Although the calendar reflects a new year, the challenges created by the pandemic still persist. The end is not in sight for office spaces to completely reopen, and for clinicians, many must still conduct wellness visits via telehealth from home.
Researchers have found unique challenges in the home office environment that differ from working in clinics or offices, including reduced productivity, procrastination, workplace interruptions, ineffective communication, and loneliness.1
To combat these challenges, clinicians who are establishing a home office should attempt to recreate their external office environment as much as possible in order to establish a productive workflow.
Home Office Essentials
Guided by recommendations published in the journal Work, the following examples are some essentials for working from home that clinicians should utilize to maximize their home office environments.2
Clinicians should prioritize the technology that facilitates their work from home, including:
- A monitor screen of adequate size and, for clinicians who use multiple screens in the workplace, a second screen, if possible.
- A quality internet connection, which may necessitate a mesh router depending on the configuration of the home.
- Noise-cancelling headphones for clinicians living in busy households with children or a Bluetooth speaker to play light background music.2
Proper ergonomics can reduce unnecessary workplace suffering.2 Clinicians should consider the following when it comes to conducting comfortable telehealth from home:
- A dedicated work station, such as a convertible standing desk or smart desk or both.
- A monitor stand that elevates screens to eye level, reducing neck strain.
- A comfortable chair that minimizes slouching and provides proper lumbar support.2
An organized environment is key when it comes to reducing the stress of working from home.2 Clinicians should consider investing in a cable organizer to reduce the havoc created by jumbled cords as well as a desk organizer to minimize clutter. Additional organization for a home office could be containers for pens, prescriptions pads, and patient record folders.
Clinicians may also consider these anxiety-reducing items:
- A stress ball
- Artwork or photos that are calming, such as pictures of snowy mountains or a tropical beach
- Aromatherapy via an essential oil diffuser.
- Comfortable seating away from the desk to take phone calls or conduct wellness visits.2
Clinicians should optimize their work environments to enhance wellness. This includes selecting a space with adequate lighting, preferably incorporating natural sunlight either through open windows or a natural sunlight lamp. Additionally, using a screen protector or yellow-tinted glasses can reduce the transmission of blue light, thereby decreasing circadian interference.
Adding a plant may also enhance wellness and create an environment of serenity.3 Recent research has shown that integrating an element of nature into the home office environment can help relieve the negative psychological impacts of telework.3
Recent research shows that working from home is associated with more sedentary behavior.4 With many gyms still closed or operating under reduced capacities and normal, pre-pandemic routines disrupted, it is easy for clinicians to lose sight of any pre-existing fitness routine.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following simple exercises that are doable within the confines of the home office setting:5
- Bodyweight squats
- Wall push-ups
- Single-leg stair step-ups
- Lateral shoulder raises using a water bottle for resistance
Clinicians may also want to consider adding fitness accessories to the home office including a jump rope, a set of free weights, or a cardio machine to promote exercise during the work day, such as in between calls or on a lunch break.5
Finally, clinicians should be mindful of creating a strict separation between their home office and their home at large, as researchers suspect that a clear delineation is key to promoting mental health in the working-from-home era.6 This means that when working hours are over, clinicians should be able to leave their office space and not return until the next morning, as they would an office in a hospital or clinic. Creating separate spaces not only structures the work day, it also signals the mind to switch from work to not-work, and ultimately promote enhanced work-life balance.6
- Wang B, Liu Y, Qian J, Parker S. Achieving effective remote working during the COVID‐19 pandemic: a work design perspective. Appl Psychol. Published online November 5, 2020. doi: 10.1111/apps.12290
- Lopez-Leon S, Forero DA, Ruiz-Díaz P. Recommendations for working from home during the pandemic (and beyond). Work. 2020;66(2):371-375.
- Craig CM, Neilson BN, Altman GC, Travis AT, Vance JA. Applying restorative environments in the home office while sheltering-in-place. Hum Factors. Published online January 7, 2021. doi: 10.1177/0018720820984286
- McDowell CP, Herring MP, Lansing J, Brower C, Meyer JD. Working from home and job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic are associated with greater time in sedentary behaviors. Front Public Health. 2020;8:597619.
- Shariat A, Cleland JA, Hakakzadeh A. Home-based exercise note in COVID-19 quarantine situation for office workers: a commentary. Work. 2020;66(2):381-382.
- Mojtahedzadeh N, Rohwer E, Lengen J, Harth V, Mache S. [Health-promoting work design for telework in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic]. Zentralbl Arbeitsmed Arbeitsschutz Ergon. Published online January 7, 2021. doi: 10.1007/s40664-020-00419-1