Top tips for remote working at home as a GP or part of the primary care team.

So this is a new world….

Some of you will have never worked from home before and under these challenging times, it can be hard to know how to gauge this or where to start.

I have devised some top tips (with help from Dr Laura McCarthy of Affinity Care, Bradford) which may assist staff in organising their day, managing their workload and most importantly looking after their own health.

Should you be required to self isolate due to your own or family member’s symptoms you may be asked to do some tasks remotely if you are well enough. 

IMPORTANT RULES

NO GUILT – This is public health advice to control and reduce the spread of Covid-19, and staff are not off through choice. Therefore, urge every member of staff to follow the guidance to the letter, report symptoms and isolate when required and to do the best they can.

NO JUDGEMENT–  Urge all members of staff to be kind to each other, respect the importance of self-isolation and support members of staff who need to do this. I am sure all our times will come before this crisis has passed. 

How to stay productive if you’re working from home in Primary Care

Continue your routine 🔁

Like getting dressed, waking up at the normal time you would for work. Wear ‘work’ clothing to keep you in that mindset and help you ‘switch off’ when you have finished. 

Pick a spot 🪑

Having a dedicated space to work. normally a dining table or a quiet room. Do not use your bed or sofa as it is important to maintain separation between your place of work and sleep/relaxation.

Focus 🔬

Use headphones to support focused working at home if suitable, particularly if you have a busy home. 

Light environment ☀️

A light and bright environment can be really useful to maintain wellbeing. If you are someone who thrives off natural light, try to work in a space near windows when self-isolating. However, this space may need to change if video consulting or video conferencing for clinical or management staff wary of the background).

Healthy comfort 🖱️

Standing desks may not be fully used in practices but this could easily be part of your home routine. Consider how you can vary the way you work to be comfortable and less sedentary. Also make sure you have suitable equipment like keyboard or mouse rests, web conferencing equipment etc. 

Eat as you would at work 🍎

Choose healthy meals with fixed meal times and breaks. This helps reduce endless snacking which can cause big sugar lows. Also what you eat can significantly impact how you feel; Ie. sugar and caffeine can increase your stress levels. 

Stay hydrated 🥤

Ensure you take regular water breaks, increasing your water intake can improve your brain agility and ability to make decisions. While caffeine keeps us all going it increases heart rate and cortisol levels which can affect sleep, increase stress.

Do what you can 👪

Understand that working from home may have distractions or others present. Some of this may be out of your control especially moving forward if schools/nurseries close (if you want ideas to pass their time consider boardgames 😁 )  Consider scheduling a work from home rota with a partner/relative if you are self-isolating together in order to care or supervise children.

Do what you would normally do 📖

You should not be expected to take on tasks you are not trained to do. If there are any adaptations to your usual work ensure you have had appropriate training. With the pace of change, it can feel difficult to speak bu, but if you do not there is a greater risk of harm than just muddling on. Also sharing your challenges may help others. 

Be kind to yourself 🙂

We will all be working in ways we are not used to, change can be exhausting therefore give yourself time to settle into your new routine.

Boundaries ✋

Ensure others in your home understand that you are working from home therefore to respect the boundaries you put in place. This can be challenging with the children off school. 

Distractions 📱

It is important we all reflect on how much information we wish to digest and where we choose to get our information. Use social media for good, find positivity and maintain contact. Avoid things that make you feel anxious, stressed or ‘fake news’. Having a constant update on headlines via the news may also make it difficult to concentrate or increase your stress levels. Consider adding limits to your social media accounts and news feeds. Apps like Forest can support this work and do not have to be downloaded on your work device. 

Notifications 🔔

Switch off notifications, however, schedule a set time to check relevant information routes like emails, WhatsApp etc.

Ensure compliance with information governance and data sharing 🔗

Remember you will be working with confidential data but in a less secure environment. Make sure you have read the data security policy and ensure you take measures to ensure there are no data breaches. Devices must not be left unattended or have other patient records open.  When working at home be careful not to allow family members and visitors to view any of the screens or be in earshot to any conversations you are having with patients over the phone

Wash your hands regularly 🧼

Washing your hands with soap for 20 seconds and using clean dry towels to dry them is important. Do this regularly throughout the day, especially before eating, after going outside.

Outdoor time 🕶️

If you have a garden or an outdoor space, try to make use of it. Take a coffee break, meditate there as long as you maintain social distancing. Being outdoors helps us be mindful, provides vitamin d and can be a massive stress reliever. Apps like Calm, Headspace and Daylight all have better offers for healthcare professionals. 

Take an actual break ⏲️

Do not spend your break doing ironing, washing, cooking etc. Plan your tasks but ensure you are taking time out for yourself. Regular screen breaks are important. Set yourself a set time for lunch, make a soothing cuppa, read a book, do some yoga or meditate. The work will still be there when you are back. Pomodoro timers can be really effective at helping with this productivity technique of focused bursts of 25 minutes with a 5-minute break

If you feel unwell, STOP. 🤒

Let your team know you will not be working from home again until you feel better. If looking after dependents or a household member with symptoms is taking up your time, again only do what you can do or STOP.

Embrace the change 🤗

Getting used to the new normal helps us all deal with stress, therefore, try to get into a new routine as quickly as possible, take advantage of not having a commute to build something new into your day, try meditation, try starting early so you can finish early, actually eat breakfast.

Work together 🧑🏽‍🤝‍🧑🏼

With self-isolation and social distancing likely to be the norm for the next few weeks, it can be easy to feel isolated. Speak up and make changes to keep the team working. If working remotely, try a daily ‘dial in’ time to speak with the team (the COVID updates are a good opportunity). Have daily challenges or ‘joke of the day’ and such to keep everyone part of our amazing teams. 

Adapted from Dr Laura McCarthy of Affinity Care, Bradford. 

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