Necessity is the mother of invention according to Plato. No truer words could apply to the pandemic. And it has led to a litany of “inventions” or rather, innovations or adaptations. Now the question is which ones will stick? And what must be done to avoid any potential setbacks since most of these adaptations were put forth in haste?
For healthcare, telemedicine may be the first thing to come to mind. But that’s a subject for another time and another example of retrogression - a pandemic of its own in healthcare infrastructure. However, it does appear that healthcare is embracing remote work after being forced to adapt. The hope is that we will move forward in the remote work arena with diligence rather than allowing missteps that often come with changes under duress. And rather than being resistant to this shift, it’s wise to be informed and prepared.
If you were one of the many practices that added remote work as one of your pandemic innovations, take a moment and review the following to ensure the solution is truly beneficial in the long run, rather than creating another problem:
- Weigh the pros and cons for your practice. Will remote work save time and money? Will the lack of face to face supervision and access impede or improve productivity? Consider the pros and cons of remote work from the perspective of both the business and the employee.
- Do you have a remote work policy? If not, that should be the first thing on your list. You should include definitions of the different types of remote work - Occasional, Hybrid and Full time. This provides a framework to manage the expectations of your staff and help in decision making. Larger organizations with in-house human resources probably have this well-covered, but be careful not to skim over it. If you are with a smaller practice, there are many templates online from which you can draw or contact your PEO.
- What system, if any, was put in place to determine who could work remotely during the pandemic. Has that since changed? And if so, why? Obviously in healthcare, only the duties that do not require a physical presence should work remotely. A number of people have reported remote successes with data entry and billing positions because the work is easily measured. And measurable work is key in determining position suitability. These details should be clearly laid out in your remote work policy as well.
- It’s all about the people! This is the most important factor in determining feasibility and success of remote work. While there is limited useful data on remote work, my direct experience with it since 2001 has revealed that the majority of employees are simply not wired to work in relative isolation. We can all agree that even managing personal phone use right under your nose can be a challenge, so what might happen when they are completely out of sight? There are varying degrees of course, and a great deal of responsibility lies in the setup from the employer. If you do nothing else, consider whether or not the employee is naturally motivated and disciplined. What kind of track record do they have? Do they thrive in independence (emphasis on thrive)?
Buckle up. Remote work is here to stay and will expand. Are you ready?
Sherrie Roberts serves as the Practice Manager for Central Alabama Research and Life Style Management