Jackie Larson, President, Avantas
With more than 20 years of experience providing outsourced staffing and scheduling services for healthcare organizations, Avantas knows the importance of a disaster-preparedness plan. When COVID-19 forced Avantas itself to implement an extended, fully remote structure, we knew it was necessary that our internal plan must also ensure that our partners’ needs were fully met. In order to meet that goal, the needs of our own remote based team had to be addressed first.
Monday, March 16th, 2020 was the last day our scheduling analysts worked together in the same office. As COVID-19 intensified, we made the decision to transition to a fully remote Resource Management Center in order to maintain our operational model and keep staff safe.
Since then, healthcare organizations around the country have either adopted their own extended work from home (WFH) models or are now considering them for their scheduling and staffing personnel.
Implementing a WFH model requires careful planning that includes flexibility and adaptability. Such a plan must consider basic equipment needs, how teams communicate, how to increase productivity in a home office, and more.
As such, valuable lessons learned during and after implementation can help provide future direction on how to make these programs more successful.
In order for staff to conduct business as usual in a home office setting, it’s important that they have access to the same equipment they use when in the office. Important considerations include a dedicated space with the following:
If working from home is expected for an extended amount of time, home office spaces should not be treated as a temporary fix. In order to be productive, comfort is also key.
As one Avantas Staffing Analyst learned:
“Within the first week, I had to get a real office chair because I was having terrible back pain and bought a sturdy desk at the same time. I bought actual monitors similar to what we have in the office because of the amount of applications we utilize, and I purchased risers to keep my monitors at a good neck posture level. I now know how much your comfort with your work surroundings affects your work, even at home.”
In addition to equipment needs, it’s imperative that common, frequently used applications are also set up for a remote working environment. Consideration should include:
One of the biggest changes for an organization who is transitioning to remote operations and a WFH structure is the impact on communications between teams and/or other organizational groups. Working remotely means staff lose the ability to ask questions “over the wall” or overhear important discussions that may impact their work.
At the same time, other organizational groups will need to adjust how they communicate with a remote based group. Meetings and discussions will need to be scheduled ahead of time and structured in a way to allow virtual participation:
Adjusting to virtual communications will take time. Both staff and the organization must work together to find a proper fit.
One Avantas Scheduling Analyst described the experience as follows:
“It took a bit of a learning curve to get everyone on the same page when it came to communicating with each other. We were somewhat used to messaging each other as we would do that if we were on the phones in the office. But since we couldn’t talk to each other across the aisle, it made it a bit of a challenge to get the communication to the other team members in a timely manner as well as receive/read messages as urgently.”
Feelings of isolation and “remoteness” are common when transitioning to an extended WFH model, as are concerns on how to maintain staff productivity when not working onsite.
Combining self-care and encouraging virtual activities designed to promote interaction, connectivity and camaraderie can have surprising benefits. One organization found both its higher and lower performers increased their productivity and engagement when they transitioned to a 100% WFH model.
Key considerations for managing this cultural shift include:
When considering a transition to a WFH model for staffing personnel, each organization will have different needs and processes to consider to ensure a successful transition. At the same time, productivity metrics and KPIs may also need to be adapted to fit a WFH structure. The team at Avantas is able to provide customized recommendations and expertise to any organization considering such a transition. Contact us to discuss how we may be able to help.