GreenUP’s annual Shifting Gears transportation challenge is shifting gears during COVID-19

This year's program aims to provide tools, tips, and conversations for sheltering at home

Shifting Gears is an annual spring program that challenges people to choose more active and sustainable forms of transportation when commuting to work, school, or out in the community. This spring, the Shifting Gears team will provide supports to employers, employees, and community members as we all shift how we work, travel, play, and live to combat COVID-19. While working from home, Lindsay Stroud and other staff from GreenUP are using the group instant messaging tool Slack for collaboration. (Photo: GreenUP)
Shifting Gears is an annual spring program that challenges people to choose more active and sustainable forms of transportation when commuting to work, school, or out in the community. This spring, the Shifting Gears team will provide supports to employers, employees, and community members as we all shift how we work, travel, play, and live to combat COVID-19. While working from home, Lindsay Stroud and other staff from GreenUP are using the group instant messaging tool Slack for collaboration. (Photo: GreenUP)

Each spring, GreenUP usually urges you to participate in Shifting Gears, a program that challenges workplaces and community members to change daily habits and try out different ways of getting around your community. Leave the car at home and instead walk, bike, carpool, take transit, or work from home.

This year is different. We are all shifting gears already, in ways we did not expect. COVID-19 has turned our daily habits upside-down.

The Shifting Gears team has decided to do things differently this year, too.

As the Peterborough community works together to help flatten the curve by making big changes to the ways we go about travel and work, Shifting Gears will aim to provide tools, tips, and conversations to support these changes.

One of the current changes we see is that employees, students, and families have shifted to spending more time at home. With that, many workplaces that regularly work from home (a.k.a. remote working, telecommuting) have begun sharing best practices to help employers and employees who are brand new to this way of working.

Physical distancing means many of us are shifting gears to working and living at home full time. Remote working has long been a practice for some organizations, and there is much that we can learn from them as we work to stay socially connected to colleagues, friends, and family.  (Photo: GreenUP)
Physical distancing means many of us are shifting gears to working and living at home full time. Remote working has long been a practice for some organizations, and there is much that we can learn from them as we work to stay socially connected to colleagues, friends, and family. (Photo: GreenUP)

Their tips focus on finding tech solutions, addressing isolation, managing distractions, and finding some balance. Whether we find ourselves working from home or being at home for another reason, these tips can be useful to everyone practising physical distancing.

The Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) recently shared a comprehensive guide to helpful tech solutions for working remotely. You can find it at canwach.ca/article/navigating-virtualremote-workplace-during-covid-19. They highlight project management, file sharing, and communication tools to get your team working together online.

Those new to working remotely can often try out a few platforms or tools through free versions or free trial periods. Whether you are a business completing a project for a client or a community group gathering donations, these tools can help you manage your tasks and your team.

VIDEO: Navigating a Virtual Remote Workplace during COVID-19 (Webinar)

Many of the tech solutions making the news recently are those focused on communication. Charity Village has been working remotely since 1995. They use remote communication tools to move projects along, but also to help staff feel less isolated. They know that workplaces are often social places. They suggest finding ways to continue connecting with your colleagues in all the ways you might in the office.

At GreenUP we have started using Zoom (zoom.us), a video conferencing tool that has grown in popularity over the past two weeks. Seeing our office mates face-to-face, even virtually, feels like a gift after being away from folks we used to see daily. Using video calls for informal coffee breaks has allowed for some lighter moments during these stressful weeks.

GreenUP has also moved some of our more casual catch-ups and questions to Slack (slack.com), a group instant messaging tool which is helping to reduce the size of our email inboxes.

Remote work guidelines usually suggest creating a physical space for your work away from home distractions, but these days it is all about balance. Clea Charette and her family are getting used to sharing work space and taking moments in between work for play.  (Photo: GreenUP)
Remote work guidelines usually suggest creating a physical space for your work away from home distractions, but these days it is all about balance. Clea Charette and her family are getting used to sharing work space and taking moments in between work for play. (Photo: GreenUP)

Finding new ways to stay connected is important to many of us at this time. Whether for connecting with co-workers, friends, or family, these tools may fill in some communication gaps not met by email, social media, or a phone call.

Shifting gears between work and personal life can be hard. Our friends at Share the Road (sharetheroad.ca, another organization that fully works remotely, recommends that you create a physical workspace at home so you can separate work from personal distractions and put you into an ‘I’m working’ mindset.

They realize that at this time it may be difficult to do as the whole family may be at home alongside you. Instead, these days, find ways to ignore distractions like that pile of laundry and social media, but take the time to be with family and play with the kids. We are all in this rough spot together and the regular rules no longer apply.

Sometimes we cannot simply turn off one part of our life at a moment’s notice. To find some balance, the pros suggest adding structure and variety to your day. Blocking out when you do certain activities, scheduling daily breaks, or filling out a large family calendar of activities can help break up the monotony and give a sense of purpose to each day. Some of the routines you put in place may even be ones that you are already used to.

Sticking to some old routines and fitting in a physical activity break can help to build some structure into our day. Jaime Akiyama and her family have stuck with morning walks, instead of the walk to school. Remember: only go out for walks with members of your own household, while maintaining a physical distance of at least two metres from others. If you have returned from travel outside Canada, you are legally required to self-isolate in your home for 14 days, which means you can't go out for walks.   (Photo: GreenUP)
Sticking to some old routines and fitting in a physical activity break can help to build some structure into our day. Jaime Akiyama and her family have stuck with morning walks, instead of the walk to school. Remember: only go out for walks with members of your own household, while maintaining a physical distance of at least two metres from others. If you have returned from travel outside Canada, you are legally required to self-isolate in your home for 14 days, which means you can’t go out for walks. (Photo: GreenUP)

Jaime Akiyama, from Active School Travel Peterborough, points out that although travelling to school and work is not part of our daily routine these days, stability is important right now, especially for kids. Building a routine similar to past school days will allow you to tap into the benefits of active school travel.

Akiyama’s family has set up their morning routine to mirror their previous school travel days, getting ready and heading out as if they were going to school or work but substituting in a family walk.

Please note: at the time of writing, Peterborough Public Health and Health Canada still recommend that you may go for walks or hikes outside if you practice proper physical distancing (maintaining a minimum distance of two metres from other people and avoiding large gatherings).

However, individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 or who have travelled outside the country in the last 14 days must remain quarantined at home and cannot go outside for walks. It’s the law, and you can be charged with a federal offence under the Quarantine Act if you don’t obey quarantine.

Over the coming weeks, the Shifting Gears team will post more information on these topics to peterboroughmoves.com and begin some community conversations on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Join us there to share your challenges and your tips on how you, your workplace, and your family are shifting gears to work from home. We are also exploring how our regular workshops, tune-ups, and tracking tools can serve the community through this time, so please stay tuned in for more updates.

The Shifting Gears team includes partners from the City of Peterborough, GreenUP, and B!KE. For more information or to get involved, contact Lindsay Stroud, Shifting Gears Coordinator at GreenUP, at lindsay.stroud@greenup.on.ca.

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