Benefits of Taking Vacation Time

by Ada Slivinski

Summer is a time many of us associate with time off, but many Canadians are not taking full advantage of their vacation days. Canada is one of the most vacation-deprived nations according to a 2014 survey by TD bank, which found that only 43 per cent of Canadians report using up all the vacation days they are entitled to. This occurred even though 93 per cent of Canadians said they thought vacations were important to be “happy.”
Many of those who did not take vacation days said it was because they could not afford to but research shows that time away from work is not only important for your personal health and wellbeing but also has benefits for your employer. These benefits don’t change based on how long you’re away or how far you go. Vacations are not a frivolous luxury, they are important for self-care and productivity. Here’s why you should go ahead and book that getaway:

Better physical health

Getting away can help your physical health. For both men and women, studies show that taking a vacation every two years compared to every six will significantly lessen the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attacks. The opportunity to regroup and reset that a vacation provides can also help you ditch some negative habits. Vacations are one of the most successful times to implement lifestyle changes because old cues and rewards are no longer present. It is also easier to get more sleep, eat better and get more exercise when you’re not rushing around in your daily routine.

Improved mental health

One of the main benefits of vacation time is that it can improve your mental health. The reduced stress allows the body and mind to reboot and recoup in ways that they couldn’t if they were still under pressure. The human body is not designed to run at full-tilt around the clock. A period of rest brings you back up to optimal functioning. Family vacations also improve and strengthen family ties, which has a positive impact on mental health and your overall sense of wellbeing.

Increased productivity

Employees who take vacations are more productive. Upon returning from vacation, workers are likely to put more emphasis on the work they have to make up and have a renewed energy to pour into their job. Being away from a regular work routine and in a different space gives you a fresh perspective that helps generate new ideas and come up with innovative solutions to problems.

Lowered risk of burnout

When employees work too hard for too long they are likely to reach a breaking point and leave altogether. This means employers end up paying to train someone else to replace them. The biggest price employers pay for burnout is the loss of talented people and there are tolls burnout takes even before the stress it reaches a breaking point. Employees approaching burnout are likely to start taking more sick days and report “feeling disconnected” at work. By encouraging their employees to take full advantage of their vacation time, employers can reap the benefits and the overall work environment will become more enjoyable for all.

Standing Out: Set Yourself Apart at Work

As a corporate consultant for an IT managed services provider, I am a woman working in a male dominated industry. Quite often, I don’t even notice this. I don’t expect to be treated any differently from my co-workers, my employers, or my clients. I work just as hard as my male counterparts, and expect to be mentored, coached, rewarded and disciplined in the exact same ways that they are. It is usually other people, including friends and family, that point out to me, or ask me what it is like being a women in a “boys club.” They ask me if I find it difficult, or they ask me if I have to do anything differently to be taken as seriously, or have my voice heard as loud as the man sitting beside me or in front of me. The answer is no. I am a woman working in the technology industry and I choose to see it as an advantage, rather than a disadvantage. There are many ways in which I focus my energy in order to make the most of my career so far, and I strive to make being a “woman in tech,” my competitive advantage:

1. I choose to take advantage of, rather than get defensive towards traditional gender biases. Women are historically known for being better listeners and more empathetic than our male counterparts. Technology is an area of most businesses that is extremely complex and often not very well understood. In some cases it is even feared. When we pair these two facts together, the truth is that women working in technology have a better chance of being able to create a partnership where the end goal is solving a problem, and, therefore, satisfying a need. By striving to understand client issues and working with them through the entire process, it becomes a partnership rather than an annoying aspect of their business that they don’t understand, or don’t want to deal with.

2. I choose to take advantage of industry events and networking opportunities specifically dedicated towards women. There are tons of opportunities out there if you look for them. More so than ever, there is a push to attract women into the field of technology, and many vendors and organizations and focusing time and effort in putting on events for women in tech. These events are often not as well attended as traditional conferences and events, but provide a more intimate opportunity to create closer relationships with vendors and distributors alike.

3. I choose to take advantage of mentorship opportunities within the industry. Mentorship from both males and females is extremely important to me. Being female in technology, it is often easy to relate to and connect with other women in technology. They have faced (and often overcome) similar obstacles specific to being a female in a male dominated industry. Some of the most fascinating women I have met in my career so far are women who have been working in the tech world for many years. They are always extremely successful and happy to share their stories and offer advice.

There many aspects to not only my job, but my entire industry that I can choose to have work to my disadvantage, or my advantage. It is my personal choice to choose to see all of the opportunity available to women working in technology, and I will continue to strive to uncover all of the personal and professional development opportunities that are and will become available to me in the future!

Laura Wittig is a corporate consultant at Clear Concepts of Winnipeg, Man. Wittig became CDN’s first ever Rising Star award winner at the annual CDN Women of the IT Channel Recognition event. Clear Concepts won the Solution Provider of the Year award at the 2014 CDN Channel Elite Awards.

Parking woes are the price of success for downtown businesses

Let’s face it — no one wants to pay for parking. Yet we all want to park near where we shop, dine, and visit. This has always been a challenge and opportunity for great and vibrant downtowns.

Economic development gurus Gregory Pierce and Donald Shoup say it best: “Underpriced (free) and overcrowded curb parking creates problems for everyone except a few lucky drivers who find a cheap space; all the other drivers who cruise to find an open space waste time and fuel, congest traffic, and pollute the air. Overpriced and under-occupied parking also creates problems; when curb spaces remain empty, nearby merchants lose potential customers, workers lose jobs and cities lose tax revenue.”

Downtown Winnipeg is undergoing a revival. The majority of restaurant owners and retailers in the emerging Sports, Hospitality and Entertainment District (SHED) tell us that their customers are having a difficult time finding on-street parking around places like the MTS Centre. In other words, the lack of on-street parking is affecting their customers and business operations. The Downtown BIZ’s goal is to help our businesses flourish, and to learn and borrow from best practices observed in other downtowns. Our downtown needs to find ways to help short-term parkers find on-street parking, and to encourage long-term parkers to utilize off-street parking, as well as to promote alternative modes of transportation.

Recently the City of Winnipeg proposed aggressive ticketing, yet the majority of our members surveyed are not in favour of, or are unsure if, enforcing parking turnover in this way is the best approach. Sixty per cent of our members were cool to the idea of ticketing people who stay longer than two hours between 5:30-8:30 p.m. on weekdays. Their opinion is in line with what other cities have experienced.

Employees, residents, students and others will still take advantage of the two-hour free parking, and simply move their cars every two hours in the evening. As long as parking remains free, we will not be able to create the long-term mind shift we are aiming for, that is, park further away or in a parkade, take transit, bike, walk — all goals outlined in the City of Winnipeg’s OurWinnipeg plan. For this segment of users, this won’t fully create the turnover desired. The enforcement approach will leave more people with parking tickets, in turn creating negative downtown perceptions and attitudes. This could set back our downtown renewal.

There is no doubt that our downtown is becoming more and more vibrant in the evening, even when the Jets are not playing. And with the arrival of the Moose, the Jets’ AHL farm team, more conventions and the imminent opening of the Winnipeg Police Service headquarters with their 2,500-plus employees, the problem is about to get worse. This is a good problem to have, but with just 700 on-street stalls, and at times over 20,000 people in this area, the dilemma is clear. That’s why on-street parking needs to be better managed today.

A common practice in many downtowns and business districts where there are on-street parking challenges is to charge for that premium spot during the hours of parking congestion (in our case, up to 10:30 p.m.). As Donald Shoup has proven in his research, if this is done correctly, every time you come downtown to this area, there should be an on-street spot for you — especially if you want to park on the same block where your favourite restaurant is. In other words, the new parking policy would encourage those that want to park long-term on the street, into other locations such as parkades or off-street parking lots.

But if you want to avoid paying for parking, you can still park on-street but a few blocks away, outside of this area. Also, some of our restaurants have free customer parking, surface parking lots or parkade spots secured for their customers nearby. You can always ask when making a reservation if they have free parking.

In our conversations with our business community, we hear eloquently about the need for other parking solutions, like park-and-rides, public infrastructure dedicated to rapid transit, and the importance of walkability and living/working/playing downtown. They are right — we need more dense, mixed-use developments along our transit routes, which integrate parking as part of broader transportation goals. Relying solely on increasing prices or even enforcement is short sighted and does not take into consideration other issues.

The BIZ and its business community have spent a considerable amount of time researching and in consulting BIZ members. We’re looking forward to ongoing conversations with our members and the community-at-large in advancing some of these ideas with city hall.

Stefano Grande is the executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.

What ever happened to the night shift?

It’s a case of the tail wagging the dog in Winnipeg where the contractors call the shots and not the citizens or their elected representatives. It’s time to change this!

• • •

Bold Ideas - Dorothy Dobbie
Bold Ideas –
Dorothy Dobbie

Here we are – it’s summer again and our town is a leafy green paradise, unless, that is, you happen to be driving down Portage Avenue, Ness Avenue, Corydon Avenue, McGillivray Boulevard and countless other streets that are being ripped up right now for repairs.
Now don’t get me wrong: I applaud the energy going into fixing our streets and repairing our curbs and (hopefully) our boulevards. But why can’t we make this happen faster?
I put this question to a former city councillor, who patiently explained that working at night caused the phones to ring off the hook with complaints about the noise – and no doubt that’s true, but surely not on regional streets where all the businesses are closed? Why can’t these critical thoroughfares be put on a special speedup schedule where contractors would work three shifts to get the job done?
Another excuse I have heard is that it’s dark and that this is a safety issue. Nonsense. We can light things up so that they are as bright as daylight. We are the electricity capital of Canada, aren’t we?
One other excuse (incomprehensible to me) is that the local contractors have just so much machinery and people and that they are doing all they can. What? This excuse reminds me of a comment from a visitor from Soviet Russia back in the day. He expressed amazement over the rapidity with which a local building was going up. “It’s not like in Russia,” he said, “where you get paid as much for laying down as you do for standing up, so nothing ever gets finished!”
I guess here you get paid the same for working during the day as you would for losing sleep so why work at night? (I seem to remember, though, that there was an hourly premium attached to night shifts in most industries.)
This past February, the city of Toronto voted to allow around the clock construction on some major thoroughfares, and work on “major roads” can be carried on between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Local roads have a 14-hour window from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can work around the clock in many other Canadian and American cities.

Bottom line

Every day that the streets are tied up means loss of business for local merchants, not to mention hours of lost time for other businesses whose employees are out on the roads on legitimate appointments. It also means extreme inconvenience for all drivers.
The city of Winnipeg used to work shifts when the work was actually done by our own employees. So, why can’t contractors be given this as a condition of contract? I think it’s time we overrode these self-serving objections and changed the current policy.
Yet it seems that here in our town the heavy construction industry calls the shots – they do not particularly want to work nights and are the originators of all the excuses. Chris Lorenc, executive director for the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, was quoted in the Winnipeg Free Press as saying, “It’s just silliness to think we can work 24/7.” He was talking about noise complaints, but in fact, the city removes snow around the clock and residents seem to understand.
Well, the citizens of this city disagree with you, Chris. It is not “silliness” to want to get from point A to point B in a timely fashion. It is not “silliness” to expect that our tax dollars should be spent in a way that provides the most convenience to us. It is not “silliness” to expect that city council is calling the shots and not the contractors we pay to do the work for us.
I have a lot of faith in our new mayor and city council, and I know they have their hands full trying to set the city back on its feet. Road construction and the arrogance of the heavy construction association is just one more example of a problem they need to tackle.

Evolve or become irrelevant

Think Shift -  David Baker
Think Shift –
David Baker

It’s pretty clear the world is changing at a remarkable pace. And this pace, as overwhelming as it feels today, is poised to steadily increase – many say it will continue to double every five years. So if you thought the last 20 years were something, the next 20 will be something else.
For example, within three years there will 10 billion “things” connected to the internet, everything from your keys in case you lose them, to streetlights and garage doors so you can control them. Remote controlled air ambulances, cars that drive themselves and package-delivering drones were science fiction just a few years ago, but today they are real and tomorrow they will be commonplace.
The change is naturally spilling out everywhere, in culture, strategy, service, product development, communication, manufacturing and on and on. As evidenced by Kodak and Blockbuster and many more, those who fail to see to the change and course correct will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage – or even gone.
As Eric Shineski said, “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.”
Today’s world is often defined as VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Volatile because challenges are unexpected and situations are unstable; uncertain due the lack of predictability and the likelihood of surprise;complex because situations have so many interconnected issues that chaos and confusion are often the norm; ambiguous because we have not been here before – precedents don’t exist for many of the opportunities and challenges staring us down today.
Yet in the midst of this appears to be the greatest amount of opportunity the world has ever seen.
We take for granted how much is available to us now. We know where population is distributed and where it’s growing, we have unprecedented access to capital, knowledge, innovation and technology, and we have the ability to combine them to create value. The question is: will we?
Will we push to find new ways to create value, to connect with people and share ideas? Will we move away from what worked yesterday if it looks like it won’t work tomorrow? Will we push ourselves past what is in pursuit of what could be? Will we realize the potential that comes with change – in ourselves and in the organizations we serve – or will we settle for the status quo?
I am convinced that most of us are missing out. That far too often we become lulled into a false sense of security and the belief we should wait, accept the role, status or result we have been assigned.
That we should let things work themselves out as opposed to getting out there and making them work. That we should wait for permission or approval before taking action. The question, as David Lazarenko put it, is, “Are you a waiter or a creator?”
So, while many accept the notion that we should stand in line and patiently wait while someone else decides the next opportunity or right move, we know that day has come and gone. And it is no longer up to anyone else.
We have an opportunity to think differently and go beyond what “is” today to find the potential in people and organizations, and be intentional about making it a reality. We combine intentionality and potential and call it “potentionality.” It’s what drives us, and it is at the heart of why we go to work every. It is a made up word, but it’s apropos to the idea of seizing opportunity in change.
If you don’t see an opportunity, just create one!
Think Shift CEO David Baker has been helping individuals and organizations find and realize their potential for nearly two decades. David is an enthusiastic speaker, engaging storyteller and experienced communications strategist. Teaching constructive transparency and intentional leadership, he works with professionals and business owners to identify and achieve their goals.