Helen Bartimote and Jamie Dobson on Mental Health and Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Pandemic


On this podcast, Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Tradition & Strategies, spoke to Helen Bartimote and Jamie Dobson from Container Solutions about sustaining psychological well being and wellbeing in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key Takeaways

  • Psychological well being and wellness isn’t a brand new problem for the expertise business, and it’s extra brazenly mentioned right now that’s has been beforehand
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has put many individuals right into a collective state of shock. 
  • Acknowledging the emotional reactions and their impression is a vital a part of having the ability to deal with what is occurring.  It is actually essential to present them time and know that they’ll cross, come again once more and cross, and that’s OK.
  • It’s essential to determine what you possibly can management and acknowledge what you can’t management, settle for that the sentiments of being uncontrolled are actual and they’re nerve-racking, and that you simply at all times have management over how we reply to a scenario, even in case you can’t management the circumstances
  • Empathic responding, discovering methods to look after and assist others,  is among the finest methods to answer a disaster and contributes to our personal wellbeing

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Present Notes

  • 00:00 Shane: Good day, of us. That is Shane Hastie for the InfoQ Engineering Tradition podcast. I am sitting down with Helen Bartimote and with Jamie Dobson, each from Container Options. Helen, Jamie, welcome. Thanks very a lot for taking the time to speak to us right now.
  • 00:19 Jamie: Thanks for having us, Shane. It is good to be chatting with you from New Zealand right now.
  • 00:23 Shane: Now we’re on reverse sides of the world, however the world we’re in really is chaotic right now. We’re all coping with the COVID-19 outbreak and the pandemic and all the pieces that goes with that. And Helen, you wrote an article that initially was simply going to be one thing you have been sharing throughout the Container Options of us, but it surely undoubtedly has picked up quite a lot of traction because you posted it on the Container Options weblog.
  • 00:53 It is about sustaining your psychological well being in the course of the COVID-19 disaster. However earlier than maybe we get into that, inform us a little bit bit about who’s Helen.
  • 01:01 Helen: Okay. Effectively, I’ve labored for Container Options for the final 12 months, and I’ve very a lot been supporting the rising leaders inside this firm and likewise the chief workforce.
  • 01:15 So, you realize, we have spent quite a lot of time on constructing a resilient mindset, as an organization, to face the challenges that, firms face on a daily foundation, and likewise supporting them by way of choice and evaluation, having unbiased processes in place, supporting the top of expertise within the firm with these processes.
  • 01:37 And so, yeah, that is been my position. I’ve labored as an occupational psychologist for the previous 20 years. With very giant, I labored for a very long time within the emergency providers, and I’ve additionally labored with a variety of companies, small and huge. So, I’ve skilled totally different conditions, totally different challenges with people in pretty senior ranges of organizations. In order that’s my background.
  • 02:01 Shane: And Jamie, you’re the Chief Government Officer, CEO, founding father of Container Options.
  • 02:07 Why would you deliver on a a psychologist? You are a tech firm.
  • 02:11 Jamie: Yeah, that is an important query, Shane. I believe the Genesis for the psychology goes again to once I was in my twenties, my mid-late twenties and the wild West again then, it was very totally different to what it’s now. So, we seen, for instance, that really it was right now, I believe, effectively, lately InfoQ launched the quarterly report into to the state of groups and tradition,
  • 02:33 Shane: Our software program groups and teamwork developments report
  • 02:37 Jamie: right here you go, I’ve given you a plug there, but it surely’s related as a result of again then, proper now Agile and the issues that form of collaboration you’d think about is regular in your late majority. Effectively, 20 years in the past that was very uncommon. So, we labored in extraordinarily hierarchical organizations.
  • 02:53 And really psychological well being was an actual factor. It is not spoken about, however you realize, alcohol use and drug use and abuse was truly fairly prevalent again then. And it was primarily linked to the psychological well being of the folks we labored with.
  • 03:07 And I simply form of keep in mind pondering if we had a psychologist working in our groups, what that will do to efficiency. So I got here at it from a excessive efficiency perspective as a result of that is my space of experience. How do you create sustainable high-performance.
  • 03:21 Now quick ahead about 15 years from there and Pini, and I, Pini is the opposite founding father of CS, began to piece collectively how we needed container options to look.
  • 03:31 And that was certainly based mostly on giving folks autonomy, freedom, the prospect at work to be protected, to take dangers. And really, in case you do not transcend your acknowledged intentions, you are mainly simply stuffed with it. 
  • 03:44 So working backwards from these intentions, what constructions do we’d like and what specialists would we’d like in home? And so we have had psychologists working full time inside container options because the starting and the way the knee is definitely a part of a workforce of three full time skilled psychologists.
  • 04:00 Shane: So what does an occupational psychologist do on a daily foundation in an organization like Container Options?
  • 04:07 Helen: Effectively, like I mentioned, you realize, my emphasis has been supporting the heads  with growing and guaranteeing we’ve got a structured unbiased choice course of.
  • 04:19 In order that is perhaps the introduction of applicable psychometric measures. We use character profiling in a structured means, so we have regarded on the applicable profiles for various roles, and searching and growing competency-based approaches to evaluation, which is underpinned by having an precise behavioural framework.
  • 04:41 So we’ve got, as a bunch, decided what’s essential, what behaviours will we count on to see in several roles, and the way are we going to measure them from the very onset, from the purpose of choice earlier than people have even began with the corporate. And in order that’s a extremely huge a part of many occupational psychologists roles.
  • 05:01 Additionally, you realize, in case you’re teaching people inside a company, you need to have an understanding of what creates a wholesome mindset. , what helps a wholesome mindset? Wellbeing, wellbeing at work is a large space for occupational psychologists.
  • 05:17 , there’s so many alternative areas:  management coaching, group work, teamwork, supporting organizational tradition.   Guarantee programs, procedures are in place that every one helps the mission. , as Jamie was saying, the psychological security has been an essential side from the get-go, mainly. So do the processes, procedures, programs, all help that.
  • 05:40 And you have got that express help from the highest senior workforce as effectively to all of those processes. So yeah, and occupational psychology may be very a lot based mostly by way of proof. So having empirical proof to help what we’re doing, to help the phrases which are getting used to help the programs which are being put in place, to help the measures which are being launched.
  • 06:04 Shane: Security, the scenario the place the world is in proper now, most of us have been despatched residence to earn a living from home. I am in New Zealand, we’re in stage 4 lockdown. We’re advised to not go outdoors. Do not burst our private bubble. Completely different nations are at totally different ranges. We see some horrifying statistics and you realize, watch the information on daily basis and virtually collapse.
  • 06:28 Which, coming again to the article that you simply wrote, how will we preserve our psychological well being throughout these fairly scary instances?
  • 06:37 Helen: Yeah,  very, very scary. I believe, you realize, we have to begin on the emotional stage and all of us must be conscious that the feelings that we’re feeling are all regular reactions to this actually fairly stunning scenario.
  • 06:55 , we’re in a form of collective state of shock, and what occurs over in a state of shock is, you realize, we would go right into a form of concern based mostly emotional state, we would go into denial and avoidance.
  • 07:09 So firstly I might say that these emotions of unhappiness and anger and frustration and concern. These are widespread feelings that we’ve got, probably, all expertise in some unspecified time in the future  over the past nonetheless lengthy, few weeks, and it is actually essential to present them time. It is actually essential to not try to push them away and deny that they are being felt, although you may wish to, and it is a scary place to take a seat with these feelings. However truly from a psychological wellbeing perspective, it is actually essential to present them time and know that they’ll cross, come again once more and cross, you realize, and provides them time.
  • 07:50 After which this in flip will assist make them much less distinguished, if that is smart. So that will be my first absolute form of basis of recommendation is spend time, and don’t deny them, don’t try to push them away. , we’re all in, in that, and it is all physique’s pure, form of protecting mechanism is being triggered.  As a result of they’re all some advantages to having a sure stage of tension. There are all these pure advantages as a result of we’re extra more likely to interact in well being in search of behaviors, the washing of the palms, the adhering to the social distancing.
  • 08:26 So truly these feelings are serving us, they’re there for a cause inside people. We could have these fundamental feelings and they’re serving us and for the time being they’re serving as a really a lot a protecting mechanism. So that will be my first piece of recommendation. Is give them time.
  • 08:44 Shane: So simply pondering for my very own self, we went out for a stroll this afternoon, protecting social distance, but when someone got here to shut, I did really feel fearful, moved out of the best way on the trail. It is not one thing one desires to really feel.
  • 08:58 The opposite is myself, I have been working from residence for 3 years, in order that’s straightforward, however I do know lots of people have been thrown right into a circumstance the place possibly there is a couple who do not usually work from home, now they’re sharing a eating room desk as a result of that is the one working area and so they’ve acquired two youngsters operating round.
  • 09:17 Helen: What we’ll have a look at there’s the behavioral response, the precise adjustments. However I believe earlier than we go to that, so shifting from the emotional stage, it is them excited about it from the cognitive perspective. , by way of this sense of shedding management and it is rather more distinguished. And analysis has proven for earlier virus outbreaks just like the SARS, that the response of feeling uncontrolled is a lot greater than different vital, very nerve-racking life occasions the place we might may really feel uncontrolled, you realize, sickness, a divorce, no matter that’s. However this one is that feeling of simply, I am overwhelmed. I am simply so uncontrolled now, at the same time as you mentioned, you realize, you are used to working from residence.
  • 09:57 That feeling of being uncontrolled for people who’re used to being home-based might be nonetheless a distinguished function. So what we’re is from a cognitive perspective. So what can we try to do is, firstly, at all times keep in mind that we are able to management our response to this case psychologically. We have at all times acquired a alternative of how we reply psychologically, to no matter’s happening round us, no matter.
  • 10:27 So you realize, some folks have discovered it useful to only make a listing, a easy listing of what can I management on this scenario? ?
  • 10:38 And even when at first it appears like simply setting off all the pieces, I’ve acquired to share this area with my associate, I’ve acquired my youngsters operating round, I can not focus, I can not focus…
  • 10:49 OK – placing that to the aspect. What are you able to management?  Make a listing after which, you realize, make listing of the issues you possibly can’t management for the time being. And simply by doing that, simply by going via that course of, that may hopefully begin to shift and you may most likely discover you are spending much more time on the issues which you can’t management than the issues you possibly can. You is perhaps drawn to the issues you possibly can’t management in these moments of concern, in these moments of unhappiness.
  • 11:15 Jamie: So I do know inside container options we’ve got a tradition and virtually a coverage of taking full possession for all the pieces. And in regular instances that will normally imply, for example we made a mistake with a buyer and one thing went improper, or for example one among our potential new hires was a very obnoxious particular person.
  • 11:34 We’re clearly not chargeable for someone being impolite or foolish or daft, but it surely doesn’t suggest we won’t personal our response to that. Why did it go like this? How did it occur? Is there something to be discovered? Despite the fact that we’re not essentially accountable, and what COVID has truly accomplished is introduced that into sharp focus.
  • 11:53 So one thing we have been working towards for just a few years is now rapidly being spoken about brazenly. What can we do right now? What can we prepare dinner? What can we do to our hair?
  • 12:02 Now, clearly you possibly can’t see this on the podcast as a result of the video will not be switched on, however you might discover, Shane, I’ve acquired a Wolverine haircut proper now. That will appear foolish. Yesterday on Slack, we have been asking one another and I used to be trimming my hair as a result of I can not get to the barbers and my beard was very lengthy and  to the Slack channel. What ought to I do with the beard? Go away it, shave it or go Wolverine, and naturally, all my colleagues, being slightly playful mentioned, okay, you have to attempt to minimize a Wolverine  into your beard now.
  • 12:31 You may say, I have never accomplished an excellent job, however even issues as easy and foolish as that do provide you with a way of management. And philosophically we have all been reflecting on the very fact. How a lot will we truly management anyway, proper? And so we could have felt a lack of management, however internally we’re taking part in with the concept and speaking about philosophical stuff that normally after we’re coping with kubernetes and invoices isn’t one thing you’d normally speak about.
  • 12:56 Shane: One of many factors that you simply put into your article was the idea of empathic responding. Might we possibly discover that?
  • 13:04 Helen: Sure. So that is an fascinating space to contemplate in instances of disaster and instances of risk, and the analysis exhibits us that folks will have a tendency to reply in one among 3 ways with some being extra useful than others.
  • 13:17 So we have all discovered ourselves at instances participating in wishful pondering. I want this can simply finish, it’ll blow over quickly, it will be accomplished by April. , some distinguished figures within the media we would have seen, may need been engaged, being in that form of, let’s hope it is over by Easter kind state of affairs
  • 13:37 After which you realize, others may interact in a extra help in search of, and clearly all of us want to succeed in out to others but it surely’s extra of a form of, I can not deal with this alone, I can not do that alone. I simply will not be capable of get via this. And once more, you realize, it is a pure response, is wanting, however all of us must form of collectively take into consideration how our behaviors are additionally impacting on our coworkers, on our household as effectively, although that may be very difficult.
  • 14:04 So the best means, and once more, that is based mostly on precise analysis in disaster conditions, is that, as  you mentioned, the empathetic responding.
  • 14:12 So excited about how one can help and assist others round you, whether or not that is your instant, you realize, the household dynamic that you’ve.  Clearly from a a piece perspective, reaching out to coworkers. And it is fascinating right here by way of if there’s a form of senior hierarchy, nonetheless sturdy that’s inside an organization we must be flexing and reaching out to people who find themselves managing us, individuals who have been managing, our coworkers.
  • 14:40 And I believe in case you’ve created a tradition the place it is okay, and also you’re used to giving suggestions, you realize, tough suggestions and constructive suggestions to the individuals who possibly are managing you. Then that is not going to be so tough  and that is what Container Options psychological piece has very a lot being about, it is creating the tradition the place it is essential to have the ability to do this with out concern that you’ll be criticized for giving sincere and open suggestions to someone in a management place, for instance. And so in case you created that tradition and you have supported that, then in instances of disaster, we truly reaching out to people who find themselves managing you and saying, are you okay as effectively? How can I allow you to? Is nothing uncommon,  you realize, in order that’s how I am saying issues all match collectively like items of the jigsaw.
  • 15:29 So after we are on this disaster scenario, you could possibly say for firms like Container Options that empathetic responding, isn’t going to be awkward. And that is been proven to assist and enhance, once more, the wellbeing of people. And clearly it advantages the communities that persons are in. In order that’s actually essential.
  • 15:47 However you realize, we are going to all fall into these different two responses as effectively every so often. That is solely pure, but when we are able to try to attain out to others by way of providing help and assist and making an attempt to empathize as effectively with what different persons are going via, and that is actually essential for folks in management positions as effectively.
  • 16:08 And we’re truly placing a weblog about that collectively within the subsequent week or so, aren’t we Jamie, by way of leaders exhibiting empathy, you realize, having the ability to work with these feelings in form of tough instances.
  • 16:21 Shane: So, at a sensible, pragmatic stage, what do I do?
  • 16:25 Helen: Proper. So there’s so much round for the time being, is not there, about this sensible recommendation. Numerous it extraordinarily helpful.
  • 16:31 I imply, I might say, once more, specializing in the management, what are you able to management inside your house atmosphere? Are you able to create area? If you cannot create area, speak about boundaries, find out how to create boundaries. Clearly, if in case you have outside area, that is great. Make using it. When you do not use the day by day train, in case you can nonetheless do this, you realize, these are all sensible.
  • 16:52 When you’ve acquired youngsters, it is actually essential to acknowledge that you’re not a homeschooler. , simply emphasizing this to folks with households, it takes months to organize to be a homeschooler. We aren’t homeschoolers. We’re dad and mom who’re carers. What we are able to do is make sure that it is okay for them to know in the event that they wish to be near you, in the event that they stroll in on a gathering, that is okay. We’re working totally different instances. Numerous us have youngsters at Container Options.
  • 17:20 Jamie: I assume essentially the most sensible recommendation in your article is within the day by day life part, is not it? These are concrete, you realize, primary, attain out. 
  • 17:29 Half three in your article: take care within the morning and also you make the fascinating level that anxiousness may be worse within the mornings.
  • 17:36 So to go outdoors, take a breath of contemporary air, possibly bounce right into a hangout together with your colleagues. Now virtually how we have carried out that Shane is we’ve got now a always operating Google hangout referred to as the break room. When folks can pop in on a regular basis to debate. Now, we did rename it final week to the breakdown room.
  • 17:54 That was a little bit little bit of darkish humour and that is as a result of on the entire, I noticed New Zealand is ,the an infection charges are most likely just a bit bit behind us in Europe, however we genuinely have been shocked to our cores about two weeks in the past and most of the people at Container Options spent the primary week doing precisely what Helen mentioned they should not do, which might be ingesting a bit an excessive amount of wine, coming into the Google break room, ingesting beers collectively.
  • 18:17 But it surely’s very fascinating to know that throughout the second week, folks have been cooking, sharing their cooking recipes. Our colleague James made a picket bowl, on his Dad’s lathe up in Yorkshire.  So after the primary week of form of darkish humour and panic, we lastly began settling down into rather more constructive issues to do.
  • 18:37 After which after all, Helen continues: be conscious of your media consumption. Point out your day by day routines, and naturally the, the basic, keep away from the extreme use of unhealthy coping methods equivalent to medicine and alcohol.
  • 18:51 Helen: 18:51 , these are sensible recommendations. And I believe utilizing these alongside what I used to be speaking about, giving time to the feelings that you simply’re experiencing is essential and a few folks have discovered utilizing a number of the meditation, the mindfulness apps, very helpful as a result of that offers your thoughts a break from processing all of this info round us. And I do assume this media consumption piece is admittedly essential as effectively. Be conscious of the place you are getting your info from and the way a lot are literally consuming and be conscious of the impression that that is having on the folks round you as effectively.
  • 19:33 When you’re in a family with a person who has that information on 24 seven, then it is essential to have a dialog with how that is perhaps impacting on you. I believe that is one of many essential items. And as Jamie mentioned, take care within the morning. And that is in case you’ve established routine, you’ve got established boundaries and anxiousness may be larger within the morning.
  • 19:57 So simply try to embed that as a behavior quickly as doable. Preserving to the routine is important.  When you’ve different members in the home. There is not a faculty routine anymore. Attempt to create that as effectively. And likewise take into consideration what routines you’ve got had beforehand which you can hold. So I used to be speaking to someone yesterday in a training session and he was used to biking – we’ve got lots of people who’ve cycled in based mostly in Amsterdam – biking to work, coming residence, and he was actually lacking that. However truly, you realize, there is no cause why  you possibly can’t instance, hold a type of the morning cycle for a similar size of time, however clearly going across the residence and that is his day by day train, so long as he is sustaining social distancing, he is simply doing the one piece of train within the day.
  • 20:44 Do it within the morning, you realize, when he would have accomplished it earlier than.
  • 20:47 So, you realize, there’s possibly little bits of the routine which you can hold. Clearly we have all examine making an attempt to ensure the sleep routine is saved and you realize, altering work garments and all of these kinds of issues which are actually are very useful.
  • 21:03 And you realize, it is simply utilizing that rational thoughts to assume, what can I do to maintain these routines and set up the routines concurrently  ensuring that you simply’re making an attempt to do some form of train, that you simply’re making an attempt to maintain the weight-reduction plan, that you simply’re avoiding the extreme use of coping methods equivalent to alcohol.
  • 21:20 In instances of disaster we regularly attain for the issues which are truly essentially the most unhealthiest approach to reply. , once more, we have to only pay attention to how a lot we’re reaching to these methods as effectively.
  • 21:34 Shane: A lot of  good recommendation. Very sensible stuff.
  • 21:38 A closing level from both of you, or each of you.
  • 21:41 Jamie: I would like to say the workforce routines that we have created.
  • 21:45 So we’ve not included them within the weblog, as a result of this was about meditating your private psychological well being, but it surely’s most likely clever for us to create a follow-up weblog about what we’re doing by way of communication.
  • 21:57 So each morning now. I’ve mentioned {that a} small abstract of the important thing occasions which have occurred, so new enterprise closed, and we have truly had three folks affected by the Corona virus, and one among them truly was a New Zealander, simply coincidentally, and he’d been very sick.
  • 22:13 And so clearly we wish to attempt to talk on a regular basis how persons are doing. Are they on the mend, what’s occurring in gross sales? As a result of in addition to the anxiousness of turning into sick, folks have great anxiousness about shedding their job. As a result of if companies have been out of cash, that clearly we’re in a tough scenario.
  • 22:30 So within the government workforce, we do state of affairs evaluation. We have a look at what occurs if we lose all our income, what occurs if we lose 10% of the income, however 20% of the folks get sick? After which I may talk these situations in actual time as they unfold. After which each Friday we meet and we are saying, okay, we meet nose to nose.
  • 22:48 How are we doing? And you realize, we’re a bunch of 100 folks. It provides folks an opportunity to ask questions and the overwhelming suggestions has been that is very helpful. It is extraordinarily good of us to maintain the workforce abreast of all what’s occurring. , clearly I am too younger to recollect the second world battle, however I’ve tried to think about folks hunkering down across the radio, listening to briefs on daily basis about what was occurring.
  • 23:09 And likewise what was occurring of their native metropolis, and now we’re all distributed, so it appears like I am caught in a radio station someplace. I’ve acquired this silly mike subsequent to me and I’ve acquired my keyboard, and that is about it. We discovered these to be extraordinarily useful, day by day briefings on Slack with a weekly briefing as a hangout.
  • 23:26 We have now not hidden something the place we have misplaced income, we have mentioned it the place we have seen potential cuts that must be made, we have mentioned them. We did state from the outset whereas coverage and technique was, and that was mainly primary: no person will probably be made redundant at Container Options in the course of the coronavirus,
  • 23:45 However quantity two:  ought to we’ve got to chop prices they are going to be throughout the board with the upper earners taking an even bigger hit on their salaries. And it was not totally aware, however clearly what we’re making an attempt to say is we are going to get via this collectively. We are going to rise collectively, however we may even fall collectively.
  • 24:03 And I believe as Helen mentioned, quite a lot of managers who do not perceive their very own worth system, are scared to make such daring statements. So, they are typically a little bit bit robotic. We will probably be high-quality. We’re taking measures, which can put some shareholder’s minds comfortable, but it surely will not put your folks’s minds to ease. 
  • 24:20 We expect that is essential: daring statements from a daring path, after which fixed communication, and I will be sincere, one of many high-quality traces we have been making an attempt to tread, I have been very deferential to the individuals who have died and deferential to the well being employees who’re actually struggling now. And the zero-hour contract employees which are at present unemployed, however on the similar time telling jokes, as a result of in case you do not do which you can’t get via this. So we’re treading some very high-quality traces now between, you realize, speaking about cash as a result of we do not wish to go bankrupt, however with out seeming to be greedy and self-centred, I do not assume all leaders will get that proper. But it surely’s higher to attempt to get that steadiness as a result of the darkish humour, it must be coupled with this actuality we’re passing via.
  • 25:03 So it is higher to try to fail and apologize than essentially to be so sanitized you do not find yourself inspiring your group of individuals.
  • 25:10 Shane: Jamie, Helen, thanks ever a lot for taking the time to speak to us right now. If folks wish to proceed the dialog, the place do they discover you?
  • 25:19 Jamie: Effectively, within the subsequent couple of weeks, we’ll be doing a webinar about these tips and psychological well being, so we’re hoping folks may are available I will be there together with Helen and our different psychologist, Andrea.
  • 25:32 Helen: Clearly Twitter is an efficient means of discovering out what we’re doing, but additionally I try to share articles that I do know based mostly on precise empirical proof, in order that they’re analysis based mostly, in order that they’re based in, you realize, good analysis and good proof, and that is actually essential, I believe presently.
  • 25:51 Shane: What’s your Twitter deal with
  • 25:53 Helen: @helenbartimote. It is not significantly inventive. Yeah. That is my Twitter deal with
  • 25:59 Jamie: And you will get me @jamiedobson. So I believe Shane in abstract, the webinar, which goes to pop up within the subsequent week or two, which will turn out to be a daily factor. The blogs on container answer and naturally Helen’s Twitter stream the place she is summarizing updated and  correct psychological recommendation.
  • 26:17 Shane: Thanks a lot.

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