Transcript – Episode 36: Chat with Annie Lirette

Welcome to the GAC Files, a podcast about the people, issues and ideas driving Global Affairs Canada.

And now introducing your host, Global Affairs Canada's Deputy Minister of International Trade, John Hannaford.


John Hannaford: Hi, Annie. How are you?

Annie Lirette: Hi, John. I’m doing pretty well. Thank you for inviting me and for the opportunity to share. I appreciate it.

John Hannaford: My pleasure. This is an opportunity to speak with another member of our community. Here today, Annie Lirette, who is a member of our regional office in Québec.

Annie, what aspects of this experience have been the most noticeable for you?

Annie Lirette: Well, obviously, a bit like my fellow colleagues, working from home with a four-and-a-half-year-old daughter at home, it’s very taxing. In my case, I’m also somewhat concerned about other members of my family. My parents are older. I also have friends who are alone, and others who are dealing with various challenges. So it’s all a bit worrisome, but I’d say that, overall, morale is good. My health is good, and I have a lot of help from my spouse. We’ve managed to establish a routine, albeit sometimes imperfect and a bit chaotic, and we manage to stay on top of things to be efficient at work, but we also take more frequent breaks to look after ourselves and our loved ones because it’s important in the current circumstances.

John Hannaford: And your family, are your parents in Montreal as well, or in other part of Quebec?

Annie Lirette: My parents aren’t far from Montreal. They’re pretty isolated and we have to call them to make sure they have everything they need. They’re well looked after, but for them it’s very difficult, it’s already been several weeks.

John Hannaford: Right.

Annie Lirette: They’re semi-independent so they need some help. We’re trying to protect them but also be there for them and help them as much as we can from a distance.

John Hannaford: Right, right. What have you found just personally to kind of keep yourself in good form and good morale during what is a pretty difficult period.

Annie Lirette: Well, frankly, taking breaks, going out for a walk. Spending time with my daughter, laughing, talking, talking about what’s preoccupying me, calling people, all of that, staying, staying in touch with friends, but also with the team, all that sort of make things easier. One thing that I found helped a lot of the regional office and I think it’s the same for many of the regional offices that we’ve been focusing a lot on wellness. To be frank, I’m not the kind of person who takes a lot of breaks during the day. I don’t usually do yoga when I’m at work or meditation. And, but suddenly, all these little activities seemed to make a lot of sense. I’m thinking also about those mindfulness sessions that are taking place every Wednesday. So all of that sort of make things easier and help us go through the day. I can also talk about other things that other others are doing. I remember Vancouver mentioning that they have set up a mental health committee to help. We have a social committee that’s been quite helpful. So every Monday we organize happy hours with the rest of the team just to exchange talks about something else and work just the same way we would do when we are at lunch and we just try and focus on something else. And that’s sort of helped build the new links. We even learned a few funny things about each other and all of that keeps us, I don`t know, keeps the life normal. I guess!

John Hannaford: Well, yeah, the connections matter so much, don’t they? I mean, that’s one of the things about this experience is, it’s, the isolation is actually in and of itself a challenge because we’re so used to being connected.

Annie Lirette: It’s true. And it’s a bit odd. I had this conversation with colleagues recently where we were finishing our days and we really, truly felt exhausted, and yet, being... staying at home trying to work. It’s not easy for everyone to work from home and it takes a lot of concentration. It’s quite taxing. We also work by phone a lot, and it takes energy to always be talking to people. And often you feel like you’re always dealing with emergencies, trying to help companies respond to various last-minute requests. And you’re not always sure that you’ve accomplished anything, that you’ve made a real difference. So it’s important to take a break, to share with others what’s on your mind, and to take a step back from all of this so you can stay focused.

To stay focused and strong. For colleagues, for friends, for family and for ourselves, for sure!

John Hannaford: Yeah. Well, we’re all in it together, aren’t we? Well, look Annie, thank you so much for taking the time just to have this quick chat. I just wanted to check in and hear from your experience. I really appreciate you sharing that today.

Annie Lirette: Well, thank you very much for the opportunity.


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