Lifeguides – Stress In The Workplace with Derek Lundsten

On today’s RecruitingDaily Podcast, we have on Derek from LifeGuides, and we’re gonna be talking about something we can all relate to, or stress in the workplace. “Workplace” being in air quotes, because that could be anywhere at this point in the game.

But we’re going to kind of jump into it. We talk about balancing responsibilities and optimizing for people’s productivity. There’s a lot to unpack here in a half-hour.

Listening time: 32 minutes


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William 0:33
Ladies and gentlemen this is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have on Derek from Lifeguides, and we’re gonna be talking about stress in the workplace, workplace being in air quotes, because that could be anywhere. But we’re going to kind of jump into it. So Derek, do us a favor, do the audience a favor and introduce both yourself and Lifeguides.

Derek 0:55
Sure. Hey, William, and thanks for having me on today. So Derek Lundsten, president and CEO of Lifeguides. We are a platform that connects people who are going through a life challenge or life opportunity, but people who have been through the same or similar experience, so they can develop real human connection. But it’s facilitated on a technology technology platform. And my personal background is I’ve been an entrepreneur, I’ve done different companies in the technology and education, space, and as well as healthcare. Personally, I’m a husband and father of two young children, I have a three year old daughter and a 18 month old son, and I’m here in Phoenix, Arizona, and living and working from home after doing a lot of air travel over most of my career. So it’s been a really fascinating year, you know, living and working and being home pretty much for the whole year. It’s been it’s been interesting.

William 1:45
Do you? Do you think you’re gonna travel the way you did? Prior to Covid?

Derek 1:50
No. Emphatically no.

William 1:54
Me neither.

Derek 1:54
In fact, yeah, in fact, I’d say that’s been one of the blessings of this whole experience is to be home every day with with Erin, my wife, and our kids and to be able to see them in the morning for breakfast and put them in a bed at night, and even just throughout the day to be able to pop in and spend time with them and read a book with them or do different stuff. And so I’m aware now of how, what I would be missing, right? And not just not just the feeling of it, but like the actual day to day moments. And really being intentional about the trade offs, and what’s what’s worth traveling for. Because I the reality is for me, I get a lot, I get more done now doing Zoom meetings than I did before on the plane. I mean, there’s another there’s an element missing for sure. Like I miss the human connection, I miss going out and experiencing, you know that the wholeness of the experience, right, just being there, the presence of it. But I’m, you know, there’s a lot of time that was not productive on the road. And so it’s just fascinating.

William 2:54
Yeah, I, I’ve come to the same conclusion. And, again, it’s, it’s, you know, I don’t know if it was a rut, or was just kind of business as usual. Yeah. But now that we know, things are different now that we know that there’s another world. It’ll be interesting to me. And yeah, human connection aside, you know, you can still make human connection on zoom. It’s, it’s, uh, yeah, you’re not in person shaking the person’s hand. But But yeah, it’s, it’s gonna be interesting to see how many people reevaluate that. Post-COVID. So when we talk about stress in the workplace? Well, let’s just kind of, let’s kind of start thinking about the ways that we can define that. So what are the stressors that we’re starting to see pop up? As a result of everything that we endured in 2020? And also into 21?

Derek 3:48
Well, I think, number one, and you kind of give it a voice to this early on, and we were just talking about, is the web from anywhere concept. We’re at work everywhere, right? That’s, that’s part of it. But I think more than that, it’s just most people are balancing, you know, taking care of their kids, and making sure that they’re educated and, you know, having all those different responsibilities in their home, while at the same time, you know, the expectations have become more clear on how we work. And so I think that just the balancing of everything happening in the same place, and that responsibility of childcare in particular is something that was not as it’s been a new stressor, that prolonged aspect of kids not being in school or doing remote learning or not being in daycare, I think is has been a challenge for a lot of working parents. And I think better part of it is whether you’re a parent or not, you know, we are on Zooms all day long, right? And the commuting time is reduced and we are stacking meetings and I think people are struggling with well called time management and or, and honestly call it boundaries. But, but how do you how do you create structure? How do you create structures that allow for people to process to be productive to be optimal, and also to balance the responses they have, and how do we change our relationship with time? That’s kind of coming. I personally have been doing a lot of reflection working. So I’d love to hear your thoughts on that, William.

William 5:14
Yeah, I, there’s no off button. So the beauty of a commute, if anyone would ever position it this way, is that, yeah, you there’s a clear demarcation between home, you know, whatever the transport was, and then office, and then at the end of the day, then office back and transport and back to home. Oh, and there’s, you know, yeah, you might do some things at night, or you might do some things over the weekend. But yeah, there were some lines of demarcation, clear lines of demarcation. Especially for those living in big cities, you know, an hour commute is normal, pre COVID. So I think it’s gotten a lot of people to rethink that. Like, now I’m going to rethink post COVID like, you know, if, in when offices open hybrid model, etc. Am I really going to be doing an hour long commute every day. So just as you and I talked about air travel, and how a lot of business travelers are going to be rethinking the thought of what is and isn’t business travel, I think people are gonna be thinking about commute. But I love the way that you’re thinking about that. There’s the lines of demarcation between when when you’re on and when you’re working. And when you’re not. And I think that everyone’s struggling with that. I don’t think it looks to everyone I talked to everyone struggling with that, because it’s blurred. I mean, it’s blurred. beyond anything we’ve ever seen.

Derek 6:46
Yeah, I mean, I, so this is totally going off the topic of necessarily work stress, but feels kind of related.

William 6:53
It’s related.

Derek 6:54
Yeah. So my question is really about time. Right? Right. And it goes back to optimizing for people’s productivity, right. So let’s just say, you know, we, we looked at it historically, we pay people this way, we look at the time of the hour of the day, between nine to five historically, right. And obviously, it’s expanded, there’s some adjustment, but people there’s a there’s a work day, right now, and there was a school day, now those, that’s all changed, right? So you can work during the windows, but you can. So is it time? I mean, how do we reevaluate creating optimal? You know, how do we optimize for teams? Like how do we create teams where there’s, you know, you’re tapping into people’s optimal production or creative window, for example, right? How do you create like, there’s no limits thrown to why does have to be trained, not defined? Right? That’s, we could change it all together, like we did. Like, that’s the whole I think that’s the fascinating part about stress is it’s, it’s inviting us to really examine how we’ve worked and say, okay, in the context of this technological connectivity that we live in, is there a new model that’s more effective that grades, healthier people, healthier students, healthier families, and still gets great outcomes in business? And well, how do we measure our success besides just, you know, the old ways of metrics around time? And I think that’s something that’s a bigger question.

William 8:17
So how do you how do you think companies, how should they keep track, like, like, like stress, which is probably pre COVID, would have been thought of as wellness, or positive well being, and maybe we would have talked about stress in and of itself, but it would have been kind of lumped into some other things of how should companies approach their employees and everybody that works with them, in terms of gathering, you know, evidence or facts of like, what they’re going through? Who’s, who needs what, like, you know, one of the things I’m curious about is okay, how do you monitor without, without, you know, without Big Brother being too much of a big brother, but how do you monitor and find out proactively as a business? What’s going on with your employees? And how do you how can how do you then wrap support around what you find?

Derek 9:13
Well, I think what we’ve been hearing from a lot of our clients is that that that work around, really doing more regular surveying and more information gathering from their people is happening at a different pace, and level that is happening prior to the pandemic. But I think that the real factor is what do companies do differently after they have information? I think that’s the bigger question is how do how do we do things differently? Like that information is there? How do we act upon it? Right, right. That’s the more important question about wellness like we can we I think the good news is we’re getting better at getting personalized data and more more more precise information around what’s ailing people or where their needs are with the child. You know, that I think that’s there’s been a huge growth in the last 10 years around Education in corporate America, corporate education, wellness information, you know, population data, and we’re going to get better at it now with with the role of AI and quantum computing, potentially, that that’s going to get even better. But it’s what do where does it align? Where’s the responsibility lie? Who, what do we do about it? Like, how do we measure against that? That’s, I think, the bigger question,

William 10:23
Do you, do you think companies need to, ‘cuz surveying and you know, pulse surveys and things like that, like, that’s proactive, that’s productive in a way, because you’re doing it. But it’s also reactive, like you’re waiting for somebody to tell you that they’re, that there’s something’s going on? How do how do companies proactively tackle stress today? Or how should they? I mean, let’s let’s do let’s deal with it in a in more of a utopian way than then then maybe reality, but how should companies be proactively deal with employee stress?

Derek 11:02
Well, I think one is, my this is part of my personal feeling is that, give give employees options, give people I mean, invest in in that area, of recognize that it’s there and that most people aren’t going to tell you. For the exact reasons you mentioned, they’re not necessarily going to tell you when something is off, because you are an employer. And so make the assumption that people are in need and create avenues for them to get support and access to care and different pieces that that are coming to market or do exist, right. I think that’s, that’s one and then through those resources being available, we can start to get more information on the utilization on the value on topics that are being you know, that that are, you know, bubbling to the top, if you will. And I think that that starts to then create a more holistic picture. And I think there are pieces that we will get more, there is a movement towards wearables and biometrics in a way that is consumer oriented. And so that’s another part of it, I think that will start to come into play. But I just think beyond just providing resources, I think we need to do a better job as leaders looking inward and recognizing the humanity in each of us. Right. And all everyone no one’s immune from this experience of last year. Everyone has it. Right. Yeah. And I think that that’s, we just need to literally start to imagine what our people are managing, and how would we want to? How do we want to be supported in that situation? Right, and start to optimize for that across the board?

William 12:37
Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting, because you’ve got to gather the data, however you gather the data, he’s got to then ask provocative questions to find out, and then there’s treatment, you know, there’s actions. And one of the things that I like that you’re saying is that you meet people where they are. So you got to find out what they need. You’ve got to both ask them, but also probably more productively than find out, hey, you know, what can we do to be helpful? How can I help? And here’s the 15 options, you know, and if it’s not on the list, we’ll create a 16th. You know?

Derek 13:14
Yeah, go ahead. take it a step further. Yeah. So I mean, I think about the concept of healthcare, right, the misnomer of healthcare, right? The reality is, for most of healthcare the way it really is, it’s about it’s about treatments about the sick care. Right. So we know from the data that the majority of the spend, in quote-unquote, health care, sick care happened within the last decade of someone’s life. Right. So I mean, but so but and that’s because of natural aging, but the other side of is all the stuff that not it’s, we could do so much better in terms of actually creating health care healthy people. And I say that broadly, because I’m using the parallel to say, Okay, how do we preventatively? How do we how do we proactively see your point, create an environment for people to thrive? And I think that’s the that’s the question, how do we, what what does, how does business change? How does? How does? How does the model change altogether? If we are creating different potential outcomes, right, if one of the outcomes is to make sure that we have healthy employees when we’re healthy, like that word, but whole, right, like boys that are better able to develop themselves to grow financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, they’re learning new skills, they’re developing their community, they’re reinvesting that we’re actually putting that as a priority in the context of business, how would we make different decisions? What resources would we apply when it becomes more than just about maximizing profit for the benefit of a few shareholders? If we look at stakeholders more broadly, and we look at all stakeholders, meaning our employees, their families, the community, the environment? And we look at the perspective of wellness broadly, how does that I think that’s a more important question, but that’s not the rant too much but

William 14:53
No, no, no, it’s it’s really interesting because we’re getting into stress prevention. So you know, one of the things we, we started talking about for the first couple minutes is, you know, how do you react to stress? First of all, you know, start with the top being aware and observant that you’re everyone’s under stress. And some of that is work related, as you know, like, I’ve got to hit a sales quota. And there’s stress that comes with that. Okay? So there’s some natural stressors, yeah, work. But we’re dealing with those which, which we should we should deal with those treatment wise, and even proactively, but we’re also dealing with a bunch of things that we that are thrown at us that are way outside of that, and, you know, getting into, you know, things that are more, you know, climate related, and, and natural disasters and things like that. So it’s so I wonder, I wonder how we can get into the stress prevention, stress prevention business?

Derek 15:55
I think it’s a fascinating question. And I think you’re, you’re talking about two and there’s to quantify, clarify healthy stress or growth. Right, right. We grow through stress, there’s an element of that, that that shows that we’re on the right path are actually expanding, we’re growing, you know, you break it down to rebuild stronger, right. So there’s that element of it, right. There’s the whole concept of the book, anti fragile, right, you literally there’s that side of it. But then there’s the level of what’s what’s the militating? Where’s the cross the line of unhealthy where the cross the line of inhibiting growth and well being and actually causing dysfunction? Right. And that’s the part where we maybe maybe stress is not even the right word, because, or maybe it is, but but there needs to be a distinction. There’s encouraging growth. And, and, and, and inhibition of progress and growth.

William 16:46
Yeah. Yeah, natural and unnatural. I really liked the way that you positioned earlier and said, you know, it’s the employee, the employees, family, the community, like you broaden it out to it’s, it’s not just about Sally or Joe, sitting at a desk doing the bit, you know, there that, yes, there’s gonna be some natural stress that comes with their job stated and covered probably should have should put it in the job description, and probably should talk more about an interview process. Okay. All right. So there’s transparency around the natural stressors of a drug. And then there’s all this unnatural or maybe unforeseen stress that happens. And and then what do you do? What do you do to find that out? So how do you discover that as a business? How do you discover those things? And then how do you help the person through those things? So what do you think? When you look post COVID? To a hybrid workplace or hybrid workforce? What do you think are some of the stresses, the stresses run around the corner?

Derek 17:49
Well, I think there’s two that come right to the top of mind. One is people are tired, right? I think there’s a there’s a level of fatigue, there’s a level of burnout, right? that this has been this has been no one’s experienced this in our general like, in our, in our 100 years, no one has no one’s experience in this format, right to be able to have technology through a pandemic. I mean, it’s, if we have adapted in many ways, like it’s, it’s kind of been fascinating to see how quickly you’ve been able as a species to adapt and, and to do certain things and people are tired, right? It’s, there’s a level a lot of change and a short amount of time, right? And now, we’re going to be asked to redesign. What is the future look like, intentionally? And there’s more uncertainty, right? People? That’s a stressor, right? That’s, that’s an area for both growth and can be overwhelming for some, especially if you’re already burnt out and tired. And so the combination of more change, more more significant change, or unknown change, compounded with, hey, we’ve already been at this for a year, people really tired and many people lost loved ones. And people are concerned about their health, and they’re concerned about their family safety. And those are, those are. Those are, those are conversations that are going to invite more attention. Right. And so I think that that’s where we’re going. And so it’s opportune for leaders to recognize that we’re conscious about the state of day, like our work is just beginning, right? We thought this year was hard. But in terms of we share, we created a sense of stability and safety. That was that was a leadership lesson or opportunity one. Now we have to lead through through massive leaps of what what comes next. Right and then great the lesson of the last year, and and think bigger steps ahead again, so I think it just, it’s this is take that take the fact of the health piece aside now the societal questions and economic fallout and all those different pieces are going to come to the forefront. And there’s going to be a lot of questions or discussions we’re having with northwind and what’s virtual and physical walls organizations.

William 19:55
So let’s unpack those two real quick. So we know that we’re already tired You know, there’s there’s been there was tired in 2020, tired in 2021. We’re going to go into a post pandemic world, and people are gonna be exhausted. Like, we all know this, like stated and covered, got it? How do we deal? How do we, how do we treat it, I guess is to use that type of language? How do we treat the institutional tiredness?

Derek 20:28
I think I mean, on a simple level, we have to before we can treat it, we need to, we need to really get to the root, right? I can talk about like the treatment like what’s, what’s the cause? Right? So maybe we just need to, again, maybe the part of this man just to take a step back and say what’s really important to us, right? Like, what are we like, as an each company, but also in general? And our economics, right? Like, what are we? What are we optimizing for? Like, what are we create? What do we want to build together? as a species, right, as a country as a business? Like, what are we What? What do we what do we really want to build like, that’s this, that’s what this whole year in my opinion has shown us is that we have systems are breaking down naturally. Right? So we have opportunities with intention to actually create and build back better. But like, what are we what are we optimizing for? Like, what do we really want? What do we want the future for our kids to look like? What do we want companies to celebrate? Or how do we how do we create that? How are we doing the whole conversation around inclusion and equity? we involve that right. Like, I think there’s a huge opportunity now to really examine our values, and say, What, not just what we’ve been, but where we want to go? Like, what do we want the world to look like? That’s, I personally think that’s a bigger backer,

William 21:47
100%. I think anything tactical, you know, for folks that are listening, I think it’s, it’s being more flexible, around all the EAP things, all the all the wellness, well being. Things that we already have, and maybe some things that we create for folks. But being extremely flexible, even when it comes to my PTO, you know, where we might have been really rigid before. You know, in a post pandemic world, you know, it might be something where we find ourselves in a more flexible environment with employees, just to deal with some of the exhaustion. And also the last vacations. I mean, you know, some for some families Well, for all families. You know, there’s lost memories, there’s lost vacations, there’s lost birthday parties, there’s, there’s last all these things that they’re never going to be able to get back. And there’s going to be a harkening to, to do a bunch of those things. Like I joke with a bunch of my restaurant friends that like, well, it’s coming. Right? Because, because the moment that they read the will the moment this is lifted, everyone’s getting out to eat.

Derek 23:01
To eat to play, have vacations, absolutely. Yeah.

William 23:06
Although, yeah, if you have a paintball place, turns out your business is gonna be really busy. Yeah, so. So I think one of the things I think about on the on the, the tired, the exhaustion, you know, all those things, from an HR perspective, is just looking at how can we? How do we learn to be even more flexible with people and meeting them where they need to be, so that we can kind of re energize them. And then all the things that you talked about you were talking about the things that are really strategic? I’m just thinking about some of the tactical things.

Derek 23:42

William 23:43
So let’s talk about the redesign, the second part of your answer, the redesign of work. So and again, you mentioned just a second ago about being intentional about what we want to build. How do you how do you think we should be? How do we say, how do you think we should go about that process?

Derek 24:04
Well, it sounds simpler said than done. But one is actually to your question, going back full circle. We’re collecting information, we need to actually listen to what people are saying, right? We need to actually hear what, what our people need and invite them into the conversation. regarding what how do we create a healthier environment? Not unhealthy, not right word, but how do we create an environment where people are positioned to thrive? Right, where their families positioned to thrive? Right, how do we get you know, I think that that having the arguably the one of the best practices has been the people have done a good job of really listening but now we need to keep doing that. Right? Like that. There’s been a there’s a there’s been a focus to listen for survival so far, if you will, right. I’ll call it that. As opposed to now we need to listen to, to build and to it goes that Einstein quote, right if you build it, You can’t change the problem with the same thinking of the past, right? So we had people who have been successful or have been successful for reason, that’s great, let’s, let’s incorporate that intelligence into new ideas. And, you know, people who are entering the workforce for the first time, you know, people who have been affected through, you know, their families, and through their school over the last year, they’re gonna have a lot of ideas. But I think we got to find a way to allow those ideas to be to be discussed, right. And it goes back to the whole old model, again, what gets measured? You know, that’s what matters. And so what new metrics can we create around business? It’s not just about top and bottom line. I mean, it is a level there’s an element of that. But what are we really here to do? Right, what is what’s the purpose of our of our lives? And how does business plan force and including people to have creative, creative, better, better future? So it sounds I know, it’s idealistic, but I do think there’s an element of it, there’s just listening, and then being willing to try stuff and do it differently?

William 25:58
Well, now’s the time to be optimist, you know, optimistic and there’s now’s the time to be utopian in our thought, yeah, cuz, you know, we’ve essentially prior to COVID, that we were in a, we’re in a rut we were, we were doing business as usual. And which we all can recognize now that there was problems in that there was inherent cracks and flaws in that in those in what we were doing. Well, now we do have kind of a blank slate. And I like your idea of listening, I think, especially in outcomes based businesses, we can get to the outcomes differently. And instead of it being a top down thing, which is historically kind of how we’ve approached problem solving, you know, now now we get everybody to chime in, it’s like, here’s the outcome, how do we want to reach the outcome. And now that’s, that becomes an inclusive way of looking at how work gets done. Now, what I do is still not dealing with inclusion, and you know, and how we get different people, different voices, but there’s a, there’s a way of being more inclusive, of just the journey of work, rather than, you know, one person deciding how all the work gets done, and then just ants, then fill in, fill in the void. And so I love that I, you know, the idea of, you know, and we’re going to be building now, like this idea that we have to wait until the pandemic is over. That’s, that’s silly. We we can, we can easily start now, and get in and start listening to people and start trying to figure out what are the hybrid? You know, what does that look like? What do we, you know, people are gonna be remote people are gonna be remote forever, some people will be near the office and want to be in the office like, Okay, all right. You know, there’s still navigating those outcomes and listening to people and having them having everyone be a part of kind of cookie man.

Derek 27:56
I agree. Not only that way, but I mean, think about, you know, there’s a lot of people who have lost their jobs, while he does, you know, a lot of businesses that will not come back, right, yep. But in the form that they were in, so we have to create something new. Right? So what are all those people? What do we want them to do? Or how do we want to create it? It was morally irresponsible to not have them to be contributed to them to the future, right? Like, that’s not to be extreme, but it is like, it’s like, that’s how do we create an environment where they have the opportunity to come back and thrive? Like, we have to be thinking about that.

William 28:31
So what are some of the, you know, the last thing I want to chat with you about it as well, as it relates to stress in the workplaces? What are some of the odd stresses you’ve noticed just about yourself, and kind of this last 18 months or so some things that you maybe took for granted? Or maybe we didn’t think were stressful? or new stresses that have kind of come up? And, and, and been a result of some of the things that you’ve been through? With COVID? and everything else?

Derek 29:03
Yeah, I mean, I think for me, personally, and I was talking about this with a friend of mine the other day, you know, and we talked back to the very topic of conversation, I mean, I miss being able to go out and see friends and family. And that human connection, right, like, I love the fact that I’ve spent so much time with my with my wife and children, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I do miss being able to go out and and scheduled and have a time to be with other people. And I think that that after one year of this, you know, minimal contact because I haven’t been bothered. He bought and seen the other than people’s in their homes, like parents and aunts and uncles, other people. I mean, I haven’t seen others in our family for over a year. Right. I think that’s not very common. And I think that that has taken a toll on people. And in many ways that words come You know, for half the population who have been working and in a special environment. They’ve Applied themselves more fully into this digital work environment, digital schooling environment. And that’s, that’s one of the one side and the other side, it’s, you know, hey, how do we how do we make it through this? And I think that those are two different stressors, but they’re, but they’re both big stressors and the ability for each of us to recognize that and the other is, as part of the tribe. That’s, I think that’s partly where the magical kindness can, reconnecting those two cohorts of people who are have been in survival mode and those who have been into complete, you know, self sacrifice. Is that in essence, right, like, and where do we bring those together?

William 30:34
Yeah, I agree with both those, for me, odd stress of being on video calls. Just just, you know, being on calls, as you know, especially pre COVID, being on a call just being on a call or talking, you’re listening, you’re talking, you’re listening, etc. When you’re on video calls, especially, you know, when you, like a lot of people, you’re not necessarily back to back, but let’s say you have eight or, eight or eight or nine calls a day, and you’re on video, well, that’s a different bit. You know, that it’s, it’s okay, yes, we’re still talking and listening. But now you’re, you know, you’re also aware of all this other stuff that’s going on. They’re aware of everything in your background, you’re aware of everything in their background, you’re making eye contact, you’re doing all this other stuff, which doesn’t seem like much. But the cumulative effect, it can be quite taxing. It’s an odd stress. For me, it’s just like, yeah, just the, the, the, I guess the persistence of video calls and that just everything that you that goes into a video call now, that would have been an in person meeting, and probably not even thought of that, that much. But being on a video call and being on back to back wins. That’s that’s an odd stress for me now, which is weird. But brother, listen, this has been great. I love talking about stress in the workplace with you. Let’s, uh, we I know we have another podcast coming up, and I can’t wait to kind of get into that. But thanks for for coming on today.

Derek 32:14
Thank you for the opportunity, as always, always good to speak with you. Thanks.

William 32:17
Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.


The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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