As we pull together to reduce the spread of COVID-19, working from home has become a new reality for many Canadians for the foreseeable future. For some employees, this arrangement is business as usual, and the flexibility of working remotely may already be a perk you offer to attract and retain talent within your organization. Other employees, however, may struggle with this new working arrangement, feeling isolated and unfocused without the familiarity and camaraderie of their daily office routine. Faced with the difficult task of balancing working from home with caregiving responsibilities, parents and caregivers will also now need to adapt their habits to make working remotely a success.

Below are a few strategies for maintaining a healthy balance when working from home that you may want to share with your employees.

Get dressed. Tempted to stay in your pyjamas all day? Don’t. It may seem simple, but the simple act of changing clothes can be a signal to get your day started, which will help draw the line between being at work and being at home. Make yourself presentable. Shower, do your hair and make-up—whatever you would typically do on a normal workday.

Define your work time. After designating your physical workspace, you should also clearly define your working hours. If possible, consider sticking to your regular hours. You will be more productive and transitioning back to working in an office environment will be easier.

Set a schedule. Humans crave structure, regardless of whether they’re working in the office or at home. So while you’re working from home, it’s crucial to create a schedule and stick to it. For example, if you’re used to going to the gym before work, try to wake up early and get an at-home workout in before you start your workday from home.

Setting a schedule for yourself is just as important as setting one for those whom you’re looking after at home. If you have children at home, try to mirror their school schedule as much as possible. For example, have them wake up at the same time that they would for school, eat breakfast, and get ready. Then, have them work on activities for specific times, building in breaks for meals and going outside.

For other loved ones you may be caring for, try to incorporate their standard routine with your schedule. Consider eating meals together and taking breaks to go for a walk outside or spend time together.

Create separate spaces. When you’re working from home, you must try to create separate areas for yourself and those you’re looking after. Ideally, your at-home workstation would be at a desk or table, away from any distractions such as the TV. Add a comfortable chair and good lighting if possible.

Your workspace doesn’t have to be in a different room if you don’t have space; a corner will do. Working from your bed or couch can be challenging since these locations are associated with sleep and relaxation. Creating this separation will benefit your productivity as well as your mental well-being. If you’re working in a space or room that you need to use for non-work purposes, consider packing up each evening to make the end of your workday more decisive.

Not only will this help you remain productive while working, but it will also help communicate to others that when you’re in your workspace, you’re “at work.” Additionally, creating these separate spaces will further reinforce the schedule that you set.

Take breaks. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you can’t take breaks. Coordinate everyone’s schedules so you can take a break with your loved ones at the same time. Consider getting outside to get some fresh air and exercise.

Make sure to stand up and distance yourself from your at-home workstation. Your mental well-being needs to maintain physical separation between your work and home life. If you never fully disconnect from work, both your work productivity and home life will suffer.

Communication is crucial. Suddenly finding yourself in a work from home situation may leave you feeling lonely and disconnected, even with others around at home. The casual interaction you had with coworkers is cut off when everyone stays at home. Stay connected with coworkers through Slack, Microsoft Teams, email, texts or phone calls. The method doesn’t matter as much as just keeping in touch does.

When you’re balancing your job and caregiving responsibilities, it’s important that you communicate with those you’re looking after as well. It’s essential that you’re honest about your situation with managers and coworkers. Doing so will help ensure, set, and manage expectations during the time you’re working from home.

We’re here to help you with all your employee wellness questions. Contact your Cowan consultant today.