And now for something completely indifferent
Episode 23 Transcript
[00:00:15] DW: Hi, Sarah.
[00:00:15] SM: Hello, David.
[00:00:16] DW: We’re still allowed to call this a podcast even though it's a video thing, right?
[00:00:20] SM: Yes, we are and we’re not in our studio. We don’t have our normal equipment, our fancy equipment. But, yes, still we can call it a podcast. Yes.
[00:00:27] DW: Okay. This is a from-home edition, our first from-home addition of the podcast. I believe that you have to read something to us before we go any further. Our lawyers require it, so why don’t you do that thing you do?
[00:00:40] SM: Our declaimers. Okay. Yeah, this has taken all the mystery out of everything. Here we go with some intro disclaimers, and then we’ll get into the podcast.
Hello and welcome to another episode of GSC’s podcast. Now, for something completely indifferent, where we’ll be discussing the hottest topics and trends in Canadian health benefits. I am the producer and editor, Sarah Murphy. Before we get started with today’s episode, we’d like to remind our listeners that the views expressed in this podcast are those of the individuals speaking and not necessarily the views of GSC. We may talk about possibly controversial subjects, and therefore reserve the right to potentially offend some listeners, but we are apologizing for that up front.
You can download this podcast from our website at greenshield.ca\podcast or subscribe to it from wherever you get your podcast. We also encourage you to read our publication, The Inside Story. Follow the script and the g(sc) TALK, which you can also download from our website. Please be sure to follow the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn. Now, after that’s done, we can get started.
Today’s episode is hosted by David Willows, GSC’s EVP of Innovation, Digital, and Brand Experience. Hello.
[00:01:45] DW: Hello, Sarah. Let me talk about that disclaimer reading, because I've seen you actually record that in our studio with no cameras present, and you read it with basically an emotionless expression on your face, and that was quite a friendly reading – It almost seemed like you were going to start giggling at times. Those words have never provoked such emotion and vitality in you, so congratulations on already becoming kind of fake in the video environment here.
We’ve got a new g(sc) TALK that we’re going to put out, and the truth is this one's been sitting on the shelf for about a month, because the whole world changed. The moment it changed, we said we should write an article on how we’re all going to adapt to new reality and very specifically instead of going from a workplace to home. I think the three people that are going to be talking today, we’re all very lucky that we got to work from our homes, compared to other places where people are working right now. But this has been sitting there for a month, because we’ve had to communicate about things like travel insurance and premium deferrals. We’ve talked to plan members about digital health things that they should be trying to get to and take care of their health, so we’ve sort of put this aside.
It’s going to be an interesting exercise because it’s sort of aged a bit. We wrote this piece on life in the times of COVID-19, how we’re all going to adopt and try to work. I'm suspecting that the three of us, including Carley that’s going to come on in a minute, are going to look more critically at that piece that we wrote a month ago when it was all theoretical and now try to figure out what's real and what's not real. So let's bring in Carley and have her tell us about her article and then sort of debate its merits a month on.
[00:03:21] SM: Yeah. I think those are good points. We had some quite serious things to communicate. Now, we can get at this one. Hello, Carley.
[00:03:28] CP: Hello.
[00:03:29] SM: Welcome to our live recording of the podcast.
[00:03:33] CP: Thank you.
[00:03:34] DW: Carley's been on the podcast a few times. Like Sarah, she’s smiling a lot more than she usually does when we’re just not being filmed. So thank you both for having some sort of media training I wasn't aware of to bring more life to this.
[00:03:47] SM: We’re both classy. We’re both classy and professional.
[00:03:50] DW: For the first time maybe you won’t be rolling your eyes at me if I ask questions and stuff like that. We’ll have to sort of fake your way through this.
[00:03:56] SM: We have little secrets. We can chat message you on the side.
[00:04:08] DW: So, Carley, we introduced this saying that you wrote this thing a month ago. It was our big first idea. Let’s tackle this totally current topic. Then we really haven't had time editorially to get it out but we’re still going to push it out. We have to use all our material. But tell us about what you wrote. It was called Life in the Time of COVID-19. By the way, for people hat don’t know, Carley’s been on the podcast a few times. She is communications strategy consultant. We like to call her one of our best writers and she writes a lot of these cool g(sc) TALK things. But tell us about the article. Then I think we’re going to try to sort of dissect it a bit and say what our reaction is a month into this crisis compared to what you wrote from a set of theoretical best practices standpoint before we had to really live this.
[00:04:49] CP: Yes. I can’t wait to get into that part. But, yeah, I guess to backtrack, so when you and I first started talking about writing this, it was actually from an internal perspective. Because like so many companies, we were faced with moving from – I can’t remember what the number was. I think it was around 15% of our workforce that work from home every now and then to almost 100%. I mean, I think we’ve got, what, like five GSCers that are now in the office from around 1,000. So we were just grappling with like how can we support our colleagues in trying to navigate this huge shift in our work lives, our personal lives.
When it came to looking at the research that was out there, what people were saying about it, I found that the pieces that were the most salient, the trends that ran through everything really kind of broke down into three categories. The first one of those was how do you stay productive through this. You’ve got kids at home and you’re working from home. What’s the advice out there? Again, there was sort of like a few trends that I – There’s a ton of advice about how to stay productive at home, but it seemed like there were some pretty clear commonalities between what was being written about it.
The first one, and this was in almost every article that I read, was to try and maintain your schedule. Working in your pajama sounds really great and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t done it a couple times. But the best thing to do is to try and maintain those routines that your brain really loves, right? Brains love routine. Especially in stressful times, you want to try and minimize the cognitive overload that’s happening. So things like getting dressed, having your coffee, exercising, even just walking to work. Whatever your brain was used to doing before all of this, if you can try and maintain some of that, that’s really helpful.
Another one was, of course, trying to carve out an office space in your house. Obviously, not all of us have a dedicated room that can serve as an office. So whether you do have an at-home office or maybe you’re in a one-bedroom apartment and you don't really have much of an option, it’s less about the space that you have and more about like creating that separation between work and personal. Even if it’s a workstation at your dining room table that you set up every day, put it away at the end of the day, and then that sort of marks the shift to your personal time, so making sure that you’re maintaining those barriers, having a very clear workspace, and then having a very clear not workspace.
Then the last one was around structure, so trying to maintain some structure in your day, just spending a little bit of time at the beginning of your day planning it out. But you don’t have those usual markers of like walking to people’s offices, having in-person meetings, all of that kind of stuff. Whatever time you spend planning will pay off in productivity at the end, whatever that looks like for you. There’s a million different strategies for how to create sort of a schedule for yourself. On the flip side of that, having structure, also respect that you need unstructured time too, so take breaks. It’s really easy, especially when you’re working from home to just let your work like bleed into all. Try and work full out and have it bleed into all of your personal time. But those breaks for your brain actually help with productivity, rather than you’re just trying to like push through it and push through it.
The second one – Sorry. Now going back to like those sort of three main things. The second one was around staying sane, which is pretty obvious. We’re all kind of enforced isolation or else being forced to be cooped up with our loved ones, which is almost as bad.
[00:08:31] DW: Who here has loved ones? Okay, go on.
[00:08:38] CP: Right, exactly. So isolation. Uncertainty too. Our brains hate uncertainties., so how do you maintain your sanity through all of this and try and minimize the mental stress that comes along with this situation? Again, common trends were, number one, try and find ways to stay connected with people. For all the griping that we do about technology all the time, it’s really coming back to bite us now because technology has kind of been a saving grace for many of us where you can FaceTime with people. You can maintain through social channels those connections, whether you’re commenting on people's posts or whatever it is. Those little things now are really important connections to the people that we care about. Get creative in the way that you do it.
We’ve been – My son really loves playing Battleship, and so his cousins also have a Battleship set, so they’re actually doing battleship over FaceTime now, which is really fun. I’ve done a few social distancing porch chats where my friend sits further down my walkway, and I sit on my front porch, and we just sit and chat. Get creative about how you’re able to able to stay connected with your loved ones but make sure that you really spend time doing that, because it’s super important.
Another one was just to be news overload. There’s very little oxygen in the room right now for anything that’s not COVID-19. Constantly ingesting news has not necessarily been – it hasn’t been shown as being good for your mental health, even in normal time. In these times where there's a lot of uncertainty, it’s just really important to maybe try and maybe just reserve a time of the day. For me, anyway, I’ve been checking it in the mornings. Whether or not that’s good, whether that’s a good way to set up my day, I don’t know. But that’s been the time that I reserve for it. So just try and like think of compartmentalizing that to a part of your day and then move on from it.
Then the last one is get serious about your self-care. Emotional burnout right now is definitely a risk. I'm sure we all feel very different now than we did even in that first week. In that first week, you're kind of – Me, I was baking all the time. I was trying to keep myself busy. Then as the weeks draw on, it gets a little harder. So just making sure that you’re setting clear constantly having people demanding stuff of you, whether it’s energy or just literally like helping your kids with stuff Make sure that you set out time for yourself too where take a bath, read a book, whatever makes you happy, whatever feels good for you, exercise. That's really important to keep doing.
Then the last thing was just to stay healthy. This feels really obvious, but with a lot of misinformation out there I think it’s important to just keep reminding ourselves of the really simple things that we can be doing to help protect ourselves and protect others from this virus. It sounds like the stuff that your mother used to nag you about just like not washing your hands, not touching your face, all of that stuff. Those are going to do 90% of the weightlifting and trying to keep this virus at bay. That’s sort of a brief wrap up.
[00:11:36] DW: That’s a great summary of the article. There's 2,501 words in that article, so that was a great summary. I saw that this morning when I reread it. Carley, you wrote that all a month ago and it all seems perfectly sound. But if you could go back a month to that one month younger Carley, what would you say to her about what she was writing at that time and what is going to actually happen over the next month?
[00:11:57] CP: Yeah. I mean, she probably looked a lot younger than I do now. I feel like this month has aged me about five years and I think I’ve expressed this to both of you. I would say in a sum I think it’s all still very good advice, but there was a little section in the article around being kind to yourself and doing the best that you can. I would say that that’s probably a more important point than I realized it was. I think that there’s a lot of different situations out there, whether you have kids or you don't have kid, whether you live by yourself or you don't, your age, how connected you are to other people. All these different things I think can really change your experience of the situation. I think that it is salient. I think it’s still very useful advice but it’s not always possible is I think. I guess to sum it up, it’s like you just have to do the best you can.
[00:12:52] DW: Yeah. Both of you have primary-school-aged kids, which I think has thrown some of the good counsel out the window to a degree. I'm lucky because I’ve got a 21-year-old in her own apartment in downtown Toronto who just comes on Sundays and does her laundry and eats good meals and takes a lot of food home. Not a lot of management of that situation and not a lot of balancing with what I have to do during the day. So how are some of those very sound organizational suggestions faring amidst disruption?
[00:13:26] SM: I’ll start. I mean, it’s interesting because Carley and I have – Each have two kids and we're sort of in that spectrum of teen, preteen, early elementary, to preschool, right? So all four, and I think they all bring a fair number of challenges. The older ones kind of understand what’s going on. They do maybe miss their social face-to-face time but they are set up on social networks as well, so find ways to connect. My daughter does dance, and her dance studio is doing virtual dance classes, which is amazing. So she’s having a better time.
The little ones, that’s I think where I'm sure Carley will agree, we’ve talked offline about this a number of times, it’s a challenge. Yeah, it’s trying to follow all that good advice like your routine and your structure, and then you have children wandering around. So work-form-home is one thing but work-from-home with children who are supposed to be in school, who are used to structure and then trying to learn how to become a homeschooler at the same time. It’s been a challenge. I too have aged.
[00:14:18] DW: How is that homeschooling going? Is that happening?
[00:14:21] SM: Again, I think that whole – It comes back to the message of just do your best and be kind to yourself, right? It’s happening.
[00:14:27] DW: It sounds like no.
[00:14:30] SM: Again, I think for the older kids – I mean, my experience. My older daughter is – She runs it herself. She just goes on Google Classroom, knows her assignments, does it all, follows it all. No problem. She’s having a great time with it. The younger one again, they’re just not used to it. They need face-to-face time. They need their playmates. Their teachers are trained to deal with that and we’re not, even though my husband’s a teacher. He’s struggling with it too, but I don’t think it’s critical when you're that young. We’re just doing the best that we can to keep entertained.
[00:14:56] DW: Carley, I’m impressed that your soon-to-be four-year-old son is playing Battleship. That sounds like –
[00:15:00] SM: Yeah, I know.
[00:15:01] DW: That’s advanced I think. Is he gifted? I think that’s gifted.
[00:15:05] CP: Yeah. I mean, playing Battleship is like –
[00:15:08] SM: He plays with the boats.
[00:15:10] CP: It doesn’t have to be very generous. He is notorious for moving his boats like mid-way. If somebody else is sinking, he’ll be like, “That’s not where it was.”
[00:15:19] SM: Which is smart. That’s actually advanced.
[00:15:20] DW: Three-year-olds cheat.
[00:15:22] CP: Yes, he’s a very astute cheater. But, yeah, I mean – I think like to Sarah’s point, we have to remember too that like our kids go through different moods every day too. So like our kids have good days and bad days, and I do find that what’s really saved us is creating that – It’s not a – I wouldn’t even call it a schedule. It’s basically just a list of things we’re going to do that day, and he gets some choice over like what he wants to do at a particular time. But at least he kind of knows what to expect, and there’s some days where that works really well for us and there are some days where he just is not in the mood for it, and everything derails that we kind of have to think on our feet a little bit more.
I’ve been, I mean, fortunate and unfortunate. My husband is not able to work right now. He works in film, and that is down to shut down right now, so he's been able to take on a brunt of it. But I also have to be respectful of the fact that like that’s demanding on anyone to take care of a four-year-old full-time. So we do have to ta team a little bit or sometimes he’ll come in and be like, “I just need a break.” I’m like, “Okay.”
Then we also – I also have a teenager at home who very similar like has actually been very self-sufficient. She’s been really great about staying organized. She’s even created he own schedule for herself, which has been really great. We’ve been really lucky that way. Our challenge with her is prying her out of her room to just like take a breather, get off of the screens, go for a walk, that kind of stuff. But we definitely have good days. We have bad days and everything in-between. It’s definitely that idea of like keeping your routine. That’s definitely been like do the best that you can, because routine is like a very generous word for what our day-to-day life looks like these days.
[00:17:05] DW: Fair enough. I urge anybody that's watching this or listening to this to read Carley's piece. As I said, it’s 2,501 words long. It won’t take long. That’s about five pages.
After reading that, just remember what we said here and that some of these things certainly made a lot of sense at the time. They probably still make sense, but achieving them might be a true aspiration but maybe not the reality. So thank you both for coming on. Let’s hope we can do the next one in the studio. If not, we can – Now that we’ve learned this team’s technology, but we don’t know yet that this is going to work. If this does reach the outside world, then perhaps we can do it again.
[00:17:45] SM: We’ll see.
[00:17:47] DW: Sarah, you have to do a close, right?
[00:17:49] SM: I do. I have to do another –
[00:17:50] DW: Is it interesting?
[00:17:51] SM: I would say no. You folks can disconnect if you like, and I’ll just wrap this up.
00:17:55] DW: We’re going to – So I don't make fun of you. I’m just going to let you do this on your own and I won’t mock the close, okay?
[00:17:58] SM: Thanks, guys. Okay. So you’re dismissed. Thanks.
[00:18:04] DW: Go for it.
[00:18:04] CP: Bye.
[00:18:05] SM: Bye.
[00:18:05] CP: Stay healthy.
[00:18:06] SM: Thank you to our listeners tuning into another episode of “And now for something completely indifferent,” a Canadian health benefits industry podcast. To be sure to get future episodes, please subscribe to this podcast wherever you get your podcasts or visit our website at greenshield.ca\podcast to download. As a reminder, we talk about these issues consistently in our publications, which are available on our website, as well as on social media, so be sure to follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook. For today’s episode, be sure to check out our more recent issue of g(sc) TALK. Thanks for listening, and we’ll talk again soon.