DDN May2021 May 2021 | Page 21

‘ We know that there are digital exclusion concerns for many service users , but we also know that many hard-to-reach service users may be more inclined to engage via this method .’
people ’ s faces . Some of these could pass as rookie errors early on but it ’ s disappointing to see them continue as time passes . I get it – online work is fatiguing and sometimes we can ’ t face putting our videos on . Sometimes it ’ s the equipment failing to support the work – poor Wi-Fi connection , microphone issues , camera not working . These aspects are so important to sort out before you can really commit to online working . I regularly encourage people to ask themselves – would I do this if I was in a face-to-face setting ? If the answer is no , then the same should apply to our online etiquette too . You would wait for the break to grab a drink or have a smoke , and you make eye contact and introduce yourself to a guest that is attending your team meeting . We do need to make the same effort in the online world .
Switching to online working is not merely substituting the meeting room for a virtual one . There has to be consideration for the nuances of this work and the challenges it ultimately brings . Expect adjustments to the way we work and the workload – organisations should embed a support structure for the workforce to ensure that online work is conducted in the safest and most supportive way possible . It almost seems that we have more meeting demands as geographical boundaries are removed , and there ’ s now the expectation that you will squeeze every minute of your day into some online interaction .
We know that there are many challenges to remote working including online fatigue , so it ’ s important to schedule those ‘ watercooler ’ moments or small breaks into our day just as we would in the office environment . Block out your diary to protect your time – after a morning of running online groups book in ample debrief and note-writing time , and if you know your concentration levels may be lower in the afternoon protect that time in your diary so it ’ s not hijacked for another meeting .
It ’ s important that careful consideration is made each and every time we are on camera . It does involve being organised and putting yourself in the shoes of the person on the receiving end . We do need to think about the context . Whilst I am more relaxed with my colleagues I have different standards for any external meetings , training or online interventions I attend or deliver .


1 . I know this seems obvious but PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SET UP . It takes just one tenth of a second for someone to make a judgement of you . This is influenced online by all aspects of lighting , sound , camera angle , and your background !
2 . BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR ABILITY TO USE THE TECHNOLOGY . Be familiar with the platform you are using . This can be achieved through practice and watching online tutorials . Over apologising or making comments about not knowing what you are doing puts doubt in the other person ’ s mind , even when you are handling things well .
3 . TALK TO THE CAMERA . This is by far the trickiest part of online working and the most fatiguing part too . It also takes a lot of practice and initially feels very awkward . The most natural thing for people to do is look at the other person ( or yourself ) on the screen . However if you consider how you look to the person , you may look disinterested or like you are talking to their chest . Remember when you look into the camera you are connecting to the other person through appropriate eye contact which helps to build rapport and shows you are listening and engaged .
4 . HAVE EVERYTHING TO HAND THAT YOU NEED before you start the call . This includes paper , pen and any documents you want to refer to in the session . KEEP
With the rush to get online it seems that the considerations for set up may have suffered .
It ’ s essential that we ensure data protection for our service users and that starts with the policies and procedures that support online working . It also means that when remote working we must take confidentiality as seriously as we would in person . We should ensure a confidential space where the conversation will not be overheard or interrupted , and if you can ’ t guarantee this , then some adjustments need to be made . I have two young children and I appreciate the challenges that this year has brought to privacy and disruption in the home . Although many service users are forgiving of interruptions we do need to protect that virtual therapeutic space . Over time these blips can add up , and if not properly addressed cause the service user to lose confidence in the system .
Finally , although online fatigue is a real issue at the moment I would encourage those interested in working effectively online to continue this work . We know that there are digital exclusion concerns for many service users , but we also know that many hard-to-reach service users may be more inclined to engage via this method . At DrinkCoach we have been able to engage women and a younger cohort as well as working professionals through our online work . I hope the sector can continue to offer online as an option and maximise the benefits of online interventions , not just out of necessity but because it has value to our [ potential ] service users .
Angela Calcan is operations manager for DrinkCoach at Humankind Charity
A CLOCK IN SIGHT as time passes very quickly online .
5 . VIRTUALLY WALK YOUR SERVICE USER IN AND OUT OF THE ROOM . We spend time in face-to-face settings greeting the service user , making them a cup of tea and asking about their journey . Incorporate this into your online routine to make them feel comfortable . At the end spend a few minutes checking their plans for the day / week to gauge how they are feeling . This small talk can often soften the harsh ending of the online call .
6 . KEEP CONFIDENTIALITY AND DATA SECURITY IN MIND at all times . This includes where you deliver the session , where and how you store your notes , how you send and receive information and what devices / platforms you use to communicate . Your organisational policies and procedures should guide you on this . Any deviation from your organisational guidelines can risk an unintentional data breach .
7 . Reflect on the experience of working online and CREATE A FEEDBACK LEARNING LOOP . Collect service user feedback and take a problem-solving approach . Collate the questions / comments and put together a guide to mitigate the common occurring ones . This puts confidence in your service and can help to address barriers for service users .