Freshen Up & Lighten Up Your Telepractice Space – Practical Summer Suggestions

As you enjoy your summer, do you get the feeling there are things you could be and/or should be doing in preparation for fall but just can’t bring yourself to do them? What if there were tasks that would make your office more comfortable and organized? Would that help to motivate you?

During the last school year, while providing telepractice services, did you come across different instances when you said to yourself, “I need to make sure I change that for next year,” “I have to remember to find materials,” etc.?  This post will share some of those mental notes I made to myself; ones to address once the school year came to an end.  Of course, I didn’t begin to tackle them until after I spent quality time with my family, pets, and the outdoors to rejuvenate my professional persona.

Explore Available Resources

Looking for fresh material is a professional passion of mine.  I enjoy looking through Pinterest, TeachersPayTeachers (i.e., TpT), and even Etsy (at times).  From making gifs from TV commercials to generate discussions and work on pragmatics, to finding free educational resources online, I am always asking myself, “How can I use that commercial/photo/caption for therapy?” 

Another consideration is data-keeping resources.  Do you use paper/pencil to document your session’s data?  What about Google Sheets?  There are iPad apps available for this purpose as well.  What works best for group data-taking versus individual clients? Summer is a great time to explore the options to find the type of system that best meets your needs.  I am all about working smarter! 

Organize Your Digital Materials Library

Do you have a menagerie of websites and downloaded materials scattered across your desktop? Now is the time to organize that “loose” content.  Consider organizing your materials by:

  • Type of Disorder
    • Articulation
    • Language
    • Cognitive
    • Literacy
    • Pragmatic, etc.
  • Type of Materials
    • Expressive
    • Receptive
  • Target Population
    • Gender
    • Age Group
    • Grade Level

Storage for Your Digital Materials

If your computer’s processing speed isn’t what it used to be, it may be time to investigate just how much available memory you have on your computer’s hard drive.  I found that once I reached the “50%-or-less-available-memory” point, my computer’s speed began to decrease.  It took longer for my computer to start-up, to call up programs, to load website pages, etc.  What can be done to alleviate the situation?  You have a few options. 

  • Purchase an external hard drive (e.g., 1 TB)
  • Subscribe to online storage
    • DropBox
    • BOX

If you purchase an external hard drive, I recommend getting a high-quality hard drive.  If you purchase the least expensive, be prepared for difficulties.  I experienced this firsthand.  After approximately a year, one of my external hard drives decided to freeze up. I had 250GB of materials, forms, you name it, on that hard drive and could not access any of the material without paying an exorbitant fee for specialized assistance.  I currently have an external hard drive and a subscription to DropBox as a back-up. 

Clear Unnecessary Clutter

Do you have unused files taking up space on your hard drive and/or desktop?  It is surprising how quickly those accumulate as the school year progresses.  Summer is a perfect time to sit down with a cup of your favorite summer beverage, turn on some favorite music, and start weeding through the files you have accumulated to determine whether-or-not you will use the information.  If you will, then appropriately file them in your digital materials library.  If not, I recommend recycling/deleting them.

Freshen Up Your Office

If you are not particularly happy with your office layout or comfort, summer is the time to consider rearranging your space!  I enjoy moving my living room furniture around, at times, to establish a new “look” using what I have.  Why not your office furniture?  If your desk, file cabinet, or other items weigh a substantial amount, you may want to enlist some able-bodied family members to assist you.  Even something as inexpensive (and less heavy) as changing out your office’s light fixture(s) can provide a new look/feel.

How comfortable is your desk chair? I can testify from my own experience that you get what you pay for when it comes to desk chairs. When I purchased an inexpensive one, I found myself quickly searching for new gel seat cushions and/or back cushions to try to find some comfort and support.  When you cannot sit comfortably for at least 3 hours at a time (you should not sit in one place longer than this, regardless), you may want to consider replacing your current chair.

Consider your “back-drop” (i.e., what your telepractice client sees behind you) when freshening up your office space.  Does the wall behind you look interesting but not distracting? Have you considered using that wall space as a tool?  Here are some ideas you could try to implement using that space:

  • Hang a picture or photo alongside the space where the client sees your face
    • Change the picture or photo for each season, month, occasion
    • Be culturally sensitive if your clients do not celebrate holidays
  • Hang a small- to medium- sized whiteboard (no need for nails; hang with Velcro strips or hooks)
    • Choose a vocabulary word for the day and write it on the board
    • If your client enjoys emojis, you could draw or print out an emoji to clip/tape to the whiteboard
  • Hang a “green screen” to create a visual backdrop of some place in the world to generate discussion!  More and more clinicians are doing this.  You could be sitting in the middle of a jungle when your telepractice client signs on to the video-conferencing platform!
    • If you use ZOOM as your platform, you can achieve a similar result by having a plain wall behind you. You may need to tweak your wall color or your clothing to get ZOOM’s background to work well.

Now that Summer is here, relax and enjoy your time away from your school-aged clients.  After catching your breath and rejuvenating, consider some of the suggestions provided to help you look forward to spending time in your home-office as Fall will, eventually, arrive.  From rearranging furniture to reorganizing your digital materials, there are ways to make your office space work for you, allowing you to work smarter, not harder.