Helen Bartimote and Jamie Dobson on Mental Health and Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Pandemic – InfoQ.com

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

In this podcast, Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to Helen Bartimote and Jamie Dobson from Container Solutions about sustaining psychological well being and wellbeing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key Takeaways

  • Mental well being and wellness just isn’t a brand new problem for the know-how trade, and it’s extra overtly mentioned at this time 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 influence is a crucial a part of having the ability to deal with what is occurring.  It’s actually essential to present them time and know that they may cross, come again once more and cross, and that’s OK.
  • It’s essential to establish what you possibly can management and acknowledge what you can not management, settle for that the sentiments of being uncontrolled are actual and they’re worrying, and that you just at all times have management over how we reply to a state of affairs, even for those who can’t management the circumstances
  • Empathic responding, discovering methods to look after and assist others,  is likely one of the finest methods to reply to a disaster and contributes to our personal wellbeing

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Show Notes

  • 00:00 Shane: Good day, people. This is Shane Hastie for the InfoQ Engineering Culture podcast. I’m sitting down with Helen Bartimote and with Jamie Dobson, each from Container Solutions. Helen, Jamie, welcome. Thank you very a lot for taking the time to speak to us at this time.
  • 00:19 Jamie: Thank you for having us, Shane. It’s good to be chatting with you from New Zealand at this time.
  • 00:23 Shane: Now we’re on reverse sides of the world, however the world we’re in really is chaotic at this time. We’re all coping with the COVID-19 outbreak and the pandemic and every part that goes with that. And Helen, you wrote an article that initially was simply going to be one thing you had been sharing inside the Container Solutions people, but it surely positively has picked up lots of traction because you posted it on the Container Solutions weblog.
  • 00:53 It’s about sustaining your psychological well being throughout the COVID-19 disaster. But earlier than maybe we get into that, inform us slightly bit about who’s Helen.
  • 01:01 Helen: Okay. Well, I’ve labored for Container Solutions for the final 12 months, and I’ve very a lot been supporting the rising leaders inside this firm and in addition the manager staff.
  • 01:15 So, , we have spent lots of time on constructing a resilient mindset, as an organization, to face the challenges that, firms face on a each day foundation, and in addition supporting them when it comes to choice and evaluation, having unbiased processes in place, supporting the pinnacle of expertise within the firm with these processes.
  • 01:37 And so, yeah, that is been my function. I’ve labored as an occupational psychologist for the previous 20 years. With very massive, I labored for a very long time within the emergency providers, and I’ve additionally labored with plenty of companies, small and huge. So, I’ve skilled totally different conditions, totally different challenges with people in pretty senior ranges of organizations. So that is my background.
  • 02:01 Shane: And Jamie, you’re the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, founding father of Container Solutions.
  • 02:07 Why would you carry on a a psychologist? You’re a tech firm.
  • 02:11 Jamie: Yeah, that is a fantastic query, Shane. I believe the Genesis for the psychology goes again to after 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 at this time, I believe, properly, just 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 kind of collaboration you’d think about is regular in your late majority. Well, 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’s not spoken about, however , alcohol use and drug use and abuse was really moderately prevalent again then. And it was primarily related to the psychological well being of the folks we labored with.
  • 03:07 And I simply kind of keep in mind considering if we had a psychologist working in our groups, what that might 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 possibility at work to be secure, to take dangers. And really, for those who do not transcend your acknowledged intentions, you are mainly simply stuffed with it. 
  • 03:44 So working backwards from these intentions, what buildings 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 staff of three full time skilled psychologists.
  • 04:00 Shane: So what does an occupational psychologist do on a each day foundation in an organization like Container Solutions?
  • 04:07 Helen: Well, like I stated, , my emphasis has been supporting the heads  with growing and guaranteeing we now have a structured unbiased choice course of.
  • 04:19 So that is perhaps the introduction of acceptable psychometric measures. We use character profiling in a structured manner, so we have seemed on the acceptable profiles for various roles, and looking out and growing competency-based approaches to evaluation, which is underpinned by having an precise behavioural framework.
  • 04:41 So we now have, as a gaggle, decided what’s essential, what behaviours will we count on to see in numerous 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 Also, , for those who’re teaching people inside a corporation, you must have an understanding of what creates a wholesome mindset. You know, what helps a wholesome mindset? Wellbeing, wellbeing at work is a big space for occupational psychologists.
  • 05:17 You know, there’s so many alternative areas:  management coaching, group work, teamwork, supporting organizational tradition.   Ensure methods, procedures are in place that every one helps the mission. You know, as Jamie was saying, the psychological security has been an essential side from the get-go, mainly. So do the processes, procedures, methods, all assist that.
  • 05:40 And you have obtained that specific assist from the highest senior staff as properly to all of those processes. So yeah, and occupational psychology may be very a lot based mostly when it comes to proof. So having empirical proof to assist what we’re doing, to assist the phrases which can be getting used to assist the methods which can be being put in place, to assist the measures which can be being launched.
  • 06:04 Shane: Safety, the state of affairs the place the world is in proper now, most of us have been despatched house to work at home. I’m in New Zealand, we’re in degree 4 lockdown. We’re advised to not go outdoors. Don’t burst our private bubble. Different nations are at totally different ranges. We see some horrifying statistics and , watch the information daily and virtually crumble.
  • 06:28 Which, coming again to the article that you just wrote, how will we keep our psychological well being throughout these fairly scary instances?
  • 06:37 Helen: Yeah,  very, very scary. I believe, , we have to begin on the emotional degree and all of us have to be conscious that the feelings that we’re feeling are all regular reactions to this actually fairly stunning state of affairs.
  • 06:55 You know, we’re in a kind of collective state of shock, and what occurs over in a state of shock is, , we would go right into a kind 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 now have, probably, all expertise in some unspecified time in the future  during the last nonetheless lengthy, few weeks, and it is actually essential to present them time. It’s actually essential to not attempt to push them away and deny that they are being felt, although you may need to, and it is a scary place to sit down with these feelings. But really from a psychological wellbeing perspective, it is actually essential to present them time and know that they may cross, come again once more and cross, , and provides them time.
  • 07:50 And then this in flip will assist make them much less distinguished, if that is smart. So that might be my first absolute kind of basis of recommendation is spend time, and don’t deny them, don’t attempt to push them away. You know, we’re all in, in that, and it is all physique’s pure, kind of protecting mechanism is being triggered.  Because they’re all some advantages to having a sure degree of hysteria. There are all these pure advantages as a result of we’re extra more likely to interact in well being searching for behaviors, the washing of the palms, the adhering to the social distancing.
  • 08:26 So really these feelings are serving us, they’re there for a cause inside people. We can have these fundamental feelings and they’re serving us and in the intervening time they’re serving as a really a lot a protecting mechanism. So that might be my first piece of recommendation. Is give them time.
  • 08:44 Shane: So simply considering for my very own self, we went out for a stroll this afternoon, protecting social distance, but when anyone got here to shut, I did really feel fearful, moved out of the best way on the trail. It’s not one thing one needs to really feel.
  • 08:58 The different is myself, I’ve been working from house for 3 years, in order that’s simple, 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 obtained two youngsters working round.
  • 09:17 Helen: What we’ll take a look at there’s the behavioral response, the precise modifications. But I believe earlier than we go to that, so transferring from the emotional degree, it is them serious about it from the cognitive perspective. You know, when it comes to this sense of shedding management and it is far 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 important, very worrying life occasions the place we might may really feel uncontrolled, , sickness, a divorce, no matter that’s. But this one is that feeling of simply, I’m overwhelmed. I’m simply so uncontrolled now, at the same time as you stated, , you are used to working from house.
  • 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 attempt to do is, firstly, at all times do not forget that we will management our response to this case psychologically. We’ve at all times obtained a selection of how we reply psychologically, to no matter’s happening round us, no matter.
  • 10:27 So , some folks have discovered it useful to only make a listing, a easy listing of what can I management on this state of affairs? You know?
  • 10:38 And even when at first it appears like simply setting off every part, I’ve obtained to share this area with my companion, I’ve obtained my kids working round, I am unable to focus, I am unable to focus…
  • 10:49 OK – placing that to the facet. What are you able to management?  Make a listing after which, , make listing of the issues you possibly can’t management in the intervening time. And simply by doing that, simply by going by way of that course of, that may hopefully begin to shift and you will in all probability discover you are spending much more time on the issues which you could’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 now have a tradition and virtually a coverage of taking full possession for every part. And in regular instances that might often imply, for instance we made a mistake with a buyer and one thing went mistaken, or for instance one in all our potential new hires was a very obnoxious individual.
  • 11:34 We are clearly not answerable for anyone being impolite or foolish or daft, but it surely does not imply we will not personal our response to that. Why did it go like this? How did it occur? Is there something to be realized? Even although we’re not essentially accountable, and what COVID has really accomplished is introduced that into sharp focus.
  • 11:53 So one thing we have been practising for just a few years is now impulsively being spoken about overtly. What can we do at this time? 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 could discover, Shane, I’ve obtained a Wolverine haircut proper now. That could seem foolish. Yesterday on Slack, we had been asking one another and I used to be trimming my hair as a result of I am unable to get to the barbers and my beard was very lengthy and  to the Slack channel. What ought to I do with the beard? Leave it, shave it or go Wolverine, and naturally, all my colleagues, being quite playful stated, okay, you have to attempt to lower a Wolverine  into your beard now.
  • 12:31 You may say, I have not accomplished an excellent job, however even issues as easy and foolish as that do offer you a way of management. And philosophically we have all been reflecting on the very fact. How a lot will we really 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 often after we’re coping with kubernetes and invoices just isn’t one thing you’d often speak about.
  • 12:56 Shane: One of the factors that you just put into your article was the idea of empathic responding. Could we possibly discover that?
  • 13:04 Helen: Yes. So that is an attention-grabbing space to think about in instances of disaster and instances of menace, and the analysis reveals us that folks will have a tendency to reply in one in all 3 ways with some being extra useful than others.
  • 13:17 So we have all discovered ourselves at instances partaking in wishful considering. I want this may simply finish, it can blow over quickly, it’s going to be accomplished by April. You know, some distinguished figures within the media we would have seen, might need been engaged, being in that kind of, let’s hope it is over by Easter sort situation
  • 13:37 And then , others may interact in a extra assist searching for, and clearly all of us want to achieve out to others but it surely’s extra of a kind of, I can’t deal with this alone, I can’t do that alone. I simply will not be capable to get by way of this. And once more, , it is a pure response, is wanting, however all of us should kind of collectively take into consideration how our behaviors are additionally impacting on our coworkers, on our household as properly, although that may be very difficult.
  • 14:04 So the best manner, and once more, that is based mostly on precise analysis in disaster conditions, is that, as  you stated, the empathetic responding.
  • 14:12 So serious about how one can assist and assist others round you, whether or not that is your rapid, , the household dynamic that you’ve got.  Obviously from a a piece perspective, reaching out to coworkers. And it is attention-grabbing right here when it comes to if there’s a kind of senior hierarchy, nonetheless sturdy that’s inside an organization we have to be flexing and reaching out to people who find themselves managing us, individuals who had been managing, our coworkers.
  • 14:40 And I believe for those who’ve created a tradition the place it is okay, and also you’re used to giving suggestions, , tough suggestions and optimistic suggestions to the individuals who possibly are managing you. Then that is not going to be so tough  and that is what Container Solutions 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 anyone in a management place, for instance. And so for those who created that tradition and you’ve got supported that, then in instances of disaster, we really reaching out to people who find themselves managing you and saying, are you okay as properly? How can I allow you to? Is nothing uncommon,  , in order that’s how I’m saying issues all match collectively like items of the jigsaw.
  • 15:29 So after we are on this disaster state of affairs, you may say for firms like Container Solutions that empathetic responding, just 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 individuals are in. So that is actually essential.
  • 15:47 But , we’ll all fall into these different two responses as properly every so often. That’s solely pure, but when we will attempt to attain out to others when it comes to providing assist and assist and attempting to empathize as properly with what different individuals are going by way of, and that is actually essential for folks in management positions as properly.
  • 16:08 And we’re really placing a weblog about that collectively within the subsequent week or so, aren’t we Jamie, when it comes to leaders displaying empathy, , having the ability to work with these feelings in kind of tough instances.
  • 16:21 Shane: So, at a sensible, pragmatic degree, what do I do?
  • 16:25 Helen: Right. So there’s so much round in the intervening time, is not there, about this sensible recommendation. A variety of it extraordinarily helpful.
  • 16:31 I imply, I might say, once more, specializing in the management, what are you able to management inside your private home atmosphere? Can you create area? If you possibly can’t create area, speak about boundaries, the right way to create boundaries. Obviously, when you’ve got outside area, that is fantastic. Make the usage of it. If you do not use the day by day train, for those who can nonetheless do this, , these are all sensible.
  • 16:52 If you have obtained kids, it is actually essential to acknowledge that you’re not a homeschooler. You know, simply emphasizing this to folks with households, it takes months to arrange to be a homeschooler. We will not be homeschoolers. We are mother and father who’re carers. What we will do is be sure that it is okay for them to know in the event that they need to be near you, in the event that they stroll in on a gathering, that is okay. We’re working totally different instances. A variety of us have kids at Container Solutions.
  • 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, , primary, attain out. 
  • 17:29 Part three in your article: take care within the morning and also you make the attention-grabbing level that anxiousness might be worse within the mornings.
  • 17:36 So to go outdoors, take a breath of recent air, possibly leap right into a hangout along with your colleagues. Now virtually how we have carried out that Shane is we now have now a continually working Google hangout known 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 slightly little bit of darkish humour and that is as a result of on the entire, I spotted New Zealand is ,the an infection charges are in all probability just a bit bit behind us in Europe, however we genuinely had been shocked to our cores about two weeks in the past and most of the people at Container Solutions spent the primary week doing precisely what Helen stated 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’s totally attention-grabbing to know that inside the second week, folks had been cooking, sharing their cooking recipes. Our colleague James made a wood bowl, on his Dad’s lathe up in Yorkshire.  So after the primary week of kind of darkish humour and panic, we lastly began settling down into far more constructive issues to do.
  • 18:37 And then after all, Helen continues: be conscious of your media consumption. Mention your day by day routines, and naturally the, the basic, keep away from the extreme use of unhealthy coping methods similar to medicine and alcohol.
  • 18:51 Helen: 18:51 You know, these are sensible solutions. And I believe utilizing these alongside what I used to be speaking about, giving time to the feelings that you just’re experiencing is essential and a few folks have discovered utilizing a few of the meditation, the mindfulness apps, very helpful as a result of that provides your thoughts a break from processing all of this info round us. And I do suppose this media consumption piece is de facto essential as properly. Be conscious of the place you are getting your info from and the way a lot are literally consuming and be conscious of the influence that that is having on the folks round you as properly.
  • 19:33 If you are 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 stated, take care within the morning. And that is for those who’ve established a superb routine, you have established boundaries and anxiousness might be larger within the morning.
  • 19:57 So simply attempt to embed that as a behavior quickly as potential. Keeping to the routine is important.  When you’ve gotten different members in the home. There is not a college routine anymore. Try to create that as properly. And additionally take into consideration what routines you have had beforehand which you could maintain. So I used to be speaking to anyone yesterday in a training session and he was used to biking – we now have lots of people who’ve cycled in based mostly in Amsterdam – biking to work, coming house, and he was actually lacking that. But really, , there is not any cause why  you possibly can’t instance, maintain a type of the morning cycle for a similar size of time, however clearly going across the house 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, , when he would have accomplished it earlier than.
  • 20:47 So, , there’s possibly little bits of the routine which you could maintain. Obviously we have all examine attempting to verify the sleep routine is stored and , altering work garments and all of these types of issues which can be actually are very useful.
  • 21:03 And , it is simply utilizing that rational thoughts to suppose, what can I do to maintain these routines and set up the routines concurrently  ensuring that you just’re attempting to do some kind of train, that you just’re attempting to maintain the weight loss program, that you just’re avoiding the extreme use of coping methods similar to alcohol.
  • 21:20 In instances of disaster we regularly attain for the issues which can be really essentially the most unhealthiest technique to reply. You know, once more, we have to only pay attention to how a lot we’re reaching to these methods as properly.
  • 21:34 Shane: Lots of  good recommendation. Very sensible stuff.
  • 21:38 A last level from both of you, or each of you.
  • 21:41 Jamie: I’d like to say the staff 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 in all probability clever for us to create a follow-up weblog about what we’re doing when it comes to communication.
  • 21:57 So each morning now. I’ve stated {that a} small abstract of the important thing occasions which have occurred, so new enterprise closed, and we have really had three folks affected by the Corona virus, and one in all them really was a New Zealander, simply coincidentally, and he’d been very sick.
  • 22:13 And so clearly we need to attempt to talk on a regular basis how individuals are doing. Are they on the mend, what’s occurring in gross sales? Because in addition to the anxiousness of turning into sick, folks have super anxiousness about shedding their job. Because if companies had been out of cash, that clearly we’re in a tough state of affairs.
  • 22:30 So within the government staff, we do situation evaluation. We take 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? And then I may talk these situations in actual time as they unfold. And then each Friday we meet and we are saying, okay, we meet head to head.
  • 22:48 How are we doing? And , we’re a gaggle of 100 folks. It offers folks an opportunity to ask questions and the overwhelming suggestions has been that is very helpful. It’s extraordinarily good of us to maintain the staff abreast of all what’s occurring. You know, clearly I’m too younger to recollect the second world struggle, however I’ve tried to think about folks hunkering down across the radio, listening to briefs daily about what was occurring.
  • 23:09 And additionally what was occurring of their native metropolis, and now we’re all distributed, so it appears like I’m caught in a radio station someplace. I’ve obtained this silly mike subsequent to me and I’ve obtained 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 haven’t hidden something the place we have misplaced income, we have mentioned it the place we have seen potential cuts that have to 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 Solutions throughout the coronavirus,
  • 23:45 But quantity two:  ought to we now have to chop prices they are going to be throughout the board with the upper earners taking a much bigger hit on their salaries. And it was not completely aware, however clearly what we’re attempting to say is we’ll get by way of this collectively. We will rise collectively, however we will even fall collectively.
  • 24:03 And I believe as Helen stated, lots of managers who do not perceive their very own worth system, are scared to make such daring statements. So, they are typically slightly bit robotic. We will probably be high quality. We are taking measures, which can put some shareholder’s minds relaxed, but it surely will not put your folks’s minds to ease. 
  • 24:20 We suppose that is crucial: daring statements from a daring course, after which fixed communication, and I’ll be sincere, one of many high quality strains we have been attempting to tread, I’ve 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 can be at the moment unemployed, however on the identical time telling jokes, as a result of for those who do not do which you could’t get by way of this. So we’re treading some very high quality strains now between, , speaking about cash as a result of we do not need to go bankrupt, however with out seeming to be greedy and self-centred, I do not suppose all leaders will get that proper. But it is higher to attempt to get that stability as a result of the darkish humour, it must be coupled with this actuality we’re passing by way of.
  • 25:03 So it is higher to attempt 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 at this time. If folks need to proceed the dialog, the place do they discover you?
  • 25:19 Jamie: Well, 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 in I’ll be there together with Helen and our different psychologist, Andrea.
  • 25:32 Helen: Obviously Twitter is an efficient manner of discovering out what we’re doing, but in addition I attempt 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, , good analysis and good proof, and that is actually essential, I believe at the moment.
  • 25:51 Shane: What is your Twitter deal with
  • 25:53 Helen: @helenbartimote. It’s not significantly artistic. Yeah. That’s my Twitter deal with
  • 25:59 Jamie: And you may get me @jamiedobson. So I believe Shane in abstract, the webinar, which goes to pop up within the subsequent week or two, that will grow to be a daily factor. The blogs on container resolution and naturally Helen’s Twitter stream the place she is summarizing updated and  correct psychological recommendation.
  • 26:17 Shane: Thank you a lot.


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