Mark Gasparatto is a TEC Canada speaker and the President of The Gasparotto Group, a boutique consultancy that provides clients with leadership solutions that help build their teams and extend their influence. He shares the value of incorporating a Tent Routine to sustain morale with us. 

“There is comfort in routine.” – John Steinbeck

In a crisis, there is tremendous value in maintaining normal processes under stress. Keep doing the easy things easily so you save capacity (physical, mental, emotional, resources, financial, etc) to deal with the novel, exceptional, severe aspects of a crisis. This is one of many approaches that resilient people, teams, organizations take during chaotic events – such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tent routine is a term used in camping. In the military, we use it during winter warfare training, exercises, and operations, where we live in cramped 10-person tents. Tent routine means all the repetitive activities that are done individually and collectively to survive out in the elements and ensure the accomplishment of the mission—while living very close-quarters in a tent. It provides purposeful work to every member of the team and lays out the ground rules for living together. This ensures that no-one slips into a state of boredom, that the work gets done in a way that allows everyone to contribute to the group’s success, and that everyone can live together. All these things help to sustain morale, which is the greatest asset during dark times.

Below is my family’s tent routine. In some cases, the activities are subroutines. It is formatted with a rationale, so you understand why each activity is important:

WAKE UP (no later than 08:30): A set time keeps the routine. We are not on vacation. Surviving this pandemic as a family and flattening the curve is our job.

MAKE BED: Start the day off by completing a task and reinforces tidiness.

TAKE AND LOG TEMPERATURE: I did this when deployed to Haiti for 1-year. Recording a baseline allows for quicker reaction should you develop a low-grade fever—a potential symptom of COVID-19.

EAT BREAKFAST AND TAKE IMMUNE BOOSTING VITAMINS: Proper nutrition reinforces our body’s defenses against illness. This seems especially true with COVID-19.

DAILY BRIEF: The morning brief is the most important activity that we conduct as a family because it underpins our planning and execution of COVID-19 preparations and precautions. I chair the meeting to guide its conduct. My wife talks about what is going on locally. My eldest is in charge of the physical fitness routine. My youngest tracks the family outreach/check-in plan. We come to a consensus on the tasks for the day, the meal plan, and our “forced fun” evening activity.

CHORES/ ERRANDS: Group work and activities that benefit the collective are prioritized and done immediately after the brief. Could be disinfecting areas of the house or shopping for necessities.

HOMEWORK: We do not know how long this pandemic will last. Homeschooling will be required after March Break for several weeks and seems likely beyond that as well.

CATCH UP WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS: The term social distancing is misleading. Flattening the curve is about physical distancing. The greater the impact and length of this pandemic, the greater we will need to rely on our family and friends. We have scheduled calls for everyone to make either daily or weekly to check-in and catch up with loved ones.

SUPPER 17:30: Breakfast is an individual activity. Lunch as well by eating left-overs. Supper allows the family to come together at the end of the day to reconnect, tell stories, and plan the evening activity. It also allows for a centralized approach to rationing food supplies.

FAMILY ACTIVITY (AKA FORCED FUN): There is a balance to be had between individual “on my phone” time and at a human level to reinforce the bonds of connection. It could be a board game or a movie.

There are two human conditions that are highly contagious: panic and sense of humour. Being properly informed, being part of a reliable team, and having a solid yet flexible plan decreases panic. The Tent Routine and the daily brief contribute greatly to this. As humanity has done over the course of our history, we will get through this. We will get through this by sticking together.


Wishing you and your families “Bon courage”,

Mark Gasparotto