How to Work From Home as a Dental Professional

With the pandemic, many of us have had to rethink our usual working lives as dental professionals and have needed to work from home (WFH) ... but how can you do this?

How can a Clinician even WFH?

A dentist, WFH... how can that even work? This has been the response from many of my friends and family when I say I have been working from home more during the pandemic. 

But WFH isn't new within the profession and has been an option for many non-clinical roles within dentistry, for example:
  • Academia such as examining, lecturing or research
  • Dento-legal advisors
  • Roles such as Clinical Fellowships, Dental Practice Advisors for NHS England and Improvement, roles within other organisations such as the GDC, HEE, LDCs or the BDA
  • Consultancy or freelance work
Even if you don't have any of the roles described above, there are aspects of clinical work that have pivoted to being able to be do remotely, especially since the pandemic. Roles of practice management, clinical directorship, even triaging patients or providing telephone consultations are all aspects of work dental professionals are able to be done offsite - so long as the appropriate information governance is adhered to. 

During the height of the pandemic, I did almost 3 days of WFH helping with the setting up and administration of our local UDCs, research, and teaching as part of my MSc. Luckily, the previous year I held a non-clinical role, so this working arrangement was not a huge shock to the system (apart from the pandemic part of things!). WFH can be a challenge, without a list of patients to structure your day, lots of distractions and not being surrounded by colleagues.

8 Top Tips when WFH

1. Structure your day

Make sure you spend some time every day working out a structure for the day and what goals you would like to achieve so that you feel like you have had a productive day at the end! I like to do this on a whiteboard or a notepad at the beginning of the day - a bit like looking at a daylist for a list of patients. Segregate time periods out for working on certain tasks so you can work productively and focus on specific tasks, rather than repeatedly refreshing your outlook!

2. Keep in touch with colleagues

It can be lonely working alone from home. Schedule in check in calls/Zooms with colleagues to keep connected and support each other. You can also schedule in calls that aren't just work related, but a general catch up and an activity. For example, in Lockdown 1, my partner's work organised a weekly 'Pub Quiz' over Zoom which was great fun... I usually joined in too!

3. Have a separate working space

Working from home makes it hard to set those boundaries between work and personal life. Having a set working area can help separate these, for example an office or desk. Avoid working while lying in bed, on your sofa or other areas in your home which you use for down time to relax. Otherwise you can start associating these areas with work. 

4. Take breaks

In your daily schedule, make sure to set time aside for breaks. It can be tempting to just keep on working, or eat lunch at your desk. But you deserve to give yourself breaks in the day. If you can take time to go outside for a walk or sit in your garden if you have one to change up your scenery and get your body moving.

5. Stick to Information Governance policies

If you are handling any patient sensitive information at home, for example triaging or doing telephone consultations, make sure to adhere to your employer's data protection and information governance protocols. For example, only accessing patient information on a secure network or laptop, or having a private space to call patients to maintain confidentiality. 

6. Create a morning and end of day routine

As you won't have a commute, create routines at the start and the end of the day to get your head into, and out of work! This can be by doing some exercise, a hot drink, setting up and tidying up you work desk for example. Let colleagues know if you're signing out of the day so they know not to contact you beyond this time. 

7. Have separate work phones numbers and email addresses

Another way to ensure you stick to boundaries, try to have separate phone numbers and emails for work and for personal use so you can switch the work ones off outside of worktime!

8. If you're sick.... you're sick!

And finally, if you're sick, that means you shouldn't force yourself to work! If you wouldn't physically go into work because of sickness, why is it that we try to force ourselves to work from home from our sick beds. Rest, recuperate until you are well and THEN get back to work!

Do you have any experiences or tips when working from home ? Let me know in the comments below. 

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