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COVID-19 Personal Wellbeing

Your wellbeing – Tips for Working Remotely

You can find more resources at CDSPI Member Assistance Program which is available to you, your family and team members. 

With severe travel and social distancing measures now firmly in place, dentists all across Canada find themselves in the unfamiliar position of having to work from home. Whether it’s consulting with patients over the phone, communicating with colleagues, or catching up with a backlog of paperwork, working remotely is a big change from the buzz of the dental office. It’s a way of working that is new to many of us, and if it’s not managed carefully, it can be quite the challenge.

In his video presentation Tips on Working Remotely, Ralph Schirg, an organizational psychologist from Minneapolis, discusses the challenges of working from home. He gives valuable insight into how to create a productive environment and make the transition to working remotely as smooth and as effective as possible.

Broadly speaking, Schirg raises three main areas of concern:

  1. How to set boundaries between work and personal life.
  2. How to manage yourself when working remotely.
  3. How to develop an effective communication strategy for your virtual team and for networking in general.

In establishing a boundary between work and personal life, Schirg stresses the importance of separating yourself. Create a physical space dedicated to work. An attic, a spare bedroom, a basement office. Make sure it is placed well away from household traffic, and is somewhere that you can leave and shut the door at the day’s end. Make it comfortable. Ergonomics are important, as are aesthetics. Get a comfortable chair. Hang your favorite pictures on the wall. Make sure there’s plenty of indirect light and fresh air. Set it up so it is efficient and keep it clean. Remember, this needs to be a place you want to go back to each morning. A place where you can be productive. Once in place, communicate this new boundary with the rest of the household. Help your family understand what you expect. Explain to them that when you are working you are not available. Consider taking breaks and meals in the same way you would if you were at the office. If you are used to taking an hour for lunch between 12pm and 1pm, then do the same at home. And don’t forget to quit at the same time too.

Maintain morning rituals. Develop a start-up routine. Even consider getting dressed up in your work clothing. Anything that will tell your brain: I am now getting prepared to go to work.

So, with your boundary clearly set and a home work space established, it’s time to think about how to best manage yourself in this new environment – your inner game, so to speak. How are you going to get motivated and stay focussed? How will you avoid procrastination and stay productive? Here, Schirg recommends sticking to established routines as much as possible. Maintain morning rituals. Develop a start-up routine. Even consider getting dressed up in your work clothing. Anything that will tell your brain: I am now getting prepared to go to work. List the tasks you hope to accomplish in any given day. Give yourself goals with deadlines and communicate these goals with colleagues with whom you are working with remotely. Make yourself as accountable as possible.

When it comes to staying connected with patients and team members, whether we like it or not, how we communicate is severely compromised for now. Thankfully, technology provides us with a number of solutions. Though nothing will ever quite replace the face-to-face interaction, applications such as Facetime, Zoom, Skype and Lync can go a long way to keep us connected. But with such a plethora of virtual options, from email to voicemail to teleconference to video conference, which technology should we use?

Schirg says it’s important to find out what works for you and your team. Track effectiveness through response rates and bear in mind the nuances of each medium. For email, keep subject lines clear and concise. Get to the point and be specific with regards to urgency. Instant messaging such as Skype or Lync can be a great way of keeping connections face-to-face, helping you, your staff and your patients feel as present as possible. When teleconferencing, make sure you secure a quiet location and avoid interruptions. Be as clear as you can and participate fully. And remember, with any form of virtual communication, there will be some issues. Emails may not always be answered as quickly as you would like. Decisions will be delayed. Projects may be postponed. What’s important is that you stay professional and respectful at all times and continue to create and develop relationships as you go.

Ralf Schirg’s full video presentation can be found at workhealthlife.com.

We welcome your thoughts, questions and/or suggestions about this post and other topics. Leave a comment in the box below or send us your feedback by email.

Until next time!
CDA Oasis Team

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