The COVID-19 pandemic has raised many new challenges for healthcare providers. One such challenge is how to successfully navigate the shift from working in an office environment to working from home.

For most healthcare workers, this is uncharted territory that can be filled with productivity pitfalls, time management challenges, communication inconsistency, and feelings of isolation. As we adjust to this new reality, below are some tips for your staff and your management team to stay focused, connected, and productive.

Tips for Team Members Working from Home

The biggest challenges we hear from team members not accustomed to telecommuting are:

  • Trouble managing their time
  • How to deal with distractions
  • Communication with team members
  • Keeping morale up

Maintain Your Schedule While Remote Working

Effective time management is critical to a successful work from home engagement. It can also be the most challenging to master.

Our first tip is to make sure you maintain your regular schedule, starting with waking up at the same time every day, getting dressed, and preparing for work. If you stay in PJs all day, it will be hard for your brain to get into work mode.

As you would in the office, schedule breaks, lunch, and time away from your desk periodically during the day. A lack of routine can leave room for unnecessary distractions.

Keep your calendar current so co-workers know when you are available and when you will be tied up avoiding unnecessary interruptions. It will also help you plan your day and stay on track with your projects and tasks.

Minimizing Distractions While Working at Home

Distractions are commonplace when working from home. Everything from a sink full of dishes begging to be washed, to puppy eyes pleading for a walk, to children or spouses demanding your time.

To limit distractions during your workday, it is important to set boundaries. Household chores that you would normally do during off-work hours should keep to the same schedule. Limit pet care such as feedings and walks to one of your daily breaks so it does not interfere with other work. Have a direct discussion with your spouse and children about disruptions during work hours.

Set up a quiet workspace with a comfortable chair. Make sure all the items you need to perform your job are at your fingertips. If your office space has a door keep it closed during work hours. Place a sign on the door to show whether you can be interrupted or not (e.g, stop or go, thumbs up or thumbs down). Click here to watch a quick video about Setting Up a Home office In a Tight Space.

Over Communicate with Your Co-Workers 

Working from home requires a significant amount of remote communication, whether that’s with your immediate supervisor, your team, or your patients. Communication tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting, or other conferencing technologies will become your best tools to stay connected.

  • Use video for meetings and calls. Being able to see your co-workers and interpret their responses with visual cues during meetings will help you stay more connected and avoid miscommunication.
  • Ask questions if you are not sure about something.
  • Communicate more than you think you need to. “Got it,” “I will take care of this,” “Will do” and “I’m starting on this now” are helpful communication phrases.
  • Schedule routine meetings or discussions with your manager and peers to keep projects progressing.

If you are meeting with patients for telehealth sessions, we recommend using a HIPAA-compliant solution for those interactions.

Keeping Up Morale While Working From Home

The sudden shift in our work environment can negatively impact team morale. Working from home means there may be no regular high-fives from your manager or teammates for a job well done. Although you’ll likely have ongoing contact with your coworkers, you still may feel isolated and there can be an occasional dip in your morale.

Virtual teambuilding can help replace valuable in-person forms of communication that are missing in the remote office environment. It will help increase the chance of talking to and interacting with each other to help us adapt to the remote work environment.

  • Be positive and willing to adapt to changes.
  • If you’re not feeling well, take a sick day and rest.
  • Get outside for fresh air. But make sure you practice social distancing.
  • Take the breaks you need for mindfulness or stretching.
  • Schedule time to move—Do flights of stairs, lunges, jumping jacks or high knees, or walk around the block, etc.

Working Remotely Tips for Managers

All the same advice applies to managers, but you also have some additional responsibilities. It is your job to keep the team engaged and on track. Here are some quick tips to help you do that.

  • Develop a plan for communication and provide the tools and software needed for team interaction.
  • Define your team’s plans for workflow, discussion of projects and communication.
  • Design and plan for technology policies for your team with a focus on network security, protection of confidential information, network capabilities and encrypted access to the company’s network.
  • Set boundaries and expectations for a team member’s availability, which should not be greater than their typical work schedule.
  • Schedule a daily stand up for your team to come together and connect. This is generally a short meeting with a brief roundtable to highlight status of projects and accomplishments. Having a daily reinforcement of sharing individual successes and plans keeps everyone excited about the Team’s overall contributions.
  • Have regular 1:1s with your Team Members.
  • Encourage regular contact with your team.

We are working in an unprecedented time. As we navigate our new (temporary) reality, we hope these tips come in handy and help your practice stay connected.

eMDs would like to express our thanks for all the healthcare workers fearlessly manning the frontlines. We appreciate you and are grateful for your dedication.