Telecommuting has great benefits, but they can quickly fade away without healthy practices in place. This LiveWell Jefferson Blog Series focuses on the best ways to create a healthy, happy, balanced work/home life. How do we thrive in this environment? How do we re-establish a new normal, a semblance of routine and balance with such little structure from the outside world in place? More importantly, how do we take this time and turn it into a unique opportunity to explore new interests, learn about ourselves, and strengthen ties with those closest to us? We took a deep dive into researching practices that can make a difference, and you can view them all in the Series Intro Post: Thriving in the Telecommute.
On Friday, we focused on Practice #1: Explore. To make the most out of your weekends, decrease stress, and boost creativity, check out Friday’s blog: “Exploring from a Distance”. Today’s post is all about Practice #2: Establish a Routine. Keeping structure in your day will help you set expectations for yourself, your family, and even your pets. Schedules create a stable foundation for everyone.
WHY STRUCTURE IS IMPORTANT
This is an unusual time because there are no pre-set activities. Even in the summertime we have work, volunteering, community and social groups, daycare, day camp, before care, after care, playdates, sports, vacations, etc. Without these activities, we can quickly fall into holiday-mode, which might be ok for a week, but what about two or three or four, or more? Everyone benefits from consistency. Here are a few key benefits of structure for adults, kids, and pets.
Structure For Adults:
Good routines have major health benefits. Every time you are faced with a decision, your stress levels increase. Routines decrease the number of decisions we make every day, and the result is that we have more energy to focus on new challenges, complex situations, and creative projects.
Benefits for Adults Include:
- Decreased stress levels
- Lowered chance of experiencing decision fatigue
- Improved quality of sleep
- Better overall health – hygiene, diet, and exercise
- The potential to positively impact peers – seeing the positive results of your commitment to a routine will likely encourage peers to follow
- Increased creativity – routines allow you to set aside time to focus on your passion DAILY
Structure for Kids:
Very young children depend on routines, rather than time, to organize their day. When events occur in the same order, they become more confident in themselves and the world around them. Children in upper-elementary school depend on structure for stability. They rely on predictable routines as a foundation for their life, so they can handle changes and new challenges as they arise. Routines teach children self-discipline and allow them to feel safe and secure. The absence of any routine can cause worry, uncertainty, and anxiety.
Benefits for Kids Include:
- Help children keep a healthy eating and sleeping schedule
- Strengthen family bonds and values
- Increase self-esteem
- Offer a chance to get excited about what’s coming next
- Offer them stability in times of stress or change
- Make the transition into a classroom or educational environment easier for them
Structure for Pets:
It’s not just humans! Your pup feels safe, loved, and protected when they have structure and know what to expect from their environment.
Learn more about healthy structure for your pets with these resources:
- Routine and learning games: how to make sure your dog doesn’t get canine cabin fever
- Do Dogs Need a Daily Routine?
- Why Cats Thrive on Routine
HOW TO IMPLEMENT PERSONALIZED STRUCTURE SO IT WORKS FOR YOU, NOT AGAINST YOU
Routines and habits are personalized to every individual, household, and community. These resources offer a range of strategies that can be adapted to a variety of lifestyles and living situations. Pick a few that resonate with you and modify accordingly.
How to Personalize Structure for Adults During the Stay-At-Home Mandate:
Implement these 3 key elements: Preparation | Break | Transition
- Create a defined workspace that is physically, and therefore, mentally separated from your bedroom, kitchen, family room, etc. If you don’t have a separate room, try defining your space with a small rug, altering the direction of furniture, or by simply turning your workspace so you face a window instead of the room you are in. If you absolutely have to work from the couch, bed, or kitchen table, check out this article, “Who needs a desk? How to avoid back pain when working from your table, bed and couch: If you don’t have a traditional home office setup, don’t sweat it. You can fix it for less than you’d spend on the whole shebang.”
- If you were meal prepping or meal planning before, don’t stop just because you are in your house. We don’t have control over much, but we can plan nourishing meals in advance. Decide what you are going to cook a few days ahead to decrease trips to the grocery store and inconvenient errands. Check out 7 Tips for Eating Healthy During a Coronavirus Quarantine for more.
- Keep some version of your morning routine. Wake up, get dressed, and eat a real breakfast
- Eat a real lunch AWAY from your workspace. If your workspace is at the kitchen table, then put your laptop away during lunch, or sit in a different chair than the one you work from – the goal is to create a change in scenery
- A Jefferson Chamber member told me he has one piece of advice for working at home: go for a quick walk every afternoon. He said that small break refreshes him, and he looks forward to coming back to his desk when he gets home. Others recommend showering in the afternoon, doing a few pushups, having a snack, or checking the mail. Plan a quick activity away from your desk so you can power through
- Give yourself a morning commute. We get ready every morning and then take our dogs for a 20-minute walk. When we get home, coffee is ready, and we are mentally prepped to start the workday. There are so many options for creating a morning commute: walk around the neighborhood and listen to a podcast, check the mail, sit outside for 10 minutes and read a magazine, etc.
- Create an evening commute and/or plan a time to call friends and family so you have an activity to end the workday
Additional Resources for Adults:
- Perfect Your Morning Routine With 10 Research Backed Steps – all of these can be done in while working from home and social distancing!
- Create and/or Maintain your morning routine – 6 Morning Rituals Guaranteed to Make Your Day Better
- Quarantine is a challenge when you live alone. Here are 5 ways I’m coping: When the walls feel like they’re closing in, these best practices help me find normalcy in a crazy time.
Implementing Structure with Infants & Pre-schoolers:
Going from a routine that includes daycare, pre-school, or time with a babysitter or family member to one with 100% of time spent at home is a huge shift. Adjust slowly and focus on maintaining the habits that you can (1) control without stress and (2) that they will benefit most from keeping consistent. These likely include the time they wake up, morning routines, eating routines, nap times, and bedtime routines. Obviously, it’s difficult to work and manage care for a baby at the same time. If you can, try to break the activity up so you can focus on one thing at a time. We have friends that are both attempting to telecommute out of the same house. They’ve found a good balance by breaking up the workday into two-hour shifts. This has allowed them to get their work done and make sure their 13-month-old gets the care and attention she needs. Modify your method for your family.
Implementing Structure with School-Aged Children:
Structure doesn’t need to be oppressive! Don’t worry about recreating the schedule your child had at school with them at home. The goal is to provide enough support and structure so your child(ren) maintain healthy habits, continue learning, and enjoy the time spent in this new (and likely temporary) homeschool environment. This is a real opportunity for them to establish self-discipline and explore topics that interest them. Check out Good Housekeeping’s Article, “How to Homeschool During the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak: Parents who already teach at home offer tips on how to make the transition work”, to see their suggestions for guiding every age group.
Structure is key for stability just as flexibility is key for creativity. Create a balance between routine and unstructured time and include them in the process. Use it as an opportunity to teach time management skills and give them ownership over how they break up their day. Try to keep their morning routine and bedtime routine as close as possible to the school year. Ask them questions to prompt specifics that you are comfortable with. Once you’ve developed a plan together, post the schedule in the areas of your home where they spend the most time. They will be much more likely to follow it if they helped design it. If it isn’t working for your family after a few days, revisit the plan with them and don’t be afraid to change it!
Additional Resources for Creating Structure with Kids:
- CDC’s Tips for Building Structure
- Miss Buchanan’s Counseling Corner:
- How to Set Up A Home Routine – All Grades (K-2 With Parent Support)
- How to Create A Learner Station/Center At Home – All Grades (K-2 With Parent Support)
- How to Structure Brain Breaks (And Some Yoga Moves To Try!) – All Grades (K-2 With Parent Support)
- Home Supports and Routines for Middle School Success
- Resources for When Schools Suddenly Close
ADVICE FROM AN ISOLATION EXPERT:
CLICK HERE & Fast-forward to 00:10:00 to hear Christina Hammock Koch’s perspective and advice for schedules in quarantine.
Christina Hammock Koch was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 2013 and completed astronaut candidate training in 2015. Koch most recently served as flight engineer on the International Space Station, and she set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman with a total of 328 days in space.
Written by Alex Zarookian, Director of Investor Relations & Special Events, Staff Liaison to the Jefferson Chamber’s Health & Wellness Committee
Edited by Emily Anderson, Director of Communication, Staff Liaison to the Jefferson Chamber’s Communication Committee
10 Reasons A Daily Routine is Important for Your Child (and How to Set One)
Routines: Why They Matter and How to Get Started
Why Kids Need Routines
Health Benefits of Having a Routine
The Secret Benefit of Routines – It Won’t Surprise You
18 Tips for How to Cope with Children During Quarantine
Structure Your Work-From-Home Day with These Routines
Why Routines are Good for Your Health