Congratulations! You have decided to provide telepractice therapy services, but you may be wondering how to set up your home office. There are a number of things to consider that impact comfort, professional appearance, and confidentiality as a whole. Let’s take a look at each consideration and how to address it.

Therapy Space and Confidentiality

  • Where should I set up my office in my home? 
  • Can I work from my kitchen? 
  • Should I work from my living room? 
  • What about using a spare bedroom?

It is recommended that your telepractice “space” is a room with a door you can close to avoid interruptions and distractions (e.g., children, pets, spouses). Closing the door during service provision is important to provide confidentiality as stated in ASHA’s Code of Ethics and to meet HIPAA guidelines. Confidentiality should also include how you are able to access the therapy platform you are using. The Verge Learning platform requires a password or code to log into the encrypted system assisting with HIPAA compliance.

Other considerations include choosing a room that is as close to your Wi-Fi router as possible if your computer is not directly connected to your router. Connecting your computer via Ethernet cable to your router not only improves your connection speed and stability but also assists in avoiding any hackable transmission of information (i.e., relying on Wi-Fi without a password or using public Wi-Fi). 

Your office space should be clear of distracting items (e.g., piles of laundry, toys), and away from household noises/sounds (e.g., TV room, children’s playroom, kitchen).

If you use a spare bedroom as your office, avoid having the bed in the background. I have used a tri-screen room divider to hide a bed when I could only configure my desk a specific way in a bedroom. I have also hung curtains from the ceiling behind me to block the view.

It is important to provide a professional image to your clients and having a bed in the background, especially an unmade bed or one full of laundry, does not create that impression.

Lighting

Many therapists have expressed questions about lighting. 

  • Should I sit by a window for natural light? 
  • Should I have a lamp on/near my desk? 
  • Do I need to invest in a ring light? 

The best answer is to avoid sitting directly in front of a window that has sunlight pouring in because it can make you look “washed out” on camera. Sitting with a window directly behind you is not recommended because then you may appear as a silhouette to your client.  

My recommendation is to sit perpendicular to a window with your desk at a 90-degree angle. As the sun goes down, it helps to have a lamp off to the side of your desk. It isn’t necessary to purchase a ring light unless you feel it provides the best visibility of your face.  

Whatever you choose, view yourself on your computer camera to see what options provide the best viewing.  Avoid creating shadows across your face that could interfere with telepractice service delivery (e.g., visibility of your articulators’ movements).

 

A teletherapy office setup - includes a laptop computer with an additional monitor to the right with two speakers below it. To the right of that, you will see a file folder rack with files in it. To the left you will see a personal fan and other office supplies.
EXAMPLE SETUP: Sitting perpendicular to a window allows for the use of natural light without causing your image to be washed out or to appear as a silhouette.   

Background

  • What should be visible behind me while working? 

If possible, avoid having anything distracting behind you while you are on camera (e.g., “busy” photo as your virtual background, posters) unless you are using it for telepractice purposes. 

I have a blank wall behind me while providing therapy. If I want to use a virtual background, the wall won’t interfere or distort the image. I can even hang a green sheet of fabric behind me if I want to introduce a “green screen” activity.

Organization

  • How can I make providing teletherapy less challenging for myself?

Providing teletherapy services means that your office space isn’t just a physical space. It’s a digital one too! It can be tricky juggling data collection, therapy scheduling, therapy material selection, and student information. Have you found yourself opening multiple windows and hunting for all of your therapy components? Looking to switch from real-world objects to digital items to reduce office clutter? You can even collect data digitally rather than using a pencil and paper method. Choosing the right therapy platform, such as Verge Learning, can help you stay organized and relaxed so you can do what you do best: support your clients.

Ergonomics

  • What type of ergonomics should I consider when purchasing a desk chair? 

Keep in mind that you will be spending a lot of time in your office chair while providing telepractice services, so you’ll want something that is comfortable, adjustable, stable, and supports you well. 

The desk chair should support the natural “S” shape of your spine to reduce stress on the back and pelvis. An adjustable backrest is an important component and should adjust both vertically and in the frontward/backward direction with firm lumbar support. Adjust the height so that your feet rest flat on the floor or on a footrest and your thighs are parallel to the floor.

The keyboard and mouse should be used at a height that keeps your wrists straight, your upper arms close to your body, and your hands at or slightly below the level of your elbows as described by Mayo Clinic. Adjust armrests so your arms gently rest on them with your shoulders relaxed.

The seat should be wide enough to allow you to have even pressure across the entire seat area. An adjustable seat angle allows you to support your feet on the floor without putting pressure on the back of the knees. The seat surface should be made of breathable materials. 

Mayo Clinic also recommends setting up the monitor so that the top of the screen is at or slightly below eye level. If you wear bifocals (like me), lower the monitor an additional 1 to 2 inches for more comfortable viewing and place the monitor so that the brightest light source is to the side.

When choosing your home office space, consider how you would arrange your desk and chair in relation to the items in the room (e.g., windows, lamps, doors), the confidentiality of the space, as well as the ergonomics of your seating. This is where you will be spending hours of your time, so why not make it as comfortable and as professional as possible? Also consider using digital tools, such as those provided with a subscription to Verge Learning, to stay organized. With a few considerations, you can be ready to provide telepractice services from the comfort of your own home!

What has been the most challenging aspect of setting up your home office?

Tracy Sippl, M.S., CCC-SLP
Teletherapy Consultant at Verge Learning
XceptionalED Leader at XceptionalED

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