Coronavirus Q&A: Gretchen Berisford

About Coronavirus Q&A

When the COVID-19 crisis reached us in Gainesville, our instinct was to publish a leadership article about the pandemic. But the truth is, we’re in the same position as everybody else. We’re not medical professionals or global leaders. It’s not our place to tell you how to respond to lockdown measures or how to create a work-from-home routine. We’re a branding agency with clients and a team to protect. And right now, our team is understandably on edge. In just a few days, many of us have seen our partners and friends lose their jobs. Our streets are lined with restaurants and bars that are now closed. Given the enormity of these changes, we decided the most appropriate action was to give everyone at Parisleaf a voice, a creative outlet, an acknowledgment of their feelings, a safety valve for fear, and a record of our agency as we overcome our biggest challenge to date. This is the most honest action we knew how to take. During this eight-part series, you’ll hear from Parisleaf employees on how they’re coping with the ongoing pandemic, both at work and in life, and how they’re finding hope and gratitude during this time of unprecedented unknowns.

Gretchen Berisford – Senior Project Manager
You left Gainesville a couple of weeks ago to go stay in your family’s condo in the mountains of North Carolina. How are you?

All things considered, I’m feeling very grateful that I had a place to safely escape to. It’s definitely helped us to be here. My boyfriend, Gregg, and I like to travel in general. It’s nice to freshen your perspective, even if it’s just an hour outside of Gainesville, so this has scratched our travel bug itch for now.

I had all these things that I was looking forward to that are no longer a possibility. Gregg and I had planned a trip to Puerto Rico to celebrate both our birthdays, which we had to cancel. It was heart-breaking, it was a hard cancellation. So, coming to the mountains has been a big help. It was a very quick decision, we thought about it and were on the road six hours later.

Ever since my mom sold the house I grew up in, this mountain house feels more like home to me than anywhere else. I think I’ve felt that even more this time around, being worried about family, worried about the world – just to be somewhere that feels super homey and personal to me did wonders and helped me more than I’d even realized it could. 

What are you doing to practice self-care? What things are bringing you joy right now?

Puppy snuggles are very high on the list. I don’t know how anyone is getting through this quarantine without a pet. Ours are getting very spoiled. They go on walks and nature hikes with us, and we even had a couple of days of snow.

I’ve been trying to pick up my flow toys when I can, although I don’t really have the best space here. There isn’t much flat ground outside either because we’re on a mountain. 

During her time at home, Gretchen has been trying to pick up her flow toys more often.

I’ve really been enjoying reading, it’s been a nice break. I can’t remember the last time I’d fully read a book from front-to-back. I feel like reading is a healthy habit. You walk away feeling good.

We also have an old Nintendo ES at the mountain house, straight out of the 90s. My sister and I have been playing it since I can remember. I’ve been getting into some old school Mario games, and I’ve been playing it for so long that I can just fly through the levels. 

I think you can’t expect to do all the things you can normally do when you’re in a time of crisis. That’s been one of the biggest take-aways for me. I’ll catch myself being hard on myself for not wanting to do something, like not wanting to do anything more than lay around after work somedays. I’ve realized I can’t be hard on myself. There is a crisis happening.

How has this impacted your family?

My mom is a social worker and her job is to do in-person visits every day. Her organization didn’t go fully remote until about a week ago, which is scary because I worry about her and her exposure to others. I’m feeling a lot better now knowing that she’s working from home. 

My sister was laid off about a month ago when the restaurant she works at shut down. They have hopes of reopening once things are back to normal, but this was a hit they weren’t expecting. She had just gotten back from maternity leave, so financially it wasn’t good timing either. My brother-in-law is in his Residency at the ORMC (Orlando Regional Medical Center), so he’s been on my mind lately because he’s on the front lines. My even bigger concern is that my mom lives with him, my sister, and my baby niece. I worry if he gets it, they’ll all get it. It’s been nerve-wracking.

It’s been hard to see all the lay-offs in general. People were without jobs basically overnight. I’ve found myself incredibly grateful for my job at Parisleaf because it is stable, there are no signs of anything stopping for the foreseeable future. To be secure in your role is so big right now, and it’s something I’m trying not to take for granted even though everything is crazy. Work has been more stressful and we’ve been really busy trying to get everyone switched to remote, but at the end of the day I’m reminding myself, You have a job! 

When did you realize this would directly impact you? 

There wasn’t one “ah-ha!” moment for me because I’d already been limiting my news intakes as much as possible. Trying to stay out of the “swirl.” I think when Abbey (Parisleaf’s Studio Assistant) and I sat down with Ali (Parisleaf’s COO) to plan for the switch to remote, it felt real at that point. So by the time I’d accepted it, things were already in motion and moving.

I’m still trying to stay out of the swirl. I want to stay informed and I feel very deeply for what’s going on, but I also know that I can get spun up. I’m keeping an eye on Gainesville, as well as North Carolina, but have kept it low on the totem pole as far as making it a priority or how much time I’m willing to spend on it. 

You touch all parts of Parisleaf, so you have a lot to manage. How has all of this impacted your role? 

We were really well-positioned to do this switch because we are already so digital. For me personally, the biggest switch was the first week when I was in meetings for six hours out of the day. That’s some people’s role, but my work happens inside and outside of the meetings, so I felt like I didn’t have time to come up for air. It’s calmed down a lot as we’ve all settled into our roles from home, but I still feel the stress of constantly being in front of my computer even more so than usual. 

Abbey and I were both worried about how we would manage a remote relationship because we spend most of our day working together. We’ve naturally fallen into still doing that when we can – we’ll get on the phone and sometimes sit in silence for five minutes before one of us says something, just to be “around” each other. It’s been nice to keep that little bit of normalcy. 

I’ve seen Abbey really blossom and step into her role a lot through this because she had no choice. She had the rug pulled out from underneath her. Now we’re able to divvy up more things and have less overlap because she’s stepped up to the plate of being autonomous. She’s handling it so fabulously.

Do you feel like the team has been more open to communicating what they need?

I feel like we’re all in a healthier place now that we’re a few weeks in. I think we’re going through stages of grief as a whole, and we’re past the freak-out point now, so we’re collectively in a different state and every day is a little easier. We’re figuring out our roles and figuring out what we need to be successful. 

What have you done to feel successful while working from home?

I feel like I had a head-start with this because Gregg has been working remotely for almost a full year now, so he’s learned a lot of hard lessons already that he could pass onto me. Making sure to take breaks, making sure to move your spot around, making sure to eat, walking around, etc. 

One thing that has helped me a lot is actually still getting ready in the morning. I don’t do my full routine, but I put on a bit of makeup and make sure I’ve done my hair. And, keeping the hoop earrings on – I swear, I think I gain power. What has gotten me through quarantine? Hoop earrings. They make me feel like myself.

What three things do you miss the most?

Live music, whether it be a show at High Dive or a full music festival. I also feel like I had just gotten the momentum going with my flow arts and spinning fire; it’s different trying to do that on your own when you don’t have a group or a place to do it. I was about to start giving my first teaching sessions with the rope dart, which I was really excited about. There’s just less opportunity in that whole bubble. 

I also really love going out to a decent dinner, that’s one of our typical date things. We’ll just go out and get a nice dinner and cocktails, and I’ve missed that a lot more than I thought I would. I know we’ll both be excited to get back to that.

What has the biggest change been for you personally?

Just my perspective in general. Gregg and I were already in a place of transition and wondering what the next year or two was going to look like. The whole perspective of what I’m thinking about on a daily basis has changed. It feels like a lot of things have just come to a halt. As I said earlier, I had a lot of things lined up that I was really looking forward to. I feel bad for even saying that because I know I could be dealing with much worse. It’s just been a full mindset shift. I’ve had to allow myself to just be and know that it’s enough right now. Yes, everyone has time to do more things, and you can read books, and you can pick up a hobby, but I’m not allowing myself to feel like I’m not enough if I’m not doing those things. I’m working to find the good in every day rather than looking forward to these bigger things. 

Before this started, Gregg and I were already in a habit of laying low, working on things around the house, spending a lot of time at home. If anything, I’ve realized I don’t need that much to be happy, which is a good thing. There’s not a lot I rely on in the outside world. I feel lucky to feel like I haven’t completely had to change my lifestyle through this time, but I do miss human interaction. 

What are three questions you don’t have an answer for?

The top burning question is, when will we go back to normal? I don’t even necessarily need an exact date, but will it be this year? Next year? There’s just so much uncertainty.

What will the long-term impacts be on our culture and economy? I feel like this will be something that’s in school books, and it’s crazy to think that we’re living through an event like that right now. There are a lot of dominos left to fall. 

What will this look like for Parisleaf in the long-run? Is there a shift that we’ll see in our industry? How is this situation going to impact the specific work that we do? This could really change the landscape of how we support our clients. 

Find more Coronavirus Q&As and other resources here.

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