On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, with cases confirmed in every continent except Antarctica. 

Globally, many government leaders have mandated the closure of schools and implemented work from home policies.

Physical  distancing (also referred to as social distancing) includes avoiding physical contact with others for a stated period in an effort to flatten the curve of Covid-19 and has proven to be effective in curbing the spread of the virus. Notwithstanding, social distancing can be socially and emotionally isolating. 

Recognizing that in various facets of our lives, we play important roles as individuals, organizers, workers, leaders, and citizens in combating this pandemic. This guide will provide strategies to adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances and to stay connected, supportive, and productive during this critical period.

This guide will provide strategies to adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances and to stay connected, supportive, and productive during this critical period.

Practicing Self-care

Dealing with the risks and uncertainty of this time has necessitated the prioritizing of our health and the health of our loved ones. Social distancing by staying home slows the spread of COVID-19 and in turn, saves lives. While the importance of social distancing cannot be undermined, the swift transition from our interactive, outdoor lives to physically isolated, indoor ones has been challenging for many. This is uncharted territory for us all and this guide offers steps that you can take to achieve a smoother transition.

Establish a Routine

Having a routine is important; it provides structure and an added layer of normalcy. While at home, you are responsible for establishing your own routine.

Take it one day at a time

Behavioral economics provides insights into some of our actions during the pandemic such as panic buying. Behavioral economics can also be leveraged to help us not fall prey to our cognitive biases, which may cause us to be either focused on the past or overly worried about possible unknown risks.

It is important to focus on the present, be mindful of our thoughts and actions and take it one day at a time.

Get fresh air

Remind yourself that it is spring with its
beautiful, sunny days. 

Try to take advantage by sitting by your
window, balcony or garden to connect with
nature. This can be a grounding experience
and beneficial for your mental and physical

Platform Calgary's Twitter Screenshot

Create Online Social events

There are many ways to have social interactions: The new Japanese term On-Nomi, which is used for drinking online with friends. This World Economic Forum video provides additional context.

You can create games night, host your book
club online, or throw a film party


Appreciate your "Me-Time"

Meditation reduces stress, controls anxiety,
and enhances self-awareness. There are a
number of beginner friendly apps like
Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer.

Self- reflect
Learn about yourself, who you are and what
drives you. Use this time to introspect, learn
more about yourself, and check-in with

Learn something new

There are many online courses in a wide array of topics on websites Coursera, Udemy, Skillshare, EdX and LinkedIn Learning.

Have a creative outlet

This could be journaling or a creative art such as playing an instrument, painting, needlework, sewing or other artistic mediums that provide a means of relaxation.

Screenshot of a Toronto Shaper's Morning Zoom Exercise Routine


COVID-19 has caused gyms to close, making exercise less convenient.

Build into your morning routine yoga or pilates and leverage social media to connect with trainers for routines and tips. There are a number of offerings of live training sessions that require minimal equipment on social media with minimal equipment throughout the day. Alternatively, you can also schedule a daily virtual exercise session with friends.

Take a break from Stats

It is critical to stay informed but it is easy to find yourself glued to the 24-hour news cycle of COVID-19 doom and gloom stats.

While it is important to remain educated and informed, limiting the exposure to the constant barrage of news reports and information feeds (some of which can be inaccurate) can be crucial to your mental well being and focusing on the present moment

Working from Home

Working from home brings your business and personal life together under one roof and can challenge your productivity, especially if other family members are also home. The Harvard Business Review article, A Guide for Working (From Home) Parents, provides practical advice for parents. When working from home is thrust upon us without adequate planning, it can present some additional challenges. This guide provides some easy to implement tips to build productive and healthy work from home habits.

Having a designated work space will allow your brain to code-switch into and out of work mode. If possible, make your designated work space and separate from your leisure space. Most of what is needed to set up a good work from home office is likely around your house and can be re-purposed.

The first step is to pick a space that you will use for work that is free of distraction and has a view of a window.

The second step is to have the right equipment: mouse, keyboard, computer monitor(s) (if possible), adjustable/ stand-up desk (if possible), comfortable chair etc.

The keyboard and mouse should be placed at a height where your arms are bent approximately 90 degrees. Next, if you do not have an adjustable desk, you can use household items to stack up to bring the top of your laptop screen to eye level, or as close as you can get to that height.

Since working from home means fewer trips to the water cooler, no coffee runs with the colleagues, and no walks to the meeting room, it is important to alternate between a sitting and standing position on a regular basis. When standing, wear comfortable shoes.

With your temporary home office set up, you can consider adding pictures and paintings, some house plants or fresh flowers, and a lamp to make a cozy space that stimulates creativity.

It is important to get in the right mindset for a productive day. Miguel Solera, a Global Shaper from Spain, where a state of emergency and national lockdown was declared on March 13, 2020 suggests waking up at the same time as before work from home.

He suggests using your commute time to do something that you like – this will help you stay sharp and not lose focus. This Huffington Post article provides some additional tips on building a productive morning routine.

Working in sweatpants rarely motivates anyone to complete business tasks at the same pace as you would in regular working clothes.

According to this Harvard Business Review article, having your phone nearby can have a toll on your thinking. Cal Newport, in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, points to our weakened ability to do challenging and focused work when we are tied to our phones

You can have a schedule in place that helps you prioritize your tasks and structure your day. The way you start your morning will dictate how you treat the rest of your day. It is important to plan your breaks and put a placeholder in your agenda at the end of the day to close the day.

You might consider building in a 1-hour lunch break and two 15-minute breaks between tasks and meetings to serve as a reminder to get up and stretch your legs.

You will have a better understanding of how to realistically plan for your days, building in distractions into your schedule. This can build the habit of planning ahead and staying organized.

There are a number of team collaboration apps such as Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams to ensure that you stay connected and in collaboration mode with your colleagues.

As you would do in the office, connect with someone to have (virtual) lunches and coffees with or a social challenge such as karaokes at the end of the week.

Managing your Remote Workforce

Under normal circumstances, the decision to have staff work from home would be a multi stakeholder decision process with ample planning and software to support. Within the span of a few weeks, mandatory work from home policies have been implemented in many countries across the globe.

This means workplaces and leadership must manage their entire workforce remotely. Organization and team leaders are understandably focused on how to empower team members, maintain morale and team culture, require accountability, ensure productivity and results, and demonstrate trust in their team.

This Entrepreneur article, 5 Ways to Effectively Lead Remote Team and this Harvard Business Review article, A Guide to Manage your (Newly) Remote Workers, provides some practical strategies.

Start by acknowledging the crisis and ensuring that the team knows that you are in the process together.

Work to understand what employees need from their leadership and set the tone from the top. This Gallup article, COVID-19: What Employees Need From Leaders Right Now, provides insights on the percentage of workers who feel their organization cares about their well-being, their leadership has a clear plan of action, and feel well-prepared to do their job

It goes without saying that business leaders play a critical role in combating the spread of the pandemic and pillaring the economy and this Deloitte COVID-19 report provides a useful framework

Schedule one-on-ones between a manager and worker. Support managers and equip them with the skills to coach team members in an individualized way, prioritizing outcomes, and setting clear expectations.

Recognize that minor defeats that in normal circumstances would be brushed off may feel magnified during a period of crisis and isolation. To this end, managers can schedule a separate meeting to check-in to gauge the physical and emotional well-being of team members and provide support.

Schedule a short daily/ weekly video call with the entire team

Ensure that there is a medium to communicate as working remotely can result in workers having less access to information or feeling lonely.

Ensure your team has a collaboration/communication tool. See this Inc article for some tools that are available for free during the pandemic

This enables colleagues to book time in your calendar as needed. There are a number of apps like Calendly that can be utilized.

“If you ask people where they go when they need to get work done, very few will respond “the office.” If they do say the office, they’ll include a qualifier such as “super-early in the morning before anyone gets in,” or “I stay late at night after everyone’s left,” or “I sneak in on the weekend.”

This is an excerpt from the book, The Time is Right for Remote Work. The future of work is one that will increase remote work/ This pandemic presents a glimpse into what the future could look like so you can prepare accordingly. Understanding that many workers are more productive when they are away from the office or in an empty office, this may be an opportunity. Your team members may perform at levels that may pleasantly surprise you and this may change your team culture positively into the future. This Trello compilation of guides provides additional resources for your staff to be happier and more productive while working from home.

Hosting your Events Remotely

To mitigate the risks of spreading the virus, major sporting, cultural, business and technology events locally and globally have been canceled. Where feasible, some organizers have chosen to have their events online. If you have an event planned such as a conference or a workshop, consider if it can be held remotely. This would allow for your content to be accessible to your audience, who are looking forward to receiving the information.

It would also enable persons to stay connected and combat the feeling of social isolation that persons may experience with the wave of events/social gatherings being canceled or postponed (into the foreseeable future).

As an organizer, you may choose to host the event online if notable investments have already been made in the event planning, the negotiation of sponsorships, the securing of speakers, and the development of content, provided that there is sufficient time to make the logistical shift online. 

As we consider a changing future of work landscape and the threat of climate change (and efforts to reduce carbon footprints), online conferences may be increasingly common and now may be an opportune time to consider hosting events (or modules of the event) online.

look at other events for inspiration

Collision, which previously hosted 25 000 participants at its 2019 conference, will be hosting its annual tech conference online in response to COVID-19. The Collision at Home conference will live stream and use a custom app to enable engagement.

In a similar fashion, Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2020) will also take on an entirely new online format in light of the pandemic with a full program consisting of an online keynote and sessions.

The Educators in Virtual Reality Summit was held in Microsoft’s AltSpace VR in early 2020. It saw over 2000 participants tuning to 170 speakers and over 150 events in over six days in the largest immersive virtual event of its kind in the world.

Image from Road to VR

choose a platform

As with all events, you will need to determine the appropriate format. Once you have decided on the capabilities needed, you can look at what would be the best platform to support your needs.

You may choose your platform based on:

  1. Number of participants
  2. The level of power that the administrator will have to control the virtual room(s)
  3. The features to foster collaboration (including breakout rooms, livechat, multiple presenters, integration with social media, private/group chats, AR/VR capability)
  4. The cost

This TechRadar article and this PC Magazine post look at some of the current video conferencing platforms on the market. This Forbes article also looks at more sophisticated platforms that incorporate AR/VR like Rumii.

Build in the engagement

While there is great value in face-to-face meetings, there are a number of strategies to make your event come alive despite the digital divide.

These include having a mixture of recorded and live sessions, incorporating social media and gamifying engagement using apps.

It is important to remember that your audience attention span will likely drop significantly after ten minutes. It is important to insert audience response questions at this interval to regain their attention. To help field the questions, a “content DJ” who monitors the chat stream for large audiences may be recommended.

There are a number of companies, like Freeman, that have offerings to help your virtual event foster meaningful connections.

Supporting your Community

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven the extent to which our actions can affect others. Simply by practicing physical distance, we are slowing the spread of the virus and protecting the most vulnerable.

It is important to understand the concept of conscious decision-making, being aware of the consequences of our actions and our role in the minimization of harm. So how can we practice conscious decision-making while being in social/physical isolation?

The best thing you can do for yourself and others right now is to take preventative measures to not contract and spread the disease. This will help to minimize the burden on the healthcare system so practitioners on the frontline can focus on the pandemic.

This means limiting the time spent outside. 

Consider ordering online or through apps when sourcing  groceries, medications, and other essential goods. where possible.

If you need to go to the store/pharmacy, make a list of all the things you need and try to combine stops to minimize the number of places you visit.  When you get back from the store, remember to wipe everything down before storing it.

If you are not well, rely on friends/family members to make the trip.

Children in particular, normally able to play and socialize at school, may find it difficult to adapt to these circumstances.

It is important to listen to them, patiently articulate expectations, and think of creative ways to keep them active, happy and engaged

Check in with those who are most vulnerable such as the elderly, those who feel especially isolated, and those who are immunocompromised and may need extra help. You can help by buying essentials, teaching them how to set up a virtual call so they can connect with their loved ones.

You can start a large group chat or a Facebook group is a great way to foster a sense of community and allows everyone to feel supported. You can leave tags or notes on your neighbours’ doors to inform them of your initiative.

Persons who are homeless or underhoused are especially at risk during this pandemic. Where possible, donate to not-for-profits that provide support to this community.

Staying informed via impartial, accurate and up-to-date channels is critical to decision making. In a period of uncertainty, ensure that you are not spreading misinformation.

Environmental sustainability is always critical. With the increased amount of hand washing, it is recommended that you turn the  tap off while you soap your hands for 20 seconds.

Below are  some examples citizens showed solidarity in China and Spain:

i) Writing letters to affected persons in hospitals and to frontline healthcare workers offering encouragement and showing appreciation.      

ii) Do grocery runs for frontline workers.

iii) Pre-ordering goods and services that are redeemable to help service workers such as domestic workers once normalcy returns.

iv) Consider 3-D printing ventilators if you have the skill set, technology, and copyright permissions to do so.


This guide provided practical strategies to navigate your personal and professional life during the COVID-19 crisis. The tips provided ways to adapt to a temporary but necessary way of living centered around physical distancing.

It is important to be cognizant of ways we can combat the pandemic in our roles as individuals, organizers, workers, leaders, and citizens.

our team


Drishti Kataria

Alecia Maragh

Saadia Esat

Friend of Shapers

Elyse Waslat

Ben Wedge


Miguel Solera

Yara Farran


Sundaresan Sekar

Maria Vassiliou