As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many companies have moved to a virtual work environment with employees working from home. At first, working from home can seem relaxing and fun, and sometimes it is. It can also feel like a never-ending cycle of waking up, working, eating, sleeping, and repeating.

For small business owners, finding a balance for your employees provides variety in the workday and helps to increase productivity. We’ve compiled a list of strategies to help small business teams approach the online workplace to achieve this delicate balance.

Set expectations

When you’re working from home, sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish your personal life from your work one. This is especially true if you’re working out of your living room. Naturally, it can be tough to stay focused on the projects and objectives at hand. Teams need to set clear guidelines on how they expect work to be done virtually.

Consider using project management programs such as Trello or Airtable to keep all projects and work in one place. With a virtual team, the organization of tasks and projects is more important than ever.

Small business owners should also be wary of slow communication in a virtual work environment. Businesses should have a strategy in place for quick response time during work hours—set expectations for when messages, emails or calls should be returned.

Read more: 4 Reasons Why You Need a VPN Now More Than Ever

Combating Zoom Fatigue  

If you’re using Zoom or other video-conferencing platforms to stay connected, you’ve likely heard of Zoom burnout. Staring at a screen the entire day is hard enough, but having to be on camera or speaking to others through a screen for hours can be exhausting.

Try to minimize the number of meetings required of employees. Before setting meetings, reflect on whether or not it is actually needed. Maybe it would be better as an email? Or perhaps you can add the note to your project management app.

Encourage team members to regularly get up and stretch their legs. Suggest setting reminders to get some water or get up and do a couple stretches throughout the workday. At lunch, encourage them to spend at least ten minutes outside and breathe in some fresh air. While it sounds counter-intuitive to spend so much time on break, it will actually boost productivity over the long run. Make it clear that you support breaks as long as work gets done on time.

Read more: Mental Health Tips for Staying at Home

Find time to socialize

One of the challenges small business teams face is staying connected on a personal level when working in a virtual environment. If your workplace utilizes video conference platforms such as Zoom, meetings will likely feel awkward and more formal than being in an office together. You may even feel a disconnect between others due to the absence of small talk in a virtual environment. 

A great way to stay connected with one another is having morning and/or afternoon check-in with your teams. They can be as formal or informal as you see fit. Allow people to discuss their work for the day or the latest shows they’re watching. Check-ins also give people some structure to begin and end their day. This can create a routine that helps aid people in separating their work lives from their private lives. 

Beyond these check-ins, small business owners can also set up virtual team events for employees to participate in if they choose. For example, host a trivia or get everyone in the kitchen with a virtual cooking class. There are endless possibilities, but ensure events are optional and allow employees to connect with each other.

Be Ready for Change 

As the days go by, things change. You may find that the environment you’ve cultivated over the past few months may not be working anymore. Productivity is dropping, and people are feeling drained. When this happens, be ready to adapt and respond to these problems like you would tackling a new set of challenges. Learn what’s still working, and think of new ways to improve workplace productivity. Don’t forget to ask employees for their feedback on how to improve the workplace environment, as they’re the ones who are most affected. 

Working in an online environment can feel boring and dull, but it can also be a rewarding experience for all team members. What matters is how you approach it. By applying these tips to your own business, you’ll find that an online environment to be just as productive and rewarding as working in an office space.