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The Death of the Open Concept Office Space

Thanks to COVID-19 Office Planners may finally be forced to give up on the Open Concept work environment. For those not sure of the term Open Concept is where the team workspace is open there are few if any walls and all can easily see each other and speak to each other. The concept was supposed to create more communication and co-operation between team members.

I have worked in these environments throughout my 35 years of working in office spaces, in varying styles and such, and I have loathed the concept completely. There is no privacy, there is no sense of personal space, and you get to learn far too much about your co-workers lives. To be fair, in some instances this model can work well, if the team is a support team that all share tasks, however, that is the exception, not the rule.

The nicest office I had, was when I first graduated, it was spacious and had a locking door, and every office since then has been less and less ideal. COVID19 and the now provable spectre of the Pandemic, open concept offices are the worst design to battle the spread of germs and viruses. One might even argue, that it is an optimal design for the spread of germs, viruses and rumours.

Erin Bromage wrote an excellent essay about the spread of COVID19, “The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them“, he points to a CDC paper, “Coronavirus Disease Outbreak in Call Center, South Korea“, which has an office lay out that is similar to many now set up in many different companies.

Figure 2. Floor plan of the 11th floor of building X, site of a coronavirus disease outbreak, Seoul, South Korea, 2020. Blue coloring indicates the seating places of persons with confirmed cases. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/8/20-1274-f2

The figure shows how the proximity of folks sitting near each other spread the COVID19 very quickly. There were very few walls and impediments to the air borne spread of germs.

The direct quote from the CDC report is:

This outbreak shows alarmingly that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can be exceptionally contagious in crowded office settings such as a call center. The magnitude of the outbreak illustrates how a high-density work environment can become a high-risk site for the spread of COVID-19 and potentially a source of further transmission.

Coronavirus Disease Outbreak in Call Center, South Korea

Anyone who has worked in this kind of environment knows full well that once someone on the team picks up a cold or the flu, it will easily cycle through the group, so this information is by no means surprising to me.

September and the start of school usually meant someones child would bring home a new flu or cold, which would then be passed to their parents and then throughout the team sitting in close proximity (as a crude example).

Alternatives

The alternatives is going back to a more segregated model, where teams may be in proximity but they are closed off from other groups (and hopefully each other) using walls. This is a less optimal use of space, however, now the argument of passing of disease can no longer be easily ignored.

Companies that have this configuration are now scrambling to alter their floor layouts to allow a resumption of work in a safer workspace (safety from virus spread). I have already read of temporary walls, and plexiglass going up, but these will end up only being interim solutions.

There will be a great deal of money spent to retrofit these office spaces. Open Office was the office space of tomorrow, are they now the office space of yesterday?

Contrary Views?

Of course there are, Bloomberg is of the opinion “Why Open Offices Will Survive“, seems more like optimistic hoping on their part.

The Associated Press seems to be more on my side with, Cubicle comeback? Pandemic will reshape office life for good.

Coughs and Sneezes Travel How Far?

Kind of Gross really…

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Movember, My Story

What is Movember? Movember is about Men’s Health issues, I hadn’t really thought too much about it, but a few years ago, it hit home.

I’d just returned from CPFC16, and was still thinking of all the great new ideas I had been inspired to write, when my health suddenly went very wrong. I’d been having some issues with my bladder, that I had been hoping would go away. As you can guess, that was not the brightest thing and things got worse.

To be blunt, I couldn’t urinate and it was starting to really hurt, and like a numb-skull, I picked up my car pool mate. Four times driving in I pulled the car over and attempted to urinate to no avail. Finally after being at work for 2 hours, I decided to go home and call my wife. She yelled at me, “Go to the HOSPITAL!”, and I took her advice. I continued to spasm and feel like I was about to  explode the  whole way driving there (screaming in pain every few minutes).

The emergency room at the Queensway Carleton Hospital was quite busy, but I was eventually triaged and found to have a heart rate through the roof and a blood pressure to match, and I was shouting in pain. Evidently if you show up at Emerg with these symptoms, you get to  go straight in. I continued to groan and yell in pain until I was diagnosed to be in a state of complete retention and my bladder was in spasm.

The QCH Emerg team did a fantastic job, put in a catheter, gave me a pain relieving shot and that crisis was finally over (although I continued to spasm for a while longer). I was holding over 1.5 liters in me, and was in danger of causing permanent damage had I not come in. I was given a tutorial on how to deal with my new catheter, and told to contact my doctor. Luckily I was already seeing a urologist and was due to see him a week later.

I learned to  live with my catheter, but  when I saw my urologist  he wasn’t sure what might have caused this specific problem. He knew I had a larger prostate but wasn’t sure that was the case, so he took the catheter out, to see what might happen. What happened was 4 days later I was at the QCH emergency room,  (luckily with already filled in forms from my Doctor), and they put back in the Catheter.

We tried this one more time, and I was scheduled for a “scope”. You can guess where the scope might go, and sure enough my prostate had grown and was now obstructing my urethra. Drug treatment wasn’t going to help, so I got scheduled for a Trans Urethra Resection of the Prostate (TURP).

The procedure went OK, a few hiccups in my recovery, but nothing too serious. I am now somewhat back to normal, with a few side-effects that I am dealing with. The reasons this happened is still not clear, but it  is not  thought to be Cancer (all tests have shown clean for Cancer, but I also know that Prostate Cancer can be elusive in tests).

Why Are You Writing This?

Why am I writing this story in a Finance blog? First, November is Men’s Health Awareness month, so let me help with a simple checklist that could have made this incident less stressing for me (and my Loving Wife who was an angel throughout  this thing).

  • I had a “scare” 10 years ago, when my blood test suggested cancer of the prostate. I had a biopsy, which came back clean, but that (in hindsight) was a warning. Catching cancer early is essential for men.
  • If you have issues pee’ing, you need to tell your Doctor. Don’t think it is an isolated incident, tell the Doctor. Remember to see your Doctor more than once every 10 years too.
  • If things feel like they are “getting worse” (restricted stream, getting up 3 times a night to pee, etc., ) go and see your Doctor and get referred to a Urologist.
  • If you can’t actually pee for more than a 6 hour period (and you think you should), it is  time to go to the  Emergency Room
  • Prostates are finicky things, as your Urologist will tell you, but things can go wrong quickly, so don’t “piss around” (pardon the pun).

Better to be Lucky?

I was very lucky, that the Queensway Carleton Hospital staff acted quickly and professionally (even though I was shouting and starting to get quite agitated). I also had my TURP at the QCH and they treated me very well. My Urologist did a great job, as did my GP, but  they have also been very frank with me about things. I am most likely going to have to have another TURP some time in the future. The good news, I know the  warning signs, and will not ignore them.

Don’t wait, don’t be squeamish, don’t be afraid, and you will be fine. If you do nothing, things will not get better.

Another classic, do as I say, not as I do article by me!

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The Origins of the Canadian Personal Finance Place

About 11 years ago I started writing this site, but today is the real reason behind why I started writing. Today is my son’s birthday, and if you have read through my RDSP section and a few other choice articles, you will know that it has been an “action packed” 11 years (to quote Ronnie Corbett).

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When both of us were much younger

Initially I started writing to “make a few bucks” or as a “side hustle”, not because I had any great acumen when it came to money (as you have learned if you have read more than 3 of my articles). As we realized the challenges that Rhys (my son) was going to have in life, I kept hoping that writing about it, might allow us to give him the help he needed. So far, while this site does make a little extra money, it only helps a little (for now). My wife has taken a job, and we are doing the best we can (which is pretty good) to help my son as he grows up.

In terms of how to make money on-line I have had a lot of advice, which I may follow one day, however, I also feel that I don’t want to “sell out” for a few bucks. Robb Engen from Boomer and Echo did a very good talk on his goals (in terms of income) for that site, and he actually helped me feel less “slimy” for trying to make a buck on this site, so I thank him for that.

What Does the Future Hold ?

Will you suddenly see ads for Money Mart or other places plastered all over this site, in a word NO! However in the immortal words of one of my favourite 80’s wrestlers, “Everyone has a price”, but I somehow really doubt anyone would be willing to give me that kind of money.

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Saint Patrick and Eleven Years of Financial Writing

It was 11 15 years ago this Saint Patrick’s day that I started writing here, and it all started with the exciting First Entry, that started me on writing for 11 years (so far). That first post was very much just me seeing how the whole thing worked, and I have learned so many valuable things over the years from writing here.

Getting Better ?

11 Years Later

I can hear more than a few folks asking, When is he going to stop?(Dear Lord, When?!?), and to be honest I have no idea. I write less than before, but not too much less. This post makes about 2875 over 3000 posts, which is astounding if you think of that in terms of the number of words written, but I hope that at least some of my words have been helpful to some folks. I have received a few very kind comments from folks, and I thank you for them, but I don’t think I will be retiring soon, but then again, you never know.

Top Posts and Why

Just a quick run down for my Top 5 ever posts and why they got written

  1. A Script for Customer Retention was simply me trying to make it easier for folks to get a better deal with whatever service company you are dealing with. It is interesting seeing the comments from the folks in the service industry ridiculing the whole thing, did I hit a nerve?
  2. CRA Child Disability Benefit (How To) is a post I wrote hoping to help folks, and it does seem to have helped, so if I write nothing else, this one post is the one I will point to as being some good that I did. As usual all I did was write down what my wife did (always good content).
  3. The Cost of Cheques a great deal of my writing is me ranting about things that have pissed me off, and this one is a classic example, and it even includes a hand drawn flow chart (written on a napkin).
  4. How Do I Retire at 35 ? is another interesting one, where it is me commenting on the folks who seem to think that you can actually “retire” at 35. What the hell are you going to do the rest of your life? Crochet? Seriously folks, you simply change to a lesser (or no) paying vocation at that age.
  5. Quicken 2015 Canadian Edition is popular because it seems to show up when folks do Quicken software searches on line, it shows up. I asked Quicken for a copy to review for this year, but never heard anything back. I suspect I may be leaving the Quicken lovers society soon (stay tuned).

My favourite posts (that don’t get many visitors, but that is OK) are:

  1. So that is what $50,000 looks like… was written when my oldest daughter graduated, and while the title can be interpreted as me lamenting the loss of money, it in fact is me celebrating making one of the best investments I have ever made.
  2. I’m an Adult Now? is a raw view of the death of my father. He was always seemed indestructible when I was a kid, but when you watch someone you love slowly waste away, it leaves you with some very definite ideas about Quality of Life when I get older.
  3. Debt is Like Fat is another example of how much of a struggle personal finance and life can be. I have packed back on a fair amount of weight since I started writing here (about 50 pounds), and I continue to fight to try to get back to a more reasonable weight if only to ensure I live longer. I feel there is more to say in this area, so again, stay tuned.

Thank you Dear Reader for staying around and reading along with my adventures in money.

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World Autism Awareness Day

I wrote this a few years back, but I feel it still captures my sentiments towards Autism Awareness Day.

Today we celebrate an important day in my household, my daughter’s birthday. It is also World Autism Awareness Day or as we call it in my home, today. Allow me to ramble a little on the topic. 

I have written a great deal about RDSPs (Registered Disability Savings Plans) and how key they are for parents of children with Autism, to help plan for their child’s future, and in there I have also written a few snippets about the life of a Parent with a child on the Autism Spectrum, but let me touch on a few more things to maybe help some folks have a better understanding of the challenges, for parents of kids on the spectrum (enhancing your autism awareness day).

I wrote a while ago about Giving Advice to parents of kids on the spectrum, and while that article was a little raw, it does sum up some of the problems Parents have (and I’d like to point out not just for parents of kids with Autism, parents of kids with disabilities (visible or not) and some parents in general have the same issues). I try to offer advice to parents I speak with, only if asked, but I must admit that sometimes I feel the need to share my “wisdom” on the subject a bit too much (so the finger points at me as well). All parents are trying as hard as they can, just try to support them, and you are helping.

Rhys is our last child, and I think that was a good thing, in that, we learned a great deal from our 3 daughters in terms of parenting skills, and a fair amount has been transferable to Rhys. All three girls were “gifted” in different ways, so we learned a great deal about how to deal with the educational system, and the problems getting smart kids a good education in the public system (also from my late Mother-in-Law who was in charge of the Learning Disabilities Association of Halton, and from my Parents, as my eldest brother has disabilities as well).

From these experiences, and after talking to the local public schools, we decided to take on the extra financial burden of putting Rhys in a private school, because Rhys is unique in that he is very high functioning and thus doesn’t really fit into the “Classic” autism programs, but nor does he fit into the regular school programs. I wrote about getting Rhys’ school fees as a medical expense, so we get  a little help, but Mrs. C8j went back to work mostly to help out in this area as well (no one is complaining here, just explaining).

Keep in mind that marriages that have children on the spectrum have a higher risk of divorce (but I suspect this is also true for parents of kids with all disabilities), and at times there is stress in all relationships, but I think Mrs. C8j and I are doing fine in that aspect (another fun fact for Autism Awareness Day).

Do I want my son “cured”? I am really not sure what “cured” would mean? He is an amazingly complex boy, with an ability to surprise you constantly, what am I curing him of?

  • Do I wish he could deal with social interactions better? Yes, but I was an incredibly awkward kid socially, it is just I was ludicrously extraverted (and obnoxious). Rhys is learning slowly about social interactions, I don’t know where this will lead.
  • Would I love to see him be able to go to “regular” school? Maybe, I don’t really know, “regular” school never did me any big favors, it was only when I went to University that I started to realize my own gifts.
  • Is the world a better place with my son in it? Absolutely, Yes

So why would I want him “cured”? Please remember we are lucky that Rhys is high functioning, in that he talks, walks and if you saw him you really wouldn’t notice anything (except that he is only 10 but the size of a 14-year-old, but I suspect that is genetics). I have friends and have met folks who have children with Severe Autism, and I think they would give anything to have a child like Rhys, and their definition of “cured” is different from mine.

My Conclusions

In my life I have been blessed with many things, and my children are my biggest blessing (and my wife, family and friends as well).

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