Is Online Shopping Becoming the New Normal?

How often do you shop online? We will wager that it is a lot more often than you thought you would, even just a few years ago. News sites are full of stories about how seemingly indestructible retail giants like Sears and Toys “R” Us have faltered badly recently. Changing shopping habits is not a new thing, but online shopping has created a major sea change when it comes to how people are buying not just rare or offbeat items, but even the basics of daily living.

For example, grocery delivery was something that was not so unusual in, say, small-town America. But now even people in major cities are buying their food online and having it delivered. Substantial benefits have occurred, but mostly for a handful of major retailers and a large swath of consumers. Competition is always beneficial when it comes to keeping prices down, and the fact that online retailers often do not have brick-and-mortar storefronts and much smaller employee rolls means that they can offer their goods for a lower price. Combine that with the remarkable convenience of shopping online and it becomes a proposition that is just too good to pass up for many consumers.

This has led to a dramatic drop in the number of people not only going to stores, but to shopping malls in general. Sears has filed for bankruptcy protection and many are predicting that the retail behemoth will never recover. Toys “R” Us managed to get an infusion of cash that will keep the lights on, but that is of little help to the various organizations owed money.

All things change, but it is tough to predict exactly how much online shopping will continue to affect the retail environment in the next five years. Over the long haul, we might actually be at the beginning of an unstoppable march into a time when brick-and-mortar stores become something that you only read about in history books.

The Joys of Productivity

Bosses everywhere strive to achieve a level of healthy productivity in their workplaces. By that, we mean that employees are healthy in a manner that is sustainable for both the company and their personal well-being. However, as you may have encountered in one of your employment roles over the years, it is possible to become far too busy to be effective as an employee or function well as a human being. However, going too far in the opposite direction is not good either as tempting as it may be at times.

Do what you can to find the right balance because being productive is very good for you on the whole. Here are a few reasons why:

You can learn many new things

Keeping busy means almost inevitably trying and learning new things. If you do not do very much, or you simply do the same things over and over, you pass up on a great chance to learn new skills. This will also help you become more open to trying new things.

It keeps your brain healthy and active

Have you ever heard the phrase “use it or lose it”? Well, it can apply to your brain as well. Learning to do new things and performing activities that keep your brain active and stimulated can help to maintain its health.

You can help you do better at work

Even in workplaces that do not have video cameras on at all times, supervisors notice whether employees are being active and productive. If you are simply sitting around and doing the bare minimum of work, it will be noticed whether you think it is or not. Employees who take the initiative and go above and beyond usually are the ones who get rewarded. That can mean either a raise or a promotion.

Don’t Forget to Relax

That probably seems like an odd title for an article. I mean, who forgets to relax? Well, you might be surprised to know that many of us are not taking the necessary time to relax each day. That can have consequences for both our physical and mental well-being. Here are just a few reasons why you need to set aside some time each day to do nothing but relax.

Heart health

We all know that high blood pressure is bad for your heart. There are many things that can cause this condition, including a lack of proper relaxation. So, sitting around and “doing nothing” can actually have some heart benefits. Just do not do it excessively because you still need a proper amount of exercise every day.

Brain health

Just like you can overdo it with your body, it is entirely possible to overwork your brain. That affects your decision-making skills and accuracy, and not in a positive way. Also, failure to properly relax can lead to such mental health conditions as depression and anxiety, as well as frequent and debilitating headaches.

Sleep health

Trying to sleep when your mind and body are not in a state of relaxation often results in substandard sleep or even no sleep at all. Not getting a proper rest at night negatively impacts both your mind and your body, and can have seriously negative effects on both.

Stomach health

You have probably heard the expression “my stomach is tied up in knots.” While that does not literally happen, prolonged tension is bad for your stomach because it can lead to conditions like ulcers. Prolonged anxiety can also make you feel sick to your stomach, which is certainly unpleasant. No one likes to feel ill, so take some time to relax and allow your inner systems to slow to a crawl.

Ways That You Can Save Time

Many of us are so busy, it feels like we barely have a chance to sit down and rest. Even so, it still seems like there are always things that don’t get done. There must be a way to get more hours out of the day! Well, technically, there isn’t, but there are things you can do to save time each week. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Plan Ahead

Make a list of things you need to get done and figure out the most efficient ways to do them. That way, when some free time comes your way, you can jump right in and get started on them.

Be Flexible

If you need to do work on your computer, consider getting a laptop. That way, you can work almost anywhere.

Turn Off Your Phone

You would probably be horrified to learn just how much time you spend each week looking at social media. Turn off your phone at several points in the day and just concentrate on the job at hand. If you have to turn off your phone and put it in another room, then do so.

Cook for Many, Even If It is Just You

We can spend a lot of time preparing meals, so why not spend a little extra time one or two days, and then no time the rest of the week? Make a large portion of one or two meals and then freeze the rest, which you will then eat over the course of the next few days.

Get More (and Better) Sleep

It is hard to overestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep. If you are tired, you not only work more slowly but also with less and less accuracy. Try your best to get 7-8 solid hours of sleep every night.

The Benefits of Writing

Almost all of us perform some type of writing during the course of a typical day. This may be filling out forms, creating reports, answering emails, or drafting memos. Then there are those among us who write for living or for pleasure. Those falling into the latter categories earn some additional benefits from learning that the average person does not.

Jump Start Your Brain

If you have trouble getting started in the morning, writing can be a good way to jump start your brain. It does not have to be anything complicated; even just writing out a few sentences about what you plan to do that day or even your hopes and dreams can get things rolling in a positive way.

Expand Your Vocabulary

Many people tend to use the same words over and over because those are the ones they are most comfortable with. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is also no reason why you should not expand your vocabulary.

A broader vocabulary makes you more efficient and effective at most any job. It will also improve your conversational skills and that will make you a more interesting person to talk to.

Make You More Marketable

You may be excellent in your line of work, but it never hurts to have a backup plan. In this day and age, increasingly few vocations are evergreen thanks to ever-changing technology. Entire types of career can and will disappear in the future. That means the competition for the remaining jobs will be more intense, so they will ultimately go to the candidates with the best qualifications.

Being a good writer can make you a candidate that stands out from the pack, even if writing is only a part of your job duties. Supervisors like well-rounded employees who can more than pull their weight; being a good writer will help you achieve that status.

Do You Need A Drug Test Before Employment?

You’ve received an offer to work in Canada. Do you need a standard drug test before employment?

Workplace drug and alcohol use is a concern in Canada, especially when it comes to safety-sensitive industries like resource extraction and heavy manufacturing. Nearly 40% of all industrial injuries and fatalities are linked to substance or alcohol use. Drug and alcohol testing can help to reduce on-the-job accidents and promote a safe and healthy workplace.

However, the law in Canada sets strict guidelines for when employers can subject their workers to drug and alcohol tests. Addiction issues are a disability under human rights laws, and the Supreme Court of Canada has found that urine, blood, and breath sample tests are highly intrusive on an individual’s privacy.

The 2014 case of Mechanical Contractors Assn. Sarnia v. United Assn. of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing & Pipefitting Industry provides insight on when employers conduct a pre-employment drug screen on potential hires.

Case Background

Workers of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Sarnia performed work for various Suncor Energy Inc. sites in the Sarnia/Lambton area. Suncor put in place a directive requiring all its contractors to comply with a “Contractor Alcohol and Drug Standard”, which required universal mandatory alcohol and drug testing before any worker could access its sites. The union representing these workers filed a grievance against the Association.

The issue first went to arbitration. The arbitrator, George T. Surdykowski, declared the policy as contrary to the union’s collective bargaining agreement and s.5(1) of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Surdykowski based his decision on a 2013 Supreme Court case called Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Local 30 v Irving Pulp & Paper Ltd. In this case, the court ruled that a dangerous workplace did not automatically justify an employer to conduct random drug and alcohol testing on its employees. It must also provide evidence of enhanced safety risks, like a general problem with substance abuse in the workplace. This consideration is also weighed against the employees’ privacy.

The Association filed a motion to have the decision quashed by the Ontario Court of Justice.


The Ontario Court of Justice upheld the arbitrator’s decision, giving the following reasons:

  • Though not being under the influence of drugs was a real or bona fide requirement of the job, the pre-employment screen wasn’t necessary to ensure employees would not be impaired at work
  • A positive pre-employment drug test is not a valid indicator that the person will be impaired at work
  • The Association could not prove there was evidence of a substance abuse problem at any specific work site

Closing Thoughts

The current law is that requirements for pre-employment drug testing in Canada are the same as random drug testing. To test employees (or potential employees) for drug and alcohol use, and employer must show:

  • Not being impaired is a genuine, bona fide requirement of the job;
  • There is evidence of an enhanced safety risk in the workplace; and
  • The risk creates a significant risk of negative workplace health and safety events.

Note that this does not extend to drug and alcohol testing following a safety incident or based on an employee’s behaviour, for which there are other requirements.

Workplace Safety

A safe workplace is a healthy workplace. No matter whether you are working with hazardous chemicals, sitting in front of a computer, making donuts, or wrestling alligators, it is important for your workplace to present minimum health and safety standards. However, the particulars of those standards varied quite a bit in the past depending on who employed you. In fact, they may not have existed at all.

workplace safety

In order to ensure that everyone has access to protections that are understandable and can be implemented, a workplace hazard material information system was created: PSHSA – health and safety training certification. That acronym stands for the Public Services Health & Safety Association.

The idea behind this association and its recommendations is that workers should know all of the possible hazards they can face at their particular job while performing their duties. That is your right as a worker in this country.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour offers training courses that provide the necessary learning and information to help make work a safer place to be. Such knowledge is especially important when it comes to young people. Those entering the work force for the first time are among those most likely to be injured or killed in a work-related accident. Thus, both education before starting the job and working to ensure that conditions are safe must be considered.

Companies that have 20 or more employees must have a minimum of two people on staff that have completed JHSC Certification training. They can answer questions and act when a situation arises that could possibly create a safety concern. The latter can be discovered through regular workplace inspections. Should an accident actually occur, a thorough investigation will help determine the cause and produce information on how such an occurrence can be avoided in future.


TIFF 2017 is Just Around the Corner

Toronto is truly one of the world’s capitals when it comes to movies. We have a great selection of theatres showing a terrific range of both old and new fare, as well as dedicated audiences who enjoy a wide range of movies.

The crown jewel, however, is the Toronto International Film Festival. Cannes may be the best known fest, but few are as widely respected as TIFF. Every September, a stunning array of movies and directors/stars converge on Toronto and patrons from all over the world enjoy some of the best of what cinema has to offer in high-tech theatres.

This year’s TIFF runs from September 7th through the 17th. The line-up offers the usual cross section of movies and genres from around the world. If you are interested in attending, and plan to see as many movies as time permits, it is always a good idea to buy a ticket package, rather than risk missing out on films you were looking forward to.

Highlights this year include George Clooney’s black comedy SUBURBICON with Matt Damon & Julianne Moore; I, TONYA, a Tonya Harding biopic starring Margot Robbie; THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US with Idris Elba & Kate Winslet; Darren Aronofsky’s thriller MOTHER! starring Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem; BATTLE OF THE SEXES with Emma Stone & Steve Carrell as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs; DOWNSIZING, another Matt Damon vehicle, this one co-starring Kristen Wiig; Guillermo Del Toro’s macabre thriller THE SHAPE OF WATER; Paul Rudd in THE CATCHER WAS A SPY; Jessica Chastain’s latest WOMAN WALKS AHEAD; James McAvoy & Alicia Vikander in SUBMERGENCE; Benedict Cumberbatch & Tom Holland in THE CURRENT WAR; Daniel Craig & Halle Berry in KINGS; Jake Gyllenhaal in David Gordon Green’s Boston Marathom Bombing thriller STRONGER; and Gary Oldman as Sir Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s DARKEST HOUR.

See you at the movies!

Julianne Moore and Matt Damon in SUBURBICON. Courtesy Paramount.