What are some considerations when creating your home office for Telepractice? Besides comfort, what do you need to have in place for professionalism, confidentiality, and a stable connection? This post will discuss considerations regarding office lighting, desk area and chair comfort, having a door to your office, as well as how to have the strongest, most reliable, Internet connection possible. Implementing the suggestions provided will allow you to avoid the pitfalls many clinicians experience while providing Telepractice services.
Your office space should be in a quiet area of your home without people passing through or other distractions (e.g., pets, televisions playing in the background). The space should have a door that you can close notifying others in the home that you do not want to be disturbed. Besides being a comfortable space for you, it should be minimally distracting for your clients, so consider what is behind you when you set up your desk space. If you are working from a spare bedroom, it works best to have your back toward a wall to avoid a view of the bed or other items in that room. It has been reported that some clinicians have had unmade beds, beds covered in mounds of clothes, beds/shelving/cupboards covered in miscellaneous “stored” items – all viewable to clients. To provide a professional impression, one should have an organized backdrop that is minimally distracting.
How does one maintain confidentiality when working from home while other family members are also there? This can be tricky. As mentioned earlier, having an office door that you can close is one way. Another is to have either a locking file drawer on your desk or a locking filing cabinet available to you in your office. Just as you would contain and lock your hard-copy client-identifying documentation in your office, the same should be done at home. No one else in your household should be able to view client information of any kind. Your computer should require a password or code to log into the system as well as a password for the video-conferencing platform (to assist with HIPAA compliance). Connecting your computer via Ethernet cable to your router not only improves your connection speed and stability, but also assists in avoiding any hackable transmission of information (i.e., relying on WiFi without a password or public WiFi). If you must use WiFi, be sure to sit as closely as possible to your router and require a password to gain access. Lastly, be sure your video-conferencing platform offers you encryption and ideally, a BAA or Business Associate’s Agreement.
If you’ve been providing Telepractice for awhile, you may have experienced a sore back, burning elbows, and/or painful wrists. Consider your ergonomics. I found that sitting for hours, providing Telepractice services, began to take a toll on my body. Gone were the days of getting up from the therapy table to go pick up my students or return them to classrooms. As it turned out, my posture was not ergonomically correct. Here’s a link to a helpful article by Ergonomic Trends about appropriate ergonomics to avoid developing pain http://ergonomictrends.com/creating-perfect-ergonomic-workspace-ultimate-guide/. Do you pass the test?
Let’s talk about office lighting. Ideally, your client will see your face clearly, without shadows. To accomplish this, natural lighting is ideal but not if the sun will be shining directly on your face. If you have a window in your office, try having your desk sitting perpendicular to the window, so the natural light will be coming from the side. If your window has an overhang, you do not need to be concerned about the sun shining directly onto you or into your space. Avoid having the window directly behind you or your client will only see your silhouette. Depending on the time of day you will be working with clients, be sure that you also have artificial lighting available (i.e., overhead light, floor lamp, desk lamp) to avoid the room becoming dimly lit making it difficult for your client to clearly see your face during your session. Evaluate how you appear by logging into a video-conference call/meeting on your own to see if the lighting is appropriate while on camera. Adjust your lighting accordingly.
In summary, there are many things to consider when creating your home office. Avoid working from an open space where others congregate, that doesn’t have a door you can close, and does not provide any barrier to distracting sounds (i.e., television, pets, children). Avoid having piles of visible items behind you while on camera, examine the lighting in the room to make sure you are clearly visible to your clients, ensure that you are connected to the Internet via an Ethernet cable if at all possible, and examine your ergonomics to stay pain free!