges with remote work is being able to get in contact with people that you need to when you need to. It’s easy in an office to ‘pop over’ and have a chat with someone quickly, but that is still needed when you are working remotely as well. Make sure you are in constant contact with:
    • With your team.  The quick questions that you want answered, the updates, the help you need is right there. Keep in contact with your team through Slack and throughout the day. Let them know what you are working on and and when you need help.
    • With your Manager. They are going to want to still be aware of challenges you are facing and how they can help you. Management is there to help, and can only do so if they know what is going on, so keep in touch with them. 
  3. Keep your calendar up to date. One of the quickest and easiest ways of informing everyone what you are working on, and if you are able to be disturbed, is through the calendar. Make appointments for yourself for ‘lunch’, ‘break’, or ‘deep work’ so everyone knows what is going on. If you are needed for something, or you are not responding to Slack, it lets everyone know where you are and what you are doing. 
  4. Make time to get up and walk around. Being remote and not having any outside influences can be great for deep work, however you need to look after your health as well. It is recommended that you stand up and walk around every so often just to make sure you are being healthy. It’s good for your heart and your mental health to take a bit of a break and walk even around the house, for 10 minutes.
  5. Get dressed for work. Working from home is still working. You don’t need to be a 24/7 pyjama monster. Being dressed for what you are doing is important, not only because we want you on video conference calls, but also because it sets you in the right frame of mind for the day and tasks at hand. 
  6. Connect Socially. Working remote can be very socially isolating, and humans need outside communication to survive. Solitary confinement has been identified as having adverse effects on the mental health of those that have been subjected to it, and working remotely can have many of the same effects. Schedule time to connect with your colleagues. One tactic is to set up some “Beverage of Choice” meetings, where you take a break and video chat with colleagues. Get 2 or 3 of you together to have a 15 minute break, chat about what has been happening, what you are working on, or whatever. Keep the social connection with your team and people at work.
  7. Know when to log off.  Ever been working away and check the time and suddenly it is much, much later than you thought it was? When you are in the zone (current terminology is ‘the flow’) time just seems to pass by.  Make sure you give your mental health a break by stepping away from the computer and focus on anything else. You will be able to come back refreshed and able to tackle the task anew.

The Asshole Survival Guide & The No Asshole Rule – Robert Sutton

Just finished listening to The No Asshole Rule and reading The Asshole Survival Guide and they were both very enjoyable, mainly for the stories that have been sent in by people. I also went to a lecture at the University of Toronto, Rotman School of Business where Professor Sutton presented his talk on “The Asshole Survival Guide” and had a book signing.

Overall it was a good read, lots of research into the area and points to look out for.

Active Listening

One of the agile games I play with my teams is meant to help encourage active listening. As the quote above states, most people are not listening to understand but to reply.

The game that I utilize to help people change to active listening is called “Fortunately/Unfortunately”. In this game, which I believe started in Improv, the team builds a story. The first person starts with a “fortunately”, such as “Fortunately my wife is pregnant”. The next person needs to be actively listening and then responds off of that statement with an “unfortunately”, like “unfortunately, it’s not with your baby.”. The story keeps building with alternating “fortunately/unfortunately” until it gets back to the originator, or goes around a few times.

This technique helps the team to have some fun and gets them into the habit of active listening.

I had a team that exhibited all the wrong ways of doing this exercise. After I started with “Fortunately my wife is pregnant” the next person stated “Unfortunately the Raptors are out of the playoffs”, and the following person said “Fortunately you like kids”. Both people were not listening to what the previous person said and had their own agenda or thought out reply already in mind.

A couple other positive outcomes come from this game. The first is embracing the silence. If you are truly engaged in active listening there will be a definite pause after the previous person finishes speaking. Silence is fine.

Another outcome is the unspoken agreement to let each team member complete the task on their own. Very rarely does a turn come to a member and have another member speak up and interrupt with their own idea. Each team member is able to come up with their own solution in their own time.

Try this game at your next team gathering. It will really help highlight why we need to be actively listening in our meetings, and in life in general.

And I’m done!

It feels good. I no longer have Rogers cable, Rogers Home Phone and Rogers Internet. I turfed them out. Years of rising costs, terrible customer service and pathetic actual service and I have voted with my money but saying goodbye to them.

The first week has been great. I was able to watch the season finale of Amazing Race Canada using over the air broadcast, and everything else my family watched was over Netflix. Only once have we had a ‘buffering’ status on Netflix, whereas it was virtually unwatchable on Rogers.

We moved our home phone over to TekSavvy, as well as our internet, and are delighted to be paying a third of what we were before. Yes it is a pain to change your phone number, but not worth $40 more per month to do so.

Our internet service on TekSavvy still goes over the Rogers lines, a fact that was expressed numerous times when I was cancelling my Rogers service.  The representative was trying to use the fact that I was disgusted with the obvious throttling of Netflix that Rogers does as a reason to stay, stating “Well TekSavvy uses Rogers’ backbone so you will get the same performance”.  Possibly, but at least I won’t be paying as much and be paying Rogers.  I can only hope that TekSavvy does not allow Rogers to use DPI to check the content of what their subscribers are doing and then throttle the individual consumers that are watching Netflix.

I will keep you updated with my SpeedTest findings and how my family is coping.

Great job Rogers

This is the reason I have cancelled my service with Rogers.  I can’t ever get a speed that is above 10mbs and I am (a) paying for more, (b) incredibly frustrated that I can’t watch one Netflix show without it stopping for ‘buffering’.

Rogers speedtest Sept 7Rogers speedtest Sept 7

Is anyone surprised by this?

My Rogers “High Speed” is awful. I could understand slow speeds if we had a bunch of teenagers in the house, but my service speed is slow when I’m the only one home.

Netflix speeds April 2014Netflix speeds April 2014

 

Netflix speeds April 2014

http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada

Not Fair for Canadians

So the “Big Three” Telecommunications companies in Canada have banded together to protect their oligopoly and are gearing up their huge propaganda machine to help them. If you go to their site, you will see how they are totally skewing the conversation to their favour.

 

 

Internet Costs

 

 

This is awful. I can’t believe how we as Canadians are treated when it comes to our communications. Our cellular rates are among the highest in the world and our internet is also awful for the speed we get.  It  is amazing that we are able to be as technologically advanced as we are.

Internet costs

Internet throttling … I’d like to throttle

The Montreal Gazette has an article that states that the CRTC received only 75 complaints about ISP’s throttling service to customers.  I think this number is an order of magnitude less than the actual numbers.

I know my ISP throttles service to me, especially when I start up torrent software.  My bandwidth drops through the floor when I activate the software, and yes I know how to manage how much of my available bandwidth goes to that software.  I actually can not do anything else on the internet when I have only one torrent downloading.

But, have I complained to the CRTC about it? No.  I think a lot of people are doing more voting with their wallet, as I plan on doing, by simply moving their service to another company.  But I believe that even more people just put up with it/are not technical enough to understand what is happening.

I strongly recommend using www.speedtest.net to determine what you are actually getting versus what the ISP is claiming you should bet getting.  Try it at several different times throughout the day to determine if there is an issue with just overall internet congestion or if the problem is localized to you.

 

RIM making a surge

RIM is opening up some of their Enterprise Software to allow employees of companies to bring in their iPhone or Android device and allow it to work on the corporate network, according to Canadian Press and the CBC. While this is big news for RIM, it’s not the first company to provide this type of service to corporations.  RIM is tackling something that Microsoft has been actively pitching and developing for years.  Microsoft wants to be the provider of Enterprise Services and is utilizing its OS position and server dominance to get more and more corporations to utilize it’s technology.

While this release is good news for RIM, it by no means guarantees its survival.  That will be dependant on how they market their next phone.  Fingers crossed that another Canadian Tech Giant doesn’t fail (anyone remember Nortel? Corel?)

 

RIM

 

 

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