Now more than ever, human service workers are diligently working to support families and individuals. Many have also transitioned to a remote working environment and are providing distance support services. This quick evolution has come with unique challenges. Perhaps you feel unprepared by the thought of how to provide remote support services.
It is easy to become overwhelmed when looking on the internet for advice on how to effectively complete remote work. While there are helpful tips, many blogs or advice columns do to not cover the breadth of work and anomalies that human services workers experience when working remotely with families and individuals.
Perhaps you are wondering things like:
- What are the tricks of the remote work trade for human service workers?
- How do you maintain a therapeutic relationship remotely?
- Can I still maintain good boundaries?
- Why are there always problems with the conference line!?
While each agency has policies and procedures in place, how we undertake the task of implementation in the real world is important.
To both assist you and limit the time you need to research and implement best practices related to remote work, we are taking the initiative to curate resources for you; with the hope that this reserve of collective and shared knowledge can relieve pressure in some small way. This is only the beginning of our remote work and telehealth series. We are further homing in on what our individual software users need as resources and will be parsing this information out in the days to come.
Remote Conferencing Tips
You are likely to have been instructed to use a vendor such as Zoom, Go-To-Meeting, Google Hangouts, etc. in order to connect with families and individuals. We have found the following tips helpful to make remote conferencing more successful.
- If using a computer for audio and video, consider either closing your email and instant messenger or muting those notifications. This will limit interruption. Outlook provides instruction on how to manage notifications.
- Some individuals may find using the app version on a phone easier than desktop and laptop versions.
- Ask the people that you are connecting with if you are speaking at a good volume.
With the transition to mobile work, many people are feeling inundated by emails. It may be helpful to set up automated filing of emails to manage this influx so as not to miss important messages from clients or supervisors. Outlook provides instruction on how to set up email folders.
Strategies for Developing Therapeutic Relationships
Accreditation organizations, evidence-based practice entities and oversite agencies are all issuing guidelines related to how to engage in and develop remote therapeutic relationships and the associated required documentation. Links to this advice is include below, and we will be continually updating this list.
- The National Association of Social Workers has published a helpful bulletin on COVID-19 and telehealth.
- Healthy Families America has published guidance on implementing telehealth in home visiting.
- The County of Santa Clara is fast tracking telehealth policies for behavioral health providers.
- The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has also expediated policies for behavioral health providers to implement telehealth.
What We Are Learning
Each day our team is debriefing and reflecting on lessons learned. This are some of our lived experiences so far.
- Learning to Prioritize on the Fly. What needs to be done immediately, in a few hours or in a few days. This is not a ‘business as usual’ situation, but one that needs constant reevaluation of priorities.
- Working Hard and Caring for Our Health. It is easy to get into a zone and accomplish work without the distraction of the office. However, getting up and walking around and ensuring the team stays connected is incredibly important.
- Balancing Working at Home with Family Responsibilities. Each team member is approaching this differently and what we learned is every team member understands and can be flexible and accommodate.
Capturing Your Lived Experience
Capturing human service workers experiences and how you are implementing telehealth and developing therapeutic relationships is crucial to add to the collective knowledge. We know you are busy and do not want to take away from the critical support you are providing. We are in the process of talking with our end users and partners to collect anecdotes on how they are implementing these strategies. If you have few minutes to pass on your knowledge, a tip or an anecdote we would love to listen. We will be posting your wisdom via Instagram, on our website and through newsletter notifications.
This post was written by Anna CK Erb, DSW, LCSW. Contact Anna (firstname.lastname@example.org), or any Advanced Metrics team member if you would like to share your current experiences.