Throughout the last year, agencies of all kinds have had to transition their programs and workflows to a virtual environment. Now and into the future, virtual services and remote work are likely here to stay in some form. After a year of listening to stories from our customer community and working virtually as a company ourselves, we’ve rounded up our top tips for staff that may be continuing to work and deliver services remotely, or within a hybrid model.
Client privacy and confidentiality are paramount.
First and foremost, ensuring the confidentiality of client sessions and the protection of their data is one of the most important aspects of working remotely. If you haven’t already, set up your workspace to provide optimal privacy for client sessions. Using headphones and noise machines can help make sure that other members of your household cannot hear the details of your sessions. For some clinicians, they’ve found it helpful to go over their daily schedules with family members, so that they know when not to interrupt.
Make your online presence professional but accessible.
While it’s okay to have clients see you in your home environment, it’s best to limit unnecessary visual distractions in your virtual background. This is especially important if anything in the camera frame could potentially influence your conversation with a client.
Having the right lighting can greatly improve a client’s comfort level when speaking to you. For the best lighting, place yourself next to a well-lit window, while limiting lighting sources coming from straight behind you. This will increase the visibility of your face and facial expressions during the session. Some clinicians have purchased small ring lights to help enhance the lighting in their workspace.
Help clients adjust to virtual sessions.
Though there are many benefits to telehealth, you may have to help some clients adjust to virtual sessions. Encourage them to find a private, quiet location to speak with you. You may need to ask them to turn off other notifications on their phone or computer. For some clients, opening up over a virtual platform may be more difficult compared to an in-person session. Understand that the adjustment process will be easier for some than others and continually ask for feedback on how to make the session more comfortable for them.
Set up your internet and other technology for virtual services.
Ensure that your home internet speed is fast enough to maintain a high-quality connection over Zoom or other video conferencing platforms. This can be especially important if other members of your household are using video conferencing throughout the day for their own work and school activities. Closing other applications on your computer or purchasing a wifi booster may help with your internet speed and range.
Since the start of COVID, there has been a dramatic rise in phishing attacks, online scams, and security incidents across many industries. Make sure to always use HIPAA-compliant platforms for communicating with clients, documenting sessions, and storing data. This means using approved video conferencing platforms, devices provided by your agency, and your organization’s secure EHR.
In terms of online safety, keeping your devices up-to-date with the latest updates is one of the best ways to keep all your systems secure. You can also stay aware of how to recognize phishing emails and avoid unknown links and downloads. Additionally, your agency can look into best practices for setting passwords, changing passwords, and setting up multi-factor authentication for your EHR.
Maintain boundaries and self-care practices.
Although it can be difficult with a busy schedule and caseload, try to take regular breaks throughout the day to balance out your workday. Without a commute, it may be hard to get the same amount of exercise or outdoor time as you used to before the pandemic. As much as possible, maintain regular eating schedules, take breaks, and try to spend some time outside.
More than ever, establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries with your work and clients will be crucial to avoiding long-term burnout. Set expectations in terms of when and how your clients can contact you outside of the standard work day. While working remotely, your personal and work life can start to blur — make sure to be clear and honest with your boundaries in order to recharge yourself at the end of the day.
Adjust to a hybrid schedule.
As the pandemic goes on, some agencies are using a hybrid approach of in-person and remote services. While this is great for seeing clients and collaborating with coworkers in person, it can make scheduling and maintaining a routine a bit more tricky. As much as possible, plan out your weeks to use your time most effectively — potentially leaving individual or deep work for the days that you will be working remotely.
As a supervisor or manager, check in with your staff.
As a supervisor, you can play a key role in making sure your staff is healthy and engaged in their work. You can use weekly supervision time to check in on your staff’s mental health. Actively talking about compassion fatigue, burnout, and stress can help your staff feel less alone and more open to speaking about these pervasive issues. Continually asking for feedback can help you balance caseloads and ensure there is enough time for staff to do work other than seeing clients, such as documentation, administrative tasks, and career development.
As difficult as the pandemic has been, there are ways to make your remote work experience healthier and more effective. Prioritizing your own mental health will give you the energy you need to continue supporting your clients through this challenging time.
Behavioral Health EHR
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