The New York Life Newsroom is running a regular series that focuses on how our people are living and working in these challenging times. Here is our conversation with Charitie Dantis-Gayo, Corporate Vice President, Market Research & Insights. Charitie took the initiative, right when the shelter-in-place order began, to connect her team using video technology with weekly “Virtual Water Cooler” sessions. These sessions were designed to be informal touch points to check in and see how everyone was adjusting to the new normal.
She is based in our home office location in New York City and has been with the company for three years. Read on for details about her experience.
1. Let’s start easy: How are you?
I’m doing ok. Hanging in there!
2. Can you describe your role?
I am part of the Market Research & Insights team in our Marketing department. We inform business decisions by delivering actionable insights to internal stakeholders through primary and secondary research and analysis on consumers and agents (e.g., segmentation, market sizing, social and demographic trends, audience measurement, media research, and consumer tracking studies).
3. Who are you sheltering in place with?
My husband and my 14-year-old son who is a freshman in high school.
4. What does your day look like now?
Well, now that I don’t have the hour-and-a-half commute each way from Connecticut, I can sleep in a bit; it’s great having three hours of my day back! I start the day getting my son ready for what he needs for the day and then start work around 9 or 9:30. I make sure to build in some time for lunch, especially now that the noon hour is being filled with meetings more frequently. In fact, I find I am in more back-to-back meetings since being home because we don’t have the spontaneous opportunities to connect with people by running into them in the hallways, for example.
I also miss the gym a lot, so I make sure to build in some time to have a workout and go for bike rides with my son. Then we have dinner as a family, wind the day down, and then I’ll catch up on any additional work I need to before going to bed.
5. How has your working life changed in the last few months? What has been challenging and what has really helped you?
It’s been challenging not being able to see my team whenever I need to. There are no quick stops past their desks anymore. Zoom has been very helpful, and we have been making sure to have a combination of update meetings and documentation twice weekly. Being able to see people on video makes a big difference.
6. What are the “Virtual Water Cooler” sessions you started and how have they helped your team adjust?
I had already realized in the first week of sheltering-in-place that I needed time with my colleagues that was specifically set aside to just connect and not talk about work. We don’t have the opportunities to run into people in the hallways or swing by their desks anymore. I hosted the first session on a Friday afternoon for just my team and very quickly after that these sessions grew in popularity that they are now open to the entire Marketing team. We typically average about 10-12 people, not including kids and pets, both of which are very welcome!
7. How are you practicing self-care right now?
Working out helps a lot; part of my workout is walking outside when I can. Giving myself the physical space I need to disconnect has been very important, and I also move my “office” around for a change of scenery.
8. What’s been the easiest adjustment?
Working from home generally wasn’t a very hard adjustment for me. My job requires a bit of regular travel, so I already had a good understanding of what it takes to be a successful team when away from each other.
9. What’s the best advice you’ve received about staying sane right now?
I appreciate that Human Resources and Marketing leadership have been encouraging us to connect with them and each other. The resources, tips, and support they have been providing have been very helpful. Also, people have been open with their experiences through all this and it’s been great that we can support each other.
10. What are you watching, reading, playing, or listening to as a reprieve?
I have started to go retro lately, listening to a Hall & Oates playlist on Pandora. If “You Make My Dreams Come True” doesn’t pick up your step, I don’t know what will! I’ve also been watching shows on streaming services that are not so serious such as “Schitt’s Creek” and “Kim Convenience.”
11. What are your go-to comfort foods during the lockdown?
Pasta and noodles! My husband has started eating a new brand of Ramen noodles and it comes with the mix to make the broth—it’s so good. I’ve been having that as breakfast and then some kind of pasta for dinner.
12. How exactly would you describe your corona-era wardrobe?
Very, very casual—more so than I ever would dress normally. I like to get dressed up for the office though, so I do miss that—especially my work shoes. Basically, it’s been sweatpants, loungewear, shorts, and T-shirts. I don’t curl my hair every day like I do when going to the office, but I am still doing my makeup.
13. What’s on top of your to-do list when all of this is over?
Seeing my family is definitely at the top. My husband is a chiropractor and has been going back to work, so we are not yet ready to see our parents—too much risk. And honestly, I am excited for the next time I can go to a T.J. Maxx!
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