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Andrew Farrow On How To Adapt And Stay Positive Amid COVID-19



Andrew Farrow

Andrew Farrow grew up in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, and still resides there today. He attended the University of Guelph, and is has fond memories of being on their wrestling team.  He later attended the University of Winnipeg to double major in criminology and conflict studies.

He worked in various jobs related to security and law enforcement before he completed his graduate studies at the Royal Roads University, where he majored in conflict management. He pursued even more education by receiving a Master’s Degree in War Studies, a Master’s of Business Administration, and a Master’s of Science in International Business.

Andrew Farrow is currently retired, but he is still deeply interested in education and business. He plans on pursuing a PhD studying the relationship between economics and security in the near future.


How has your industry been impacted regarding COVID-19?

Academics and business consulting have been impacted somewhat as classrooms and workplaces have been closed down, but things have gotten better.  In the beginning, it was limited but now that people have figured out that there are platforms that allow them to work from home, they’ve opened back up again.  You have to be able to adapt to the situation.  The situation dictates what you’re going to do.  When a situation presents itself, you have to find a means of being flexible and getting things done.  Using Zoom and Skype to conduct meetings and research from home has been very beneficial. The undergraduate class experience has been very limited, although they, too, have adapted some to online learning.


What keeps you motivated during this time at home?

In terms of motivation, exercise is key.  If you start your day with exercise, it gets your blood flowing.  It’s great for generating endorphins and sharpening cognitive acuity.  It’s a great way to kickstart things in the morning.  You don’t need a gym to work out. I can’t really do weights anymore, unfortunately.  I used to do strength training when I wrestled and played football, but because of my injuries, I’ve had to put that behind me.  I use light weights and do calisthenics at home in my garage, which has been working great.

On top of that, I find that setting realistic goals and tasks, to accomplish in both the short- and long-term provides a framework to stay motivated.  If you sit down and take a close look at whatever project you’re working on, you can try to reverse engineer it. You can start analyzing what you need to do and start working backward, figuring out all the tasks, and plotting those tasks in a way that will help in finishing your project.


Suggestions of good ways others can cope during this time.

It never hurts to say exercise again.  That’s definitely a great way to spend time and of course, there are tremendous benefits as well.

Take the time to focus on what’s important to you. If you have a family, spend time with them.  Board games are great.  When my son has visited me in the past, we have played a lot of board games.  It’s an extension of the online gaming we do.  He lives a couple of hours away from me so we can’t get together as much as we’d like, even more so now because of the pandemic lockdowns.

Also, you can get people to chip in and help out around the house, with cleaning and organizing, and repair work.  And if there’s a movie you’ve always wanted to watch or a book you’ve always wanted to read, well, now you have the time to do that.  Do whatever keeps you stimulated, especially finding ways to spend time with the people that are important to you.


What does your typical day look like now versus prior to social isolation?

When COVID happened, I took that as an opportunity to get back into exercise.  I wasn’t exercising as much before and it had always been a goal.  I told myself I need to get back into doing this.  I used to be very, very fit, but recently I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and hypertension.  Also, when my isolation began, I decided to stop drinking. Period. I made a decisive lifestyle change.  Eventually, my type 2 diabetes and hypertension have regressed to the point where my doctor says he would have never known that I had it.  My health has come back to a very positive extent.  I took the social isolation as an opportunity to do something positive for my health.

People don’t realize they can reverse things like diabetes and hypertension through self-discipline.  It requires commitment and focuses but it’s actually not as difficult to achieve as you might think.  I bought a book on the glycemic index.  I thought I’d research it to find out what I can eat and what I can’t.  It’s hard to be 100% on that, but I found a way to make meals very satisfying.  That was the key: The satisfaction in meals.


How does working remotely change how businesses can support their customers?

That’s an interesting question because it depends on the type of business that we’re talking about.  There’s definitely infrastructure out there to facilitate working remotely.  For instance, if you’ve got online customer service needs, once you get that infrastructure in place, then things don’t change too much.  In fact, lately, a lot of businesses have noticed they don’t need huge office spaces to have customer support.  They’ve cut back on overhead costs tremendously, and I think in the next couple of years we’re going to see some interesting data come in on commercial real estate and we’re going to see people pulling back on renting commercial space because of COVID.  They now realize the extent to which they can do without it.


 What are some things that you are doing now to stay busy?

I have renovations going on at my house.  I’m a bit limited on what I can do because of injuries but I supervise contractors and make sure things are going well.  I think that’s a trend during the lockdowns because a lot of people stuck at home are thinking it’s a good time to do home renovations.

I am so thankful that football is back on.  It gives me something to watch.  Some of the other sports had their seasons modified, and they just didn’t feel the same.

Another important way for me to spend time is in keeping in touch with my son.  We talk every day on the phone.  We also play games and I help him with his schoolwork, and we discuss the challenges he is having in the classroom.  We’re a bilingual country, and up here we have French immersion curriculums in school.  He’s been doing that since kindergarten.  French is not his mother tongue, and currently, all his learning is being done in French.  After two months of history, math, geography – all in French – he’s just burning out.  He’s a big kid, and he was looking forward to playing football this year, and now there is nothing.  These kids can’t expend energy.  They don’t have an outlet.  It’s unfortunate. I feel bad for them, so keeping his spirits up as much as I can is an important thing.


 Do you think work and life balance is important? If so, why? 

A strong work/life balance is crucial for mental and emotional health.  If we get too focused on work and don’t have an outlet it is easy to burn out.  It can make relationships hard to manage because you’re so focused on tasks.  You need to pull away from that sometimes and remind yourself to relax and rest, in whatever way helps, and it doesn’t simply mean just kicking back on the couch.  Outlets to enhance your emotional health come in many forms.  That’s what I was alluding to when discussing my son’s life without sports.  The bottom line is if work is affecting your family life or relationships then it might be time to rethink things and maybe take a different approach.


What is one piece of advice that is getting you through these current times?

Rather than get upset over the discomfort and inconvenience over all this, I took the opportunity to embrace this as a moment to practice self-discipline towards my lifestyle and habits.  I treated it like an exercise in preparedness through organization and tasks.

I don’t know if you recall when all this started to happen, there was a toilet paper shortage.  I remember going into Costco and people were walking out with stacks of paper towels because there was no toilet paper left.  I was wondering what was going on.  I’m always a prepared person anyway; I’ve always got an extra case of toilet paper kicking around just in case I happen to run out. Then I can go back and restock. So, I was thinking to myself, what can I do to handle this?  What if I run out of toilet paper, what would I do?  As I’m walking down the aisle, I move into the pharmacy area of the store and there are all these diapers around, and I thought of baby wipes.  They work completely fine – a lot better than paper towels.  That is my example of preparedness through my organization of resources and tasks.  The key is being flexible and to realize you’re in a situation that can’t be dictated.  The situation is what it is, and it’s up to you to figure out how to navigate it.


What are you doing to stay connected during this pandemic?

I’ve been relying on platforms like Zoom and Skype which have been absolutely fantastic.  Messaging apps have been great to help people stay connected. That’s great for business and meetings, but then there’s the recreational side of things.  As I alluded to earlier, I do some online gaming with my son. It allows us to voice chat during our gaming sessions, which is great. Rather than have the phone and the game going at the same time, we can do it all in the same package.

Once everybody figured out the basic protocols for public health, like wearing masks and keeping social distance, it enabled us to realize we can still go out and do things, we just have to follow the protocols. We go out together for walks.  We might have a get-together at a distance. My dad is very big into having friends over, and he puts the chairs out onto the patio, and he even measures the distance between them, and they are able to get together and spend quality time.  Isolation is okay for a while, but we are creatures of social habit and we need to interact.

I have a friend who is a musician, and he would play in the bars and pubs around town.  He’s actually begun doing concert performances online using Facebook as a platform.  I’d watch it on TV and have a few drinks and snacks.  Technology has made it much easier to stay connected.


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