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4 tips for texting in the workplace

“Hello. You’ve reached [insert name here]. I’m away from my desk at the moment. If your inquiry is urgent, please call or text my cell at…”

This is a voice message I heard a few months ago, and I was utterly baffled. Do I text this person who I have never met before, or do I take my chance she will return my message or emails? Do people text strangers hoping for a business meeting? Is this a trend?

It’s happening more and more often — professionals using digital platforms for daily communication rather than in-person or over-the-phone conversations. While email has become a standard and expected form of digital communication, the most recent form of interaction between clients and employers is through text messaging. This is an odd trend, as studies have shown the use of Smartphones within the workplace decreases productivity. According to a survey taken by OfficeTeam, employees spend 56 minutes per day using their cell phone at work for non-work reasons. On a weekly basis, this adds up to almost an entire work-day lost.

At the same time, it is the age of technology. People are using text and social media more often to communicate with clients or employers, because the effect is instantaneous. No need to wait until that person is out of a meeting or in the office — a text can be answered at any time.

Is is possible to professionally text a colleague or client in the workplace without blurring the professional lines? The answer is yes, but there are some things you should know. Here are four tips for communicating with your boss, client, or coworker via text message:

Don’t text first: Texting should be used as a last resort to get a hold of someone professionally, unless that person has clearly indicated that text messaging is their primary form of communication. This rule can be complicated if you are presented with a voice message similar to the one above. If someone says in an automated message that it is okay to text them, should you? No. Texting is still considered a very personal form of messaging; therefore, first contact should always be made either in person, on the phone, or by email if necessary. If you are discussing a time sensitive issue and the person you are trying to reach is in media relations or acts as a liaison to another, it may be appropriate. In this case, make sure your text clearly indicates who you are and why you texted.

Don’t abbreviate: Texting your boss or a client is different than texting a friend at two in the morning asking if they want to go to the pub. Don’t use abbreviations or shortcuts like “np” (no problem) or “sry” (sorry). Write complete sentences and always use a ton of respect. It may even be prudent to include a signature at the end with your full name. ASAP or RSVP are the exceptions to the rule, as they are terms often used in conversation.

Hopefully I don’t have to say this, but do not use emojis either.

Keep it professional: Just because you are using text, doesn’t mean your language should be anything other than professional. Keep your communication short, concise, and professional at all times. Remember that texting was not meant for serious discussion. This form of communication is great if you need to get someone’s attention and request they call you or check their emails, but that’s about it. It’s also important not to text too often. Reserve this right for emergencies, for example when you are going to be late to a pre-scheduled meeting. 

And in the case of emergencies, try not to break bad news over text. Instead, simply send a message asking the receiver to call you to discuss an urgent issue.

Always read over your message: Even in the case of an emergency, it is important to re-read your texts before pressing send. Autocorrect is not what it used to be. Too often people are the victim of the dreaded autocorrect, who transforms the simplest greetings (hello) to something sinister (hell).

Would you use text messaging to communicate with your employer or client? Let us know in the comments below!

What you need to know about bitcoin and why it’s so popular

So, what is bitcoin and why should we be paying attention — or not paying attention — to this cryptocurrency. The decision is yours. Let’s start with the basics and to be honest, I’m learning about this as well. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency or in its simplest form it is a digital form of money. These virtual currencies held whispers of being the currency of the future, which would make sense since we are living in an increasingly digital world.

Bitcoin’s origins can be traced back to 2008 and was founded by inventor Satoshi Nakamoto, a relatively unknown inventor who never came forward to the public. Some people believe he/she was operating under an alias. Nakamoto succeeded at what many companies failed to do in the 90’s — to create a digital currency. In fact, it was not his intention to create a digital currency, but to invent a ‘peer-to-peer electronic cash system.’ What does this mean? He essentially created a virtual market for trade that has no central entity or or single administrator. This virtual space enables worldwide payment and in this virtual market, trade is only allowed if specific conditions are met. This is the exact way a currency works and thus bitcoin was born.

Once a transaction is requested, it is validated through a code of algorithms sent to a peer-to-peer network. Bitcoin is not redeemable for any other commodity (as of yet) and doesn’t exist in a physical form, only in the network. The supply is not controlled by an administration like a bank.

As the buzz for bitcoin began entering the news space, it made sense for investors, banks, and even regular people to start paying attention and consider trading in this virtual currency. As of Jan. 1  2017, one bitcoin was trading for $960 per coin and as of Dec. 5, 2018 ,one coin trades for $11,816.93 USD.In Canada. that would trade for $14,990.48 CAD. It reached the $10,000 mark just last week. So much buzz has been generated by bitcoin and everyone has questions.

This is not the first time there was a surge in the proposed value of bitcoin. Back in 2013, major Canadian banks, such as RBC, TD, and Scotiabank, made the move to make it difficult for investors who trade in bitcoin to convert this digital currency into real cash. Back in 2013, one coin was going for a bit over $1000. Banks froze the accounts of Bitcoin traders and middlemen like bitcoin brokerages. Banks can collect millions of dollars in wire transfer fees, but in an uncontrolled bitcoin market there are no fees and as it is gaining popularity, many banks and financial institutions have started paying attention to their proposed digital competition.

The rise in popularity of bitcoin is determined by perception and interest in the market. The price of bitcoin is determined by the economic basis of supply and demand. For bitcoin to have value, people need to trust the adoptive use of this digital trade in the market-space. If you were to compare it to gold, which had a physical presence and is more demanding to acquire, supporters would say one bitcoin coin is easier to acquire though it doesn’t exist in a physical form. This trade becomes based on trust.

What can you purchase with bitcoin? Many technology companies have adjusted their payment models to include a bitcoin options, like Microsoft and Dell. Gift card companies for Walmart, Amazon, Target, and Nike now accept bitcoin. Jewelry and travel companies are also jumping on the bitcoin bandwagon.

With the anonymous and mysterious veil over the use of bitcoin, it also brought forth a negative impact. It can be used for illegal trade and potentially cause alarm for law enforcement as they try to determine how bitcoin can be related to issued in the real world. Also the fact it is unregulated leaves room for manipulation and fraudulent cases.

So, will bitcoin continue to rise and will more people put their trust into this digital currency? There are only two ways to go —up or down.

What are your thoughts or theories on the use of bitcoin and will this digital coin fare will in financial crisis? Comment below.

How to manage your child’s development in a digital world

How much TV is too much TV ? While this answer can vary for adults who indulge in binge-watching sessions of their favorite show, the same should never apply to children.  Many parents often seek the advice of pediatricians on how early to expose your children to the lights and sounds of the readily-available electronic babysitter.

There are television shows, You-Tube videos, and even apps on your phone that can be used to keep a toddler or infant at bay. However, children under two years old should not be exposed to screen-time, including “educational apps” or Face Time. This long standing recommendation comes from the Canadian Paediatric Society. In June of this year, the CPS released new guidelines on screen-time for young children after finding that too many children under the age of four are sedentary —something that is often caused by excessive screen time.

Children between two and five are should only be online less than one hour a day, and this is with the proper supervision of the parent or caretaker. This means parents shouldn’t simply hand the device over to their child and walk away. Many parents of young children choose not to expose their children to television or any of these digital devices over fears of what the child may absorb from the media.

Children’s minds need to be enriched, but this can be done through proper family time, meaning parents should put down  their own devices and focus their time on the child. Time spent reading and doing interactive physical activities, like building blocks and flash cards, will be more beneficial than an electronic device, which is more distracting.

Michelle Ponti, is a London, Ontario pediatrician who is a part of the team that wrote the new Canadian guidelines and concluded from the study that screen-time does nothing for infants and toddlers.

” The youngest children cannot learn from screens. They are not developmentally ready to transfer what they see on a screen to real life.” Ponti said.

While studies have shown that high quality educational shows, for instance Sesame Street, can be good for a pre- schooler’s educational learning ability, the concern comes from how much time is spent in front of the screen. These electronic platforms cause the loss of one-on-one contact with children, resulting in loss of proper eye contact, hyper activity, distracted tendencies and other learning issues. Most of the negative observations arose after children watched more than two hours of television.

These small changes can have an impact on future behaviour and development of your child. Indeed, some situations may seem overwhelming, but parents should keep in mind that handing off a screen to your child has no educational benefit.

The CPS guidelines are a bit different from those across the border in the US. The American Academy of Pediatrics made a special exception for cases including Skype or Face-Time, which doctors may not necessarily categorize as screen-time.

Nevertheless, both US and Canadian pediatricians agree that parents today need to consider more than 10 years ago, when screen-time from electronic devices were limited or almost non-existent. You should also consider how your own parents may have practiced learning activities with you. This often included learning blocks, books or bouncy chairs.

Remember to minimize screen-time and be a healthy model for your child as they develop in a digital world.

What are your thoughts ? Comment below

What’s the buzz with Bumble Bizz?

Bumble, a dating app where women make the first move, is expanding into the business world. Users can now use Bumble Bizz to make connections within their city — the perfect networking tool for introverts (or just people living in the twenty first century).

While people of all sexes and genders are allowed to participate through Bizz, the app follows the same principle as the dating platform. Women must make the initial contact. According to Bizz, this is meant to encourage more women to be active in the business community while still feeling comfortable and safe in their environment. Users will be connected to potential mentors, partners, and business contacts.

“By empowering women to make the first move in Bizz, Bumble expects to see the same significant uptick in positive behaviour and dramatically reduced abuse rates that it has seen in its dating and friendship platforms,” the company said in a statement.

How does it work? Instead of including your likes and dislikes in your profile, Bumble Bizz allows you to include a digital resume and list of skills and accomplishments. Included would be a short description of who you are, what you do, and what you are looking for on the app. All profiles are put through a photo verification process to ensure security.

Similarly to the dating app, you swipe left and right to connect with people. And if you are lucky, maybe Bumble will hire you! The company has said they will hire 10 people they discover on the app.

In this day and age, it’s hard for professionals to connect with like-minded individuals outside of their office environment. It is especially difficult for women, who often have to work harder for their accomplishments to be acknowledged. LinkedIn can sometimes feel a little too formal, and networking events can sometimes be overwhelming — very few connections result in meaningful conversations. The genius of Bumble Bizz is that all you need is a phone. You can work around your schedule, make the first move, and honestly connect with someone else in your industry.

The app is available in Canada now for Apple users and will be available on Android on Oct. 18.

Would you try Bumble Bizz? Let us know in the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Sarah Jacobs Barrs

Named one of the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) Future Leaders and one of Canada’s 2016 100 Most Powerful Women, Sarah Jacob Barrs exudes passion for what she does. On the phone with Women’s Post, Barrs doesn’t glamorize her profession, but instead stresses how much she enjoys her work. As she says, “It’s important to have fun in everything you do.”

Barrs is the director of events for Klick, one of the largest marketing and commercialization agencies in the world, headquartered in Toronto. She manages a small team of women who organize internal and external events for the company. Some of the special guests that have spoken at Barr’s events at Klick include include Bill Clinton, Margaret Atwood, Arianna Huffington, David Cronenberg, Deepak Chopra, Craig Kielburger, and Steven Page.

It’s hard work that involves long hours and impressive people skills. Barrs’ events are highly curated for a wide audience, whether it’s 20 people at a managers’ retreat or 2000 guests at a town hall or a conference. She is also responsible for Klick’s external marketing events and coordinates international events for clients. All of this is in addition to the internal leadership conferences, wellness or fitness courses, and retreats she plans for staff.

“People come to me and ask about event planning. It’s a lot of work. There is glamour behind it,” she says. “But it’s also understanding your industry and knowing you need to stay on top of trends – you are constantly having to recreate what you do and change and do new things – not every career does that.”

Barrs was brought up with a strong sense of community, something that inspired her career path. In particular, she wanted to help the sick because everyone has been touched by loss or illness in one way or another. Since she was unable to donate money, Barrs decided she could help fundraise and plan events, which she did with great success. Throughout her roles as an event coordinator for Mount Sinai Hospital Auxiliary, Chair of the Leadership Board Toronto for Save a Child’s Heart, and Community Development Coordinator for the SickKids Foundation, she was able to land her dream job of working in both the event planning and health sectors.

“I grew up in a family where giving back was really important,” she said. “Over the holiday season we supported families to ensure they had wonderful Christmas and Hanukkah – picking out gifts for children my age,” she said.

One of Barrs’ first jobs following graduation was with Women of Influence, an organization dedicated to the advancement of professional women. She started working there as a receptionist in 2007, but was promoted a few months later to event coordinator. For Barrs, this opportunity spearheaded her career as well as a passion for helping other women. She even helped start a group based in Toronto for young women in business.

Although Barrs no longer works with Women of Influence, she continues to try to mentor and offer advice to young women pursuing event planning. She is also active in planning celebrations for International Women’s Day within Klick, something she is incredibly proud of.

When she isn’t working, Barrs enjoys fitness, spending time with family and friends and traveling. “I really enjoy doing nothing,” she says. “Sometimes you just need your downtime with this type of career.” She also finds a bit of relief through shopping, finding clothing that allows her to showcase her creativity.

Barrs is working on a big internal celebration in September to mark Klick’s 20th anniversary, as well as the company’s annual town hall marketing event in December.

 

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Headline Coffee — the future of journalism?

You get up in the morning, grab the newspaper (or your Ipad/tablet for your digital news), and then saunter into the kitchen to make your brewed beverage of choice.

But, wait! There is no coffee beside that fancy Keurig machine. What now?

The Toronto Star has you covered. Tuesday, the news organization launched Headline Coffee, a delivery service that will bring ethically-sourced ground or whole-bean coffee from around the world directly to your doorstep. No need to make that timmies run!

For $20, subscribers will get a bag of coffee — good for about 35 cups — from a new single-origin country each month. Those beans are then roasted locally to perfection.

At first glance, the idea of a news organization selling something other than news seems a bit strange. But, amid job cuts and declining advertising revenue, this seems like a brilliant way to make a little extra cash. Headline Coffee is disrupting the system and shattering the illusion — the news industry is in trouble. Despite what people may think, news publications can’t hire employees, or keep the ones they do have for that matter. Printing and staffing a large paper is expensive, and without extra revenue, there is no way the Star, no matter it’s reputation, can maintain its product.

Like many smaller publications have figured out, it’s time to embrace this reality and get creative. Magazines like Spacing are supporting themselves with private donations, launch parties, and memorabilia sales. Sponsored content is becoming the norm and there is nothing editors can do about it.

Cue Headline Coffee: a unique and effective way to entice readers to help pay some of the costs for a larger news conglomerate. It also just happens to target their specific audience — news and coffee lovers. I can attest to being part of that audience and I have to say that I am intrigued by this offer.

As the Star said in their press release announcing their new Headline Coffee, “whether they relax and read their newspaper at home, clutch it during their commute, enjoy a quick news update on their mobile phone or swipe through Toronto Star Touch on their tablet, reading the Toronto Star and enjoying a cup of coffee are parts of their day for about 75 per cent of the Star’s readers.”

It will be interesting to see if the quality and quantity of news increases as coffee sales rise. Will Headline Coffee help the Star stay afloat? Who knows, but in the meantime, let’s brew a good cup of Joe, settle into a comfortable chair with our paper, and see what happens.

Media layoffs indicative of dangerous industry

A few weeks ago, the Toronto Star announced 52 new layoffs, including 26 people who were hired specifically for their tablet edition — a project that was supposed to transform the journalism industry for the better.

This announcement is only one in a series of job cuts that happened this year. It seems that every single media conglomerate — Rogers, TorStar, Bell Media, and PostMedia — has come to a point where they can’t afford to pay their writers. The journalism industry has always been precarious, but with the introduction of digital media, it seems to have lost control. No one knows what to do. The Toronto Star, for example, has said that despite the layoffs, it will continue to focus on maintaining a strong web and mobile service, as it is the future of news consumption. But, what does that mean? And how does this affect hard working journalists?

First of all, it increases the workload for journalists — without increasing the pay. For the same salary, reporters are now expected to do everything from layout to online production, in addition to interviewing and writing content. They are photographers, digital experts, and social media gurus. I saw a job posting the other day that asked candidates looking to apply for an entry-level reporting job if they were well-versed in Indesign and HTML, able to act as photographer and writer, and able to edit other reporter’s copy. Essentially, the candidate should be able to run the newspaper on their own.

With less staff, quality suffers. News is reported before facts are accurately checked, headlines are misspelled, and photos aren’t laid out properly. Things can get messy fast when one person is responsible for that much work.

The problem is that journalism is constantly changing, and instead of trying to deal with it patiently and with care, news publications are making industry-changing decisions based on the most current technologies available. People are consuming much more of their news on their mobile devices or their work computers than their tablets. Podcasts are becoming more popular and information packaging is now just as important as the content itself. But, what will be “in” 10 years from now and how will that affect how the news is consumed?

The solution isn’t simple. In fact, I can’t even begin to imagine what it is. Revenue is plummeting and the news organizations can’t keep up. Publications need to invest in online advertising and sponsorships — all of the things journalists despise — at least for now. As a journalist myself, I personally feel as if good journalism has to be publicly funded (and not just the CBC). By depending on private corporations, whose ultimate goal will always be to create revenue, news organizations will suffer. They will be forever in debt to declining ad spaces and subscription rates. If the public was willing to contribute and help subsidize part of the cost for informed news, then the goal of profit-making is replaced with that of simple story telling. Isn’t that what we want?

I realize that these solutions aren’t permanent, and that it places the onus on non-agencies to fund a whole profession. But at some point, society is going to have to make a choice. Should publications continue to cut staff and hope that the quality of information and news doesn’t decrease, or should we invest in our journalists? These corporations can spend money on good writers, editors, and producers — or they can spend money on new technology that will probably be out of date in a few years.

Which would you rather have?