COVID-19: The importance of establishing a routine

Experiencing a crisis such as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) can have a dramatic impact on our day-to-day lives. More employees are working from home now or have lost their jobs. Parents have to juggle working and educating their children during the day. Time feels different as our environment shifts, making it harder to maintain a solid routine. But it is possible to add some structure to the chaos.

In order to design a routine, it’s important to consider the old routine versus what’s possible now. For example, many of your employees are unable to complete their regular fitness routine due to gyms being closed and fitness classes being canceled. Instead, they have to get creative at home or outside with digital classes, backyard yoga or using the family dog for weight lifting.

Establishing a routine will also help fortify the immune system, which is a top priority when trying to remain healthy during a pandemic. Below are some key factors for employees to consider when developing a new routine:

  • Maintaining proper nutrition
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Prioritizing a good night’s sleep
  • Consuming little to no alcohol
  • Reducing or eliminating tobacco use
  • Creating virtual hangouts to ensure human connections
  • Taking digital breaks

In order to maintain a routine, it’s helpful to take advantage of the various digital tools and resources available. These include:

  • Activity trackers, such as Fitbit or those available on your phone
  • Digital mindfulness apps, such as Sanvello
  • Wellness coaching support, such as Rally

The importance of personalization

While there’s a lot employees can do to create a routine, it’s best to look at it on an individualized level. Some employees may be able to set an earlier alarm and go for a jog, whereas others may need to fit in fitness during a lunch break or after dinner. Many employees have ordered exercise bands online and created at-home workout programs. Other employees combined their routine with someone else in the home to help motivate them to get outside, relax, reconnect and stay physically active.

Likewise, some employees may need to place certain healthier foods on the counter to avoid reaching for less healthy options. Building a snack routine may also help employees who are fond of snacking. Regardless of the action, employees should do these things intentionally, not just as a reaction when they’re taking a break or getting water in the kitchen.

No matter how your employees approach a routine, it’s important that they design it in such a way that supports the behaviors they’re looking to achieve. The routine will make any last-minute decision about whether they should or shouldn’t take a morning walk or eat certain foods easier. It’s a “no brainer” by design since it’s something they do as part of their routine. It may take them a few attempts to find something that works for them, but it’s important to make the routine personal to their goals and needs to ensure success.

Visit the Optum COVID-19 site to learn more about the tools available to you and your employees. Also, learn about a new study that explains how employee well-being, work arrangements, productivity and workplace policies are being impacted by COVID-19.


About the author

SerxnerSeth - Full shot

Seth Serxner, PhD, MPH
Chief Health Officer, Optum

Seth Serxner, a national expert on behavior change, program design and measurement, brings the breadth of his experience in academia, industry and consulting to his role as chief health officer at Optum.

His versatile skill set ensures processes and outcomes that improve health for clients in all markets. His deep knowledge of behavior change, population health and measurement allows him to visualize and deliver on program innovation.

He is a published author with over 25 years of experience in health and productivity management. He holds a master’s in public health and a doctorate from the University of California, where his research focused on health promotion and disease prevention in social ecology.

One thought on “COVID-19: The importance of establishing a routine

  1. Very helpful post. I agree that maintaining self awareness and engaging in wellness-oriented activities is key during times of change and uncertainty.

    I appreciate your insight and thoughtful comments during these uncertain times.

    With gratitude,


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