Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

A shortage of rapid antigen screening kits threatens to hamper the ability of local Chambers to assist Waterloo Region businesses stay safe over the next few weeks, says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

Since the start of April, the Cambridge and Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chambers have been working with Health Canada and the Province to provide free self-screening kits to small and medium-sized businesses throughout our Region.

 

Since that time, more than 700,000 of the kits have been distributed, not to just to Chamber members but all SMEs with less than 150 employees. The goal of the program was to identify asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals from spreading COVID-19 in the workplace, at home and around the community.

 

“Up until December, everything was running very smoothly, and people were ordering kits and they were keeping workplaces safe,” says Greg, noting a provincewide shortage has altered that at very critical time for businesses. “There are a number of workplaces that are in a very vulnerable situation that are essential and it’s very important they screen employees every couple of days. You can’t have an essential business close their doors for 14 days.”

 

The Chamber initiative, which began as a pilot program and was quickly implemented provincewide by other Chambers through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce network, is waiting on a delivery of approximately 150,000 of the kits to fulfill orders placed by businesses through its Chambercheck.ca portal.

 

“But the fact of the matter is we have at least 1,600 businesses who are now waiting in the cue to get their kits and we don’t have any,” says Greg, noting that leaves approximately 70,000 employees in Waterloo Region without access to rapid screening until at least mid-January.

 

“Even when we receive our order that still won’t be enough because to test that many employees we need at least 280,000 kits,” he says, explaining proper screening requirements call for employees to use the kits at least twice a week.

 

The Chamber’s last order of 50,000 kits – a week’s supply - arrived Dec. 6 and was quickly allocated to businesses or re-allocated to other businesses (including restaurants) if they were not picked up. 

 

“We know there are many workplaces that have to have them,” says Greg, adding a decision by the Province to distribute a single box of screening kits containing five tests to students over the Christmas break may not have been the best method. “It’s a great idea, but not enough has been handed out. Five tests aren’t enough and there isn’t a real strategy attached for their use and to even retain some tests for going back to school. Just handing them out is no real strategy.”

 

He says distributing through workplaces has been a great way to reach more people. 

 

“We’ve always said from the very beginning of this to the Province that about 63% of Ontarians are in workplaces so if you make rapid screening kits available for employees you have the potential to reach 63% of the population,” says Greg, noting not all employees may wish to take part in the screening program unless it was mandated. 

 

He says it would have proven cheaper for the Province to distribute more screening kits to workplaces and even curtail the resale of the kits for exorbitant amounts online.

 

“The BESTWR (Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo Region), along with the Chambers, started encouraging the Province to do rapid screening in May of 2020 and it took them almost a year to get out and going because we stepped up to the plate and said we would do the pilot program,” says Greg. “We literally wrote the playbook so they could pass it on.”

 

He says running the free screening program through the Chambers has also ensured all the necessary safety protocols are followed.

 

“We have all the safeguards in place to make sure these kits are being used correctly and continue to be accessible to answer any questions if businesses have had a problem,” says Greg. “It really has been a seamless program, but now we’ve seen an unnecessary pause during the most critical time for these businesses.”

 

For information, visit Chambercheck.ca

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For the first time since March of 2020, the Chamber hosted its first in-person Business After Hours event on Dec. 13 at Four Fathers Brewing Co.

 

It was a great opportunity for our Members to meet safely and reconnect with old friends and new ones.

 

We also took this opportunity to ask a few our guests the following question:

 

What will you remember the most about the pandemic?

 

 “Probably how well we can pivot. People can pivot and basically take a look at things and do things differently.”

- Tony Rossel, Best Version Media

 

 “I will remember missing community and just being able to meet with people and see faces and connect in-person,”

- Heid Brouwer, Galt Osteopathy

 

 “Endless Zoom meetings and learning how to facilitate meetings. It looks a lot easier than it really is. And that the number of kilometres I’ve driven has been cut in half. We’ve discovered some creative solutions and so much work is now being done at home.”

- Murray Smith, Blue Canoe Consulting

 

 “How poorly the government handled this. They contradicted themselves a lot initially with what you should do – wear a mask, don’t wear a mask, wear two masks, or get the AstraZeneca shot, or no you don’t need the AstraZeneca shot. They tried too hard without putting any thought into it and it just never seemed to work. I will remember that indecisiveness – everything’s fine, or no it’s not. They didn’t lead well, and I will always remember how poorly they led us through this.”

- Rick Gallinger, Top-Notch Concierge

 

 “I will remember how much I missed being around family and people. Sometimes it makes us realize how grateful we should be when everything is good because we take a lot of things for granted, and we really need to be more thankful and more aware and enjoy every moment that we can.”

- Maggie Herrington, Top-North Concierge

 

 “I just feel so fortunate that we were able to continue to stay open and look after our customers. I feel like we’ve been really lucky,

- Laurie Herald, Cambridge Tirecraft

 

 “The fact we couldn’t have in-person social events.  For me, I miss that interaction and I’m so excited that we are slowly getting back to reality. But the worst part has been looking at your family and friends losing jobs and having to stay at home. I have two stepchildren and the virtual learning was really hard for them. I think it was struggle for them and the teacher so I’m happy they are back in the classroom.”

- Stephanie Jane, Marketing Manager at Four Fathers Brewing Co.

 

 

 

 

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The pandemic has created new opportunities for many workplaces.

 

The terms ‘hybrid’ and ‘flexible’ have become commonplace as companies and businesses formulate plans for their staff to return to a work environment that’s going to be far different than the one many left when the pandemic first struck in March of last year.

But that return won’t come without its challenges.

 

“We’re seeing a ton of anxiety out there right now as more and more employers start thinking of having people come back to the office,” says Frank Newman, who operates Newman HR. 

 

A survey conducted by KMPG Canada in the spring as vaccinations began to ramp up showed that 81% of Canadian workers were worried their employers and managers were not equipped to handle a return to work properly, and nearly two thirds of those surveyed wanted to go back to their workplaces but COVID-19 remained their core reason for reluctance. In fact, 68% said that working alongside colleagues who may be sick or asymptomatic was a top concern.

 

People have gotten very comfortable and generally quite productive working at home,” says Frank, adding the comforts of home and no commuting have become big draws for many. “I would say people are 90% to 95% as productive as they were working in the office. But clearly, we’re missing some of those creative exchange of ideas that come from sitting next to someone or from random conversations.”

 

In effort to quell the concerns of returning employees, he has been recommending to clients they create an open dialogue with their team to identify their worries or fears.

 

“It’s a little like when an employee returns from a maternity or parental leave. We just assume everything is the same but what we don’t realize is that they have undergone a bit of profound psychological change and I think we kind of had that experience working at home,” says Frank. “Companies have to try and understand what might have happened in employees’ lives while they were away. Some of us may have had loss and some of us may have had catastrophic things happen.”

 

Therefore, he says employers need to create or enhance their Employee Assistance Plans, especially around access to counselling, financial or legal supports – not just health, RRSPs and dental benefits. 

 

“I think more companies have recognized how stressed people have been,” says Frank, noting some employees may be reluctant to access these supports fearing word may spread in the workplace. “These programs are run with the highest sense of ethics in place in terms that nothing gets shared, even with your HR department. There shouldn’t be any fear about utilizing an EAP program if you have one.”

 

As well, he says vaccination policies are a huge concern and appear to be ‘all over the map’ in some workplaces and stressed that whatever stance a company takes regarding its own policy, it should be clearly defined for the employees.

 

“You want to make sure you’re talking about why you’re doing a policy, regardless of what it is because people need to know,” says Frank. “We want to keep people feeling safe at work.”

 

He says optimism appears high right now regarding bringing workers back and expects to see even more people return starting in January.

 

“I’ve got clients in virtually every sector. And the most challenging time right now is in the restaurant and food services industry,” says Frank, explaining vaccination passports and the fact fewer people have been dining out are continuing factors hitting this industry hard.

 

Also, he says workplaces with an office and a production/manufacturing component also may see the natural divide between the two widen since the office workers likely were allowed to work from home during the pandemic.

 

“Companies have to be thoughtful about how they show appreciation to those people who’ve been at the workplace every day,” he says, adding celebrating the return of employees in a positive way would also be beneficial. “I like the idea of giving something tangible, like a gift card perhaps.”

 

Frank says connections must be cultivated as people return to their offices.

 

“What we’ve learned from this whole process is that finding ways to connect with people is so important,” he says.

 

For more information, visit Newman Human Resources or contact Frank Newman at 519.362.8352.

 

Things for employers to consider as outlined by the Harvard Business Review:

 

Do:  

  • Ask - anonymously, if necessary – how people are feeling about returning to the office so you can respond directly to their concerns

  • Allow people to experiment with different ways of working so the shift to in-person or hybrid work doesn’t feel sudden. 

  • Continue to be compassionate — to your team members, and to yourself.

 

Don’t:  

  • Assume people are going to tell you that they’re feeling anxious

  • Neglect to make clear why in-person or hybrid work is beneficial to employees (not just to the company).

  • Make promises you can’t keep, such as assuring people their careers won’t be impacted by working from home or that they can do so indefinitely.

 

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When it comes to the battle against COVID-19, businesses need an arsenal of weapons at their disposal.  

 

One of the best, besides the necessary PPE, is contact tracing which is a core disease control measure.

 

“To reduce the spread of COVID-19 in a workplace, it is critical businesses conduct contact tracing,” says Dr. Ryan Van Meer, Associate Medical Officer of Health, Waterloo Region Public Health. “Businesses know where staff work, with whom, and when, and have means to contact staff who may have had close (high risk) contact in a prompt manner to instruct them to self-isolate and get tested.”

 

He says many workplaces are conducting contact tracing well, despite the fact there may be the perception it is difficult because it is typically done by nurses and other professionals.

 

“But many workplaces have gained experience with it over the pandemic and our COVID-19 Contact Tracing resource is an excellent tool to help guide them through the decision-making process,” says Dr. Van Meer.

 

At the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, we have partnered with Get Ready, a CBRN and Chamber Member, to provide an easy electronic screening tool to ensure the safety of our staff, customers, visitors and contractors, entering our office. The tool utilizes a quick scan of a ‘QR Code’ on their mobile devices or desktops which provides all the necessary information that Public Health will require for contact tracing purposes should an employee get sick or exposed to the virus in the workplace.  The province of Ontario has required all workplaces to implement daily screening for any workers or essential visitors entering the work environment.

 

Dr. Van Meer says the Region has resources in place to assist workplaces.

 

“Our guide for workplaces helps employers determine who is a close (high risk) contact that needs to self-isolate and get tested,” he says, adding there are other ‘upstream’ public health measures workplaces can use to prevent high risk contact. These include physical distancing, PPE, preventing close contact during lunches and breaks, as well as environmental cleaning and disinfection.

 

Dr. Van Meer says when there are multiple confirmed cases in a workplace, the Region’s Workplace Team follows up directly with the employer to support contact tracing and ensures Public Health measures are in place to prevent further spread.

 

“We currently have approximately 135 staff supporting case and contact management across all settings, as well as additional support from the province,” says Dr. Van Meer, adding there are steps employers must take if a worker tests positive for the virus. “Workplaces should work with their employee who is a confirmed case and consult the Contact Tracing guide for workplaces to determine who would have had close (high risk) contact with the case during the period the case was infectious and instruct those contacts to self-isolate and get tested.”

 

For more information on the Region of Waterloo’s COVID-19 resources for workplaces, visit: https://bit.ly/2ODUWEx

 

To learn more about the ‘Get Ready’ screening tool for your office, please visit: https://bit.ly/3euKYQQ

 

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This year, the conversations around proper mental health resources and funding are more important than ever.  A recent poll shows that 40 percent of Canadians have reported their mental health declining over the past year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the continued enormous pressure and strain families, employees and employers have been dealing with. There is no question this pandemic has taken a toll and as we continue to navigate a second wave and ongoing lockdowns, now more than ever it is important we take a moment to remember our own needs and support each other to get through these challenging times. While we are physically apart, no one is alone when it comes to dealing with mental health issues.

 

We have put together a list of resources that business owners, employers and employees can use to help navigate and manage mental health when it comes to our daily lives, the workplace and longer term tips and tricks. You can take a look at our full list of health resources here and even more resources from Bell, here.

 

Wellness Together Canada

Wellness Together Canada provides mental health resources and direct access to peer support workers, social workers, psychologists and other professionals for confidential chat sessions or phone calls.

 

Mental Health Commission of Canada
The Mental Health Commission of Canada has developed a hub of credible information and resources about maintaining mental health during this time of crisis and supporting people managing a mental illness in this new context.

Workplace Strategies for Mental Health by Canada Life

Canada Life’s Workplace Strategies for Mental Health website is a leading source of free, practical tools and resources designed to help Canadian employers with the prevention, intervention and management of workplace mental health issues.

 

Lumino Health Stress and Anxiety Guide from Sun Life

Sun Life’s Lumino Health platform, which is free to use and available to all Canadians, features a wide variety of mental health information and tools, including a Stress and Anxiety Guide that helps Canadians easily navigate to resources that fit their needs.

 

Workplace Mental Health Solutions from Sun Life

Sun Life’s Workplace Mental Health Solutions website provides organizations and their plan members with relevant resources that support all stages and needs, including free mental health e-training and industry-leading thought leadership.

 

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Depression. Anxiety. Addiction.

 

These issues have intensified over the course of the last few months as COVID-19 continues to take its toll on our mental health, just ask Angela Englander, a registered psychotherapist and trauma specialist who operates Ways to Wellbeing Therapy in Cambridge and Tillsonburg.

 

“I’ve had clients who were perfectly stable pre-pandemic and now have completely fallen apart,” she says, noting some are in the healthcare profession which is facing much strain as this health crisis continues. “I’ve talked to a lot of doctors and nurses who want to go on leave. These people are the webbing of our health system and if their mental health crashes, everyone is going to fall through that gap.”

 

Identifying what mental health is, as well as trauma and therapy, will form the base of her discussion at our YIP Growth Learning series event on November 19.

 

“People have such a small amount of knowledge they’re working from when it comes to mental health,” she says, adding the amount of stress people are under right now is skyrocketing as the second wave of the pandemic appears to be escalating.

 

According to a CTV report, a recent federal study has highlighted a jump in alcohol and drug use during COVID-19, as well as an increase in opioid deaths. Also, according to that same CTV story, overdose calls in Waterloo Region have spiked higher since August and 68 people have fatally overdosed so far this year compared to 63 deaths in 2019.

 

Angela says at the start of the pandemic in March adrenaline was high as people went into ‘crisis mode’, putting their emotions on the backburner as they adapted to this new reality.

 

“But the bigger risks will be over the next year because that excitement and adrenaline has started to wear out,” she says. “People are starting to feel more hopeless and facing depression and anxiety.”

 

Angela says the approaching winter will only add to that negative situation since unlike the past few months, many won’t have the option to go outdoors and enjoy the sunshine and nicer weather.

 

“I’ve already talked to people who say they’re experiencing SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and are already getting their winter blues and we’re only in October.”

 

Besides current concerns such as increased addiction issues and a rise in suicides, Angela fears the ripple effect of COVID-19 could manifest in other mental health problems over the next several generations.

 

“Many people may become germaphobes or even become agoraphobic,” she says, adding people must learn to accept the negative emotions they may be facing now in order to deal with them in a healthy way.

 

“We are a very emotion-phobic society. The truth is you have to be willing to step towards those emotions and feel them and accept the reality that is.”

 

During her YIP presentation, Angela hopes to break down how the brain functions into several categories pertaining to mental health and outline how trauma works.

She intends to provide participants with some valuable takeaways.

 

“They’re going to get a lot of self-awareness and coping skills,” says Angela, noting more typical coping skills such ‘date nights’ with a partner or hanging out with a few family members may not be sufficient enough for some during this pandemic.

 

She says self-care and emotional awareness will play key roles in the presentation in hopes of giving people more understanding.

 

“No one is above this virus,” says Angela.

 

Our YIP Growth Learning series virtual event ‘Mental Health for Young Professionals’ sponsored by Deluxe will take place Thursday, Nov. 19, from 9-10 a.m. For more, visit: https://bit.ly/34OBryG

 

 

 

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When COVID-19 struck and Ontario went into lockdown many beds at the two shelters the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region operates were left empty.

 

However, this was not something that CEO Jennifer Hutton admits she was glad to see.

 

“We really saw a significant decrease,” she says, referring to the number of women and children who seek refuge from domestic abuse at Haven House in Cambridge and Anselma House in Kitchener. “But what was keeping me up at night was worrying about what was actually going on in those homes. The abuse that was pre-existing was likely worsening, especially when you add in the additional stress and financial worries.”

 

Jennifer estimates the shelters, which provide 90 beds between them, saw their occupancy rates drop in the early weeks of the crisis to around 40% to 50% capacity compared to the usual 90% as well as a reduction in calls to access their resources. 

 

“There’s research to prove that violence against women does tend to increase during times of stress,” she says, adding there was a great deal of uncertainty when the pandemic struck which made it even more difficult. “There are already so many barriers in place for a woman to leave an abusive relationship. Then layer it with increased uncertainty, and often women have to think about their children, so it’s hard for them to plan for the future.”

 

Besides encouraging via social media for friends and family to check in with loved ones they fear might be at risk of abuse, the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region launched a chat feature on its website to provide women with a tool to safely connect with their services.

 

“There had been talk about it (chat feature) but now more than ever we needed to do it quickly,” says Jennifer, noting the system was up and running within a 48-hour period. “Now, a woman might be able to pull up our website discreetly on her phone and send us a quick message.”

 

Having the ability to reach out and connect during the pandemic is vital says Grace Brown, a psychotherapist and PAR (Partner Assault Response Program) Facilitator at Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge & North Dumfries. 

 

“One of the key factors that allows the abuse to continue is the person feels isolated,” she says.

 

In terms of isolation, Grace says feelings of loneliness is something she has been seeing during her counselling sessions, which have been conducted virtually or by phone, as the COVID-19 situation continues. 

 

“A lot of clients I work with talk about intense feeling of loneliness and isolation because before the pandemic they could be out with friends and doing all these fun things to offset this solitude,” she says. “If you’re more on the extrovert side of the scale, you’re probably struggling a little more.”

 

Grace says for single people who have been isolating on their own, they face a variety of anxieties which could lead to depression. And for couples who were having challenges in their relationship prior to the pandemic, she says the crisis likely has made the situation even worse.

 

“There’s only so much walking away one can do when you’re supposed to be quarantined,” says Grace, adding couples need healthy communication during this time. “Choose your battles.”

 

She offers similar advice to families, who also may find nerves becoming frayed as physical distancing rules continue to slowly ease.

 

“For most, it’s the lack of access to external fun things that really are making so many people frustrated and anxious,” says Grace. “In the old days, it was called ‘Cabin Fever’.”

But she says there are many successful examples of things couples and families have been doing to cope, besides connecting virtually with family and friends. 

 

“People have really been recapturing some of those old school entertainments, like jigsaw puzzles and board games. It’s been really neat to hear from some of my clients on how they’re making it work with that they have at home,” says Grace, adding some ‘super busy’ families are appreciating the fact they can take a break together.

She says self-care is essential at this time, starting with the basics like eating healthy, exercising and getting the right amount of sleep.

 

“I often describe it to my clients as emotional shock absorbers. Stress is always going to be in our world in varying degrees, so the more you have self-care that’s your shock absorber,” says Grace, explaining self-care comes in many different forms. “It’s really about focusing on yourself for a moment and doing anything that brings you a sense of calm and a sense of renewed energy.”

 

She tells her clients, especially women, that’s it OK to put their needs first once and awhile. 


“I caution them this (pandemic) is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and we don’t know how long it’s going to last so you’ve got to preserve your energy.”

 

At Haven House and Anselma House, Jennifer says, as predicted, capacity levels have climbed sharply to near capacity in the last few weeks once the province began to reopen. She says strict protocols are in place to keep staff and clients healthy, including temperature checks twice daily and making masks mandatory for all staff members.

 

“The shelters themselves are very busy,” says Jennifer, explaining the women and children staying there aren’t venturing as much into the community to connect with family and friends due to the pandemic. “There’s a lot of activity and not many places for them to go, and we have some pretty stringent rules in place.”

 

Despite COVID-19 and the precautions, she encourages women who are experiencing domestic abuse to reach out, even those who may not be sure if they’re ready to leave.

“That’s OK. They may just want to meet with someone to ask questions, or get some information,” says Jennifer, adding the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region offers outreach programs. “I always suggest they get some guidance on how to make a safe exit plan.”

 

She says research shows the most dangerous time for an abuse victim is when they are planning their escape.

 

“It can become quite unsafe for a woman if her abusive partner thinks she is going to leave,” says Jennifer. “Things can really escalate at that time.”

 

Visit  wcswr.org  or fcccnd.com for more information. 

 

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The effects of COVID-19 continue to test our economy, but the fiscal uncertainties surrounding this unprecedented crisis has not stopped many local businesses from reaching out to help others.

 

From local food banks, to frontline workers, to seniors and those with disabilities, the Cambridge business community has come forward to ensure those in need during this pandemic are not forgotten.

 

“The Cambridge community has always been exceptionally supportive of the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank and they’ve stepped up for us in a way like we’ve never seen before,” says Dianne McLeod, the food bank’s interim executive director. “We’ve had lot of different restaurants donating products to us, whether it’s milk or eggs; stuff we’re not typically able to offer to everyone.”

 

But financial donations have also been coming in to allow the food bank to purchase some much-needed supplies for the 100 or so clients it serves daily, and Dianne credits many local businesses for this valuable support.

 

“We have all been so affected by the COVID-19 crisis and even though as a business have had our challenges, we all want to help those who truly need help,” says Christina Marshall, Director of Business Development at Gaslight Events Company Inc. which operates Tapestry Hall.

 

Her company, through its Tapestry Hall Delivers program which offers healthy meals via delivery and curbside pickup, has been donating $1 from every order to the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank and The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

 

“We have had two very solid weeks of the food delivery services, which means two weeks of orders that are supporting the food banks in our region,” says Christina.

 

But tasty dishes are not the only way the food bank has benefitted. Funky t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan ‘Eat, Sleep, Quarantine, Repeat’ have been popping up all over our community on social media thanks to a charitable partnership between MitoGraphics and Cambridge Centre Honda.

 

Since mid-April, the two companies have sold dozens of the shirts for $20 each, with every cent from each sale being divided equally between not only the food bank, but Trinity Community Table, Cambridge Shelter Corporation (The Bridges), and Women’s Crisis Services Waterloo Region.

 

“A friend in Peterborough who owns and operates a Honda dealership was creating t-shirts and I loved the idea,” says Cambridge Centre Honda’s Nicole Pereira, explaining how the idea came about. “I thought if Peterborough can make this happen, so can Cambridge.”

 

With the expert help of MitoGraphics’ Kristen Danson, the women went to work creating their #QuarantineTees in several colours and through the power of social media have started a virtual movement of support.

 

Originally, they had hoped to sell 50 of the shirts but during a pre-launch weekend sale in mid-April wound up more than doubling their sales.

 

“We both love our community and think the people of Cambridge are awesome, so it’s not surprising that we have received such great support,” says Nicole, adding the t-shirts have now been sold as far west as Alberta and on the East Coast.

 

She says the four charities have been great at promoting the shirts on social media and that one local store, Once Upon a Child, has also been selling them via its online store.

 

“There are so many great examples of businesses giving back to our community,” says Nicole.

 

For Golfplay’s President and General Manager Steve Harris, giving back seemed liked the best thing his business could do since it was required to shut its doors along with thousands of other Canadian businesses back in March.

 

“There are lots of needy organizations,” he says, noting after sitting idle for about two weeks, Golfplay fired up its stone pizza oven in its Ironwood Bistro to try a new approach. “I thought, we’ve got a perfectly good pizza oven so why not sell pizzas and give some of the money to charities?”

 

They tried doing it one day a week and gave $10 from every pizza sold, starting with the Cambridge Memorial Hospital and The Bridges shelter. They quickly sold out and began doing it three nights a week (Thursday to Saturday), selecting different charities each week to benefit, including Grand River Hospital, St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation, Family & Children’s Services Foundation, and more recently the Sunnyside Foundation.

 

Orders for pizzas and other menu items are taken online for fast and easy curbside pickup.

 

“We just kind of go around,” says Steve, referring to how the charities are selected. “All of them could use help because their fundraising events have been cancelled.”

He says working with charities is also a good way to foster new relationships and potential spinoffs down the road when restrictions eventually ease.

 

“This has sort of helped increase the awareness of what we do here. People at least get the chance to sample our food,” says Steve, joking many people may not think of getting great pizza from a place called Golfplay.

 

“We’re trying to build a business and trying to give something back in the process,” he says, describing the situation as a ‘win-win-win’ for all involved. “The customers win because they feel good about helping others, we win because we get more exposure and the charities win because they receive some money in the process.”

 

Support among those in the business community is crucial says Christina, especially as the recovery process begins.

 

“By banding together and helping each other get through this, we show our strength as a community economically and socially,” she says. “If a business closes, the employees lose their income and that means other businesses do not benefit from that person’s buying power.”

 

Keeping that in mind, Tapestry Hall’s Delivers and HIP Developments have formed a partnership to create the Feeding the Frontlines program. On the Tapestry Hall Delivers’ website, customers have the option to contribute to the program which aims to see $5,000 in meal vouchers distributed to essential workers in Waterloo Region, including those working in healthcare, shelters, and grocery stores. On the site, the public can nominate businesses where essential workers are busy.

 

“They are doing the hard work in this community,” says HIP Developments President Scott Higgins. “We are just trying to find ways we can say thank you and make their family lives a little easier.”

 

Christina agrees and says these workers have gone into work each day to ensure the rest of us have the things we need.

 

“We wanted to do something kind to say thanks,” she says. “A stress-free meal may not seem like a lot, but when you have had a long and sometimes scary week at work, one less thing, like cooking a dinner or meal planning, can help ease that stress.”

 

Easing stress for others is what prompted Driverseat Cambridge owner Sean Mulder to follow the lead of the company’s Calgary office and offer a ‘shop and drop’ program free to seniors and those with disabilities. Those in need of groceries can call, or text Driverseat and will be provided with a link that allows them to fill out a grocery order.

 

“It’s kind of cool. We’re the third location to test this out,” says Sean, adding having fewer people going to grocery stores means less points of contact to spread the virus. “This makes great sense.”

 

Driverseat chauffeurs, many of whom Sean says are doing this on a volunteer basis since many only work part time for the company, do the shopping for the customer using a preauthorized payment system and then deliver the groceries following strict physical distancing guidelines. Currently, Driverseat is offering this at a few stores but expects that will increase as the program expands.

 

“A lot of our posts on social media have received a wide reach and from that, we’re getting quite a lot of people calling and messaging us,” says Sean.

 

He says since a huge portion of Driverseat’s regular services have been scaled back considerably since the lockdown began, this has allowed the company team to stay connected. Also, Sean says it has been a boost for those in need and are isolated on their own.

 

“It gives people peace of mind. We’re a person they can talk to,” he says, adding clients can call the chauffeur if they have special requests that may not be on the grocery list, or if they forgot to add something. “They’re not just punching information into an app; with us there’s a voice you can talk to.”

 

Sean admits even though businesses are facing challenging times it shouldn’t prevent them from lending a hand.

 

“There’s a huge need in our community and if you have the means or the time, you should do something,” he says.

 

Christina agrees, especially when it comes to assisting the non-profit sector.

“If you have the chance to help those that are helping others, isn’t it the right thing to do?” she says.

 

At the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, Dianne says she is thrilled by the extent of generosity from the business community which has included free security service and the creation of safe work stations for staff to work with clients at the front of the building thanks to the donation of free reno work.  As well, she says the local CAA office has deployed its vehicles to pick up food bank donations from the grocery store bins.

 

“No matter what people’s struggles are, they’re still considering us and donating to us which helps us keep going,” says Dianne.

 

Contact Information:

 

For information about Tapestry Hall Delivers, visit www.tapestryhall.ca

 

To order a #QuarantineTee visit www.cambridgecentrehonda.com/community-fundraiser/

 

For information about Golfplay, visit www.golfplay.ca

 

Contact Driverseat Cambridge at www.driverseatinc.com, or call 226-241-3736

 

For information about the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank (which now has community donation bins set up at St. John’s Anglican Church in Preston and PetroKing in Hespeler), visit www.cambridgefoodbank.org

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The economic shutdown from COVID-19 may have physically closed many doors but could be opening new ones online for those looking to upgrade their skills or seek new career opportunities.

 

“Usually we’re all so hustled and bustled by everyday life we don’t’ really get the time to reflect,” says Anna Barichello, Associate Chair, Institute of Online Studies at Conestoga College.

 

As a result, she says many people rarely take an opportunity to ask themselves some important questions: Do I like what I’m doing? Am I challenged in my life? Do I want to learn to do something better?

 

Anna says using the shutdown as an opportunity to take online courses could prove very beneficial to some of those in the business community.

 

“If you’re a small business owner and one of your challenges has always been handling accounting, maybe this is the time you could take an accounting fundamentals course?” she says, which is one of more than 260 courses Conestoga College offers as part of its Ed2Go program.

 

Currently, Anna says learning trends indicate there is an even split among people enrolled in online courses with most either looking to upgrade their skills for their current jobs or taking programs that have absolutely nothing to do with their careers.

 

“This could be the time to see if you want to do a career switch,” she says.

According to a recent Globe and Mail article, a recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business of the small-and medium-sized businesses it represents suggested approximately one-third that are closed due to COVID-19 aren’t sure they’ll ever reopen.

 

As well, the article states the federal government is looking at ways to speed up the introduction of skills-training to help out-of-work Canadians. The training was targeted to arrive at the end of this year in the form of an annual tax credit and time off through the employment insurance system for workers that wanted to upgrade their skills, or learn something new to help their job hunt.

 

In terms of enrolment for its Ed2GO courses, Anna says Conestoga College has seen about 135 students register this month, which is about typical, but speculates that number will increase. She says her office has been fielding many enquiries.

“At our office, it’s been business as usual.”

 

She says the wide variety of courses – from accounting to writing for children – may be an attraction and so is the convenience. The programs run four weeks in length and take about four hours a week to complete which is ideal for those working remotely at home.

 

“You can do the work on your own time,” says Anna, noting there are no textbooks. “Everything is done online, including assessments.”

 

She admits some may be intimidated at the thought of learning online, since it is not the traditional way many of us were taught.

 

“Sometimes there is a hesitancy; ‘Will I be able to handle the technology?’ or ‘Will I be able to learn in this medium?’,” says Anna. “But what you get from an online course, the learning outcome, is the same as you would get in a face to face course. You are really getting a quality learning experience regardless of the medium.”

 

She says the Ed2GO programs are created by instructional designers who’ve worked to ensure the students focus on the content and not the technical aspects of how its offered.

 

“They’re designed for easy navigation. You don’t really need to have technical skills to be able to go through the course,” says Anna, adding there is tech support available if students are experiencing difficulties. “There are support officers available.”

As well, she says the college does offer career counselling for those who may be unsure what courses they should take, noting the three most popular programs are Accounting Fundamentals, Fundamentals of Supervision and Management, and Introduction to Microsoft Access 2019.

 

Anna herself says she has taken some project management courses offered via Ed2Go.

 

“I thoroughly enjoyed them,” she says.

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As the days turn into weeks in the battle against COVID-19, it’s imperative for businesses to adapt to this new reality.

 

Many are now using videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom, Cisco Webex, and GoToMeeting as a method to not only keep in touch with their co-workers but as an important tool to conduct business.

 

Mastering this technology is key when it comes to marketing your business says Mike Jennings, president of the Cambridge-based digital marketing agency MoreSALES.

 

“A lot of companies will judge you based not only on your ability to communicate but your ability to use technology well,” he says, explaining tech-based firms, along with banks and insurance companies, are more willing to work with organizations that are comfortable with technology.

 

Mike says Marshall McLuhan’s famous quote, ‘the medium is the message’, still holds true, especially in today’s technologically advanced business world.

 

“Marketing is really about building trust as quickly as possible so the more you can look competent and communicate your message clearly and efficiently, the better,” he says. “That’s where Zoom can really be a benefit to companies.”

 

Mike says his company had used GoToMeeting in the past but switched to Zoom approximately two years ago after finding it more reliable and easier for clients to navigate.

 

“We’ve been using it ever since and we’ve also been using it as a marketing tool,” he says, referring to the way Zoom allows his company to present ideas to clients through screen sharing and webinars.

 

However, Mike says prior to the arrival of COVID-19 his staff often didn’t use the video portion of the platform which can take up a great deal of bandwidth unless there is good connectivity. And while some companies have been scrambling when COVID-19 struck to find ways for their employees to work from home, that wasn’t the case at MoreSALES.

 

“Our staff has been able to work remotely for years so it wasn’t a cultural shift at all,” he says, noting in 2016 his company switched to a smaller office footprint.

 

When it comes to using Zoom, or other videoconferencing platforms, Mike is a firm believer that “familiarity breeds confidence.”

 

“Getting really familiar with the platform is important because it makes things go a lot smoother,” he says. “So, get familiar with the platform and learn where all the buttons are.”

 

He says getting to know how to use the ‘mute’ button can be key during an online meeting or discussion. 

 

As well, being aware of what may be in your background is also important.

“Nothing is worse than people seeing stupid stuff there, and it’s distracting,” says Mike, adding common sense should prevail.

 

Also, he says camera position is another big consideration a participant in a videoconference should think about before joining the group.

 

“It’s all about camera work in a sense. Ideally, the camera should be pointing dead on or pointing down,” says Mike, adding the same principles people use when trying to take that ideal selfie can be applied in this situation.

 

And when it comes to ‘Zoombombing’, a concept which has seen a recent surge of hackers and jokers interrupt online discussions, he says there are steps that can be taken to discourage unwanted ‘guests’ from joining.

 

“You can set up a password and email it to those only in the meeting,” says Mike. “You can also set up a waiting room and participants can be accepted before coming into the meeting.”

 

Most importantly, he says do not advertise your Zoom meeting on social media to ward off potential hacking.

 

He believes using platforms like Zoom will likely become the norm for many businesses once the crisis finally ends and people become more comfortable with the technology.

 

“If you know what you’re doing and you’re able to quickly adapt your process to video marketing and video calls, and still communicate clearly and well – and not have clutter in the background and fumbling with buttons and being useless with technology – that goes a long way,” says Mike.

 

Here’s a few Zoom tips that may help:

  • Use a Zoom-generated meeting ID, rather than your personal ID;
  • Have attendees register to attend to dissuade crashers;
  • Select one or more alternative hosts to help you manage the meeting in the event of an issue;
  • Discuss potential issues with your co-hosts and create a plan to respond to technical difficulties or other disruptions;
  • Disable the option for attendees to join before the host and enable the option to mute participants when they enter the meeting;
  • Control screen sharing during the meeting;
  • Close the door if you can between you and anyone else in your living space, or use headphones;
  • You can also download the Zoom app to your phone and go audio-only;
  • Automatically schedule meetings – and let people know about them;
  • Create recurring meetings with saved settings and one URL;
  • Record the call as a video.
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