Remote work: What do I need to know?


By Melany Hallam

I’ve been working from home for many years now as a graphic designer/writer and I wouldn’t want it any other way. However, I do still struggle with some challenges, most recently dealing with FOMO on social media (“fear of missing out” – yes, it’s a thing). Before I disappear down that rabbit hole, let’s go over a list of the pros and cons of remote work, telecommuting or telework, as it’s sometimes called.

The Good

This is the reason we home-based workers have organized our lives this way:

  1. I get to set my own hours. As long as your work gets done, there’s absolutely no reason to work at specific times during the day. Alarm clocks are an evil invention that cause me to begin my day feeling anxious and out of sorts.
  2. I’m learning new skills. When I was an employee, there were other people who handled computer problems, billing, dealing with clients, etc. Occasionally, I attended courses and professional development workshops paid for by my employer. Working at home, I’m responsible for all of that administrative stuff as well as developing new skills and processes for my core work. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy figuring out how to solve problems, both technical and business-related – an unexpected benefit of working remotely.
  3. I don’t often have to speak to people face-to-face. One of my former co-workers used to corner people in their offices on a regular basis to chat and tell stories. He’d had some amazing life experiences, but it could waste a lot of time. I don’t have to worry about this kind of distraction when working at home.
  4. I get to take recreation breaks whenever I want. It’s the nature of creative work that sometimes you get stuck for ideas. Getting out for a hike or a kayak adventure can recharge my batteries, relieve stress and get me back on track – without having to worry about clock punching.
  5. I can work anywhere with an internet connection. When I worked in an office in town, I had to be in that office daily to get my work done. Now, I can be in contact with clients anywhere – even out on a hiking trail, where I much prefer the view. Technology-wise, I use phone and email to communicate with clients and suppliers, and supplement that with the occasional use of FaceTime or Skype. I used to exchange electronic files by email or USB stick only, but more and more people are getting comfortable with online sharing sites such as Dropbox. It’s a brave new world out there!

The Bad

Notice something about this list? It’s exactly the same as The Good list, and here’s why:

  1. I get to set my own hours. I have a dedicated work space in my home, but I have found myself going back to work after dinner and keeping at it till midnight or later to meet a deadline. The danger of setting your own hours is that it’s very easy to become a workaholic.
  2. I’m learning new skills. It can get exhausting to be constantly reinventing yourself and your work processes.
  3. I don’t often have to speak to people face-to-face. There’s a real danger of becoming a hermit or a shut-in when you work from home, but the real risk is in losing touch with current and potential clients. I’ve found that meeting people, at least initially, is very important to establishing a connection and an understanding of the work. In the age of internet trolls, even the best people stoop to treating others badly online just because they don’t know them personally.
  4. I get to take recreation breaks whenever I want. It’s very easy to get distracted when working at home and there’s a real danger of giving in to procrastination and calling it “a creative break”. In addition, I’ve found that some friends and family assume that because you’re at home they can call to chat anytime they feel like it. I do sometimes find myself wondering if they think I’m not working at all just because I happen to be at home.
  5. I can work anywhere with an internet connection. At times it can feel like I can’t physically get away from my work. Smart phones and laptops are great inventions but can also turn any location into an office. You have to learn to unplug!

Here is some really good advice on how to balance The Good and The Bad to be more productive when you’re working from home. (

How do you get started in remote work?

I hadn’t given this topic much thought before because my transition to working at home happened quite organically. However, I recently watched a YouTube video from a young couple who both work remotely as part of a company team, rather than as contract workers. They’ve very succinctly described the process as it unfolded for them and have some great advice for anyone who has remote work as a goal. The key is to get work experience with a company (in person) and then work hard and build up trust so that an employer is willing to accommodate you when it comes to an alternate work situation. View the video here. ( (Warning: these two live in a van!)

Building a remote work business

Building up trust with clients is effectively what I did when transitioning to remote work, although this wasn’t deliberate on my part. It began when a former co-worker in Vancouver hired me to do a graphic design project on a contract basis after I’d moved to Powell River. She knew me and my work and could trust that I would deliver. Starting with that first contract, my business slowly grew from a (very) part-time side gig to my current full-time business.

Three things are key when building a successful remote work business. One is networking, of course. For a more detailed discussion on networking, see our Career Sense article here. (

But two other essentials skills sometimes get lost in the discussion of technology and work conditions. They are: (1) do good work, and (2) be reliable. Here is an in-your-face article ( by someone who started working for free and became a very successful web developer by utilizing all three of these key skills.

Remote work web design

Most recently, I’ve begun designing and maintaining websites – another learning curve! Web design is especially suited to remote work, but it may surprise you to learn that clients still like to meet me in person, get referred by a friend or know that someone they trust has recommended me via testimonial. No matter how much work takes place online, the personal connection builds understanding and clear communication in any business relationship.

I’m quite enjoying the website design process, although the volume and range of technology out there is a bit mind boggling. Every website project brings a new problem to solve. If you’re interested in reading more about web design as a career – working remotely or as an employee – we’ve put together some fast facts here (

For more tips and personal stories on working remotely in Powell River, read our Career Sense article here. (

Good luck, and I look forward to seeing you out there in the virtual work world!

The Future of Work Series

The links below are from a CBC Podcast series about the predicted the long-term, and short-term, future of work.  It’s a three part series, with each podcast being about an hour long.  You can listen on the CBC website, or you can listen with your favourite podcast phone app (the Podcast series is CBC Ideas).

The first episode is on AI and Robotics in the workplace, the second episode is on the Gig Economy, and the third episode looks at the impacts of a world with less work.

The Further Reading and Related Website links at the bottom of each CBC webpage have great content as well.

We especially liked the Youtube video: International Labour Organization’s Conference: The Future of Work We Want

CBC’s the Future of Work:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Park 3:

Take-Away from Catalyst Paper Talk on Sept 26th, 2017


Couldn’t make it the Powell River Public Library talk by Catalyst Paper on September 26th? Our own Rob Hughes was there and here are some notes he gleaned for us!

On Applying:

  • Starting Oct 10 applicants will be required to create an online profile (see
  • Drop an updated resume to the gate every 3-4 months
  • Every February Powell River’s Catalyst Paper starts hiring for about 40 people for the annual Spring Shutdown that is 2 weeks long
  • Catalyst tends to hire most of the Shutdown staff into full time positions in the mill.

Skillsets Catalyst is seeking now:

  • They are really looking for transportation certifications, so focus resume on these – Air Brakes(highest priority) Class 3, HEO, etc.


  • New hires join the Labour relief pool and work full time hours until they post into an available position in a department of their choosing
  • There is “more than enough work” to keep the relief pool staff full time hours
  • Training wage is 70% of starting rate of $25.79 increasing by 10% over 2 yrs
  • Trades people start at their industry standard pay rate
  • Shifts for Administration, Stores, Lab and related support positions are Monday to Friday, from 7am-3pm and Trades and Paper-making departments work 10 TO 12 hour shifts, 2 days + 2 nights and 4 days off


  • In Powell River, Catalyst Paper produces: Wax paper, freezer paper, butcher paper, paper bags, and paper towels

Making it in Powell River


By Melany Hallam

It seems that everywhere I go these days, I’m meeting people who have either just moved to Powell River or want to move here soon. This summer, I met two such couples on the same day while I was visiting a kayaking campsite in Desolation Sound!

People want to come here because real estate is much cheaper than in places such as the Lower Mainland, and our outdoor lifestyle really can’t be beat. But there’s one problem that many potential new (and current) Powell Riverites encounter: full-time, well-paid jobs are difficult to come by.

What’s a person to do?

There are many options for seasonal and part-time employment in Powell River, but it can be a bit crazy juggling schedules for more than one part-time job. It can also be difficult to find enough work to create a stable income for yourself.

That’s where entrepreneurship comes in – creating your own business. In order to do that here, it’s important to get to know our community’s existing services and trends for the future. If you want to be successful, you’ll need think outside the box.

Let’s do a bit of brainstorming.

One trend I’ve noticed is that there is a large retiree community here. What do seniors need in order to continue living independently in Powell River? How about home and yard maintenance, shopping and meal preparation, transportation services … the list goes on. Ask yourself these kinds of questions:

  • Are you interested in this type of work?
  • Is there someone you can ask for advice or for an informational interview?
  • What type of equipment you would need?
  • Can you get started inexpensively in order to test the market?
  • How would you promote this type of service?

For people new to Powell River, do you find yourself looking for products or services here but are not able to find them? Could one of these things be a possible side business for you?

Another question to ask yourself is this: can you use your current skills and work experience to do project-based contract work? You would essentially become a freelancer, and your clients wouldn’t necessarily have to be local. For example, I used to do a lot of work writing promotional materials and using desktop publishing and design software while working as a full-time employee here in Powell River. Using these skills, I started doing contract work on the side for clients in the Lower Mainland. I could (and still do) much of my work remotely via internet and phone, and I now work full-time as a freelancer.

In fact, there is a growing trend in North America towards contracting out short-term projects or piece work rather than hiring employees – what’s called the gig economy. A Feb. 2017 study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 43 percent of American workers would be self-employed independent contractors!

The reality is that the days of long-term full-time jobs experienced by our parents and grandparents are long past. A 2016 Jobvite survey found that while only 18 percent of the total workforce changes jobs every one-to three-years, 42 percent of younger workers do. Almost 20 percent of Jobvite survey participants have held a gig-type job – through piece work companies like Airbnb or Uber – and 56 percent report that this has been their main source of income.

Now may be the time for you to make it in Powell River by creating your own business and getting in on the gig economy trend. October 15 to 19 is Small Business Week, so there’ll be lots of local information out there this month. If you are interested in working for yourself, the most important advice I can give you is to do your research. Here are some places to start:

Income and Disability Assistance Rates & Earnings Exemptions Increases start Oct 1, 2017

Please be advised that beginning October 1, 2017, Income and Disability Assistance rates will increase and Earnings Exemptions will also increase. There will also be an update to the Bus Pass Program starting January 1, 2018.

In addition to a $100 increase to income and disability assistance rates that takes effect on October 1, 2017, people on income assistance will also be able to earn an additional $200 a month without any impact on their monthly payment. For those on disability assistance, the annual earnings exemption will increase by $2,400 a year. Higher earnings exemptions offer people a chance to increase their household income, remain connected to the workforce, and build valuable work experience that can lead to a good-paying job.

Income, Hardship and Disability Rate Increase

  • Effective October 1, 2017, the support rate for Income and Hardship Assistance will increase by $100 per case.
  • The support rate for Disability Assistance will increase by $100 per Persons with Disabilities (PWD) client. Therefore, two PWD clients in a family unit will receive a $200 support increase.
  • The new monthly rates will increase to $710 for an individual receiving income assistance and $1,133 for an individual receiving disability assistance.

Earning Exemption Increase – including Annual Earnings Exemption for Persons with Disabilities (PWD)

Effective October 1, 2017, earnings exemptions will increase by $200 per month for people on income assistance and by $2,400 annually for people on disability assistance.

New earnings exemptions amounts are as follows:

For people on income assistance (monthly)

  • $400 for a single person
  • $600 for a family with children
  • $700 a family with a child with a disability
  • $700 for a family unit with a person who has persistent multiple barriers to employment

For people on disability assistance (annually)

  • $12,000 for a single person
  • $14,400 for a couple where one is a person with a disability
  • $24,000 for a couple where both are persons with disabilities

Annual earnings exemptions retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017

As the annual earnings exemption for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) is for a calendar year, the increase will apply to the current year, back to Jan. 1, 2017.  Anyone who has exceeded the current exemption for this year ($9,600 for a single person) will be entitled to the higher limit.

Staff at the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction will be contacting those individuals by the end of November to adjust their assistance payments accordingly.

Bus Pass Program

As announced by government as part of the throne speech, “Starting January 1, 2018, government will provide people with disabilities access to the transportation supports they need, including an annual bus pass for those who want one.”


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