Author: Joe Morris, Writer, HealthStream
This blog post is based off of an Industry Insight Webinar: Disaster and Telehealth Privileging During the COVID-19 National Emergency
The concept of working remotely, or working from home (WFH), has gained a great deal of attention in recent years. For some industry sectors, it makes sense because employees are based around the country, even the world, and so keeping office space would be cost-prohibitive. For others, WFH is seen as an essential part of a competitive incentives package, particularly for Millennial and Generation Z employees.
And now, of course, WFH has become a reality for businesses of all types and sizes, including healthcare providers, say VerityStream’s Lisa Rothmuller, AVP for Consulting Services, and Kay Lynn Akers, Consulting Advisor. So, how to make the most of the situation? Start with technology, says Akers, who breaks it down into major categories:
Computers. If your employees don’t have company-issued laptops, can they bring their desktop machines home? What restrictions are there for using a home computer? Is there a VPN network to enhance security for remote operations?
Internet connection. Does a home office have the right speed for web and video conferencing? Is the home network and router configuration properly password protected?
Telephones. According to the CDC, only 43 percent of American households had a landline as of the end of 2018. Will employees use company issued or personal cell phones, web-calling programs or some other communication method?
Printers. In medical staff offices, there could be sensitive, personal health information being received. So when allowing staff to work remotely, printing documents must be very clearly communicated. So, if your organization is not paperless yet, this should also be considered.
Peripherals: Don’t forget things like pens, notepads, cables, mice, mouse pads, headphones, monitors and all the other things found in the regular office workspace.
Program access: Do employees need VPN to access network files, programs? Can you use One Drive or SharePoint or other solutions for centralized secure documents storage?
Technical concerns aside, a WFH situation can also be greatly enhanced — or diminished — by the setup of the physical location.
“The area you work in when remote affects how successful you may be,” Akers says. “Where will you be working in your home? You want to locate or identify a location which is comfortable, yet if possible separate from where others may be roaming about and causing interruptions.”
And whether you're using a home office, a dining room table, kitchen table or office desk think about ergonomics, she notes, pointing out that “eight hours or more is sitting on the couch with a laptop is definitely not ergonomic.”
There are many other areas to consider when mapping out what’s expected in a WFH setting, Rothmuller says.
“When the decision is made to become remote, you need to have policies and set expectations regarding the work schedule for your remote employees. If you're a medical staff office, a CVO or an office that supports them and you're available between certain working hours, then plan the remote coverage for those hours as well,” she explains. “If one employee works 7-to-4 in the office, then those are the expected hours they will be available and working at home. Be sure that those are communicated and tracked and when there are slips in coverage time, talk to the employee to be sure they're clear on what those expectations are.”
“It's also important to identify the tools that will be used during those set work hours,” she continues. “For example, if a medical staff coordinator typically uses their credentialing software during those hours, it's expected that while they are in working from home, they are in the system as well. Do they need to be available by phone chat, email as well during those hours? Make sure this is clear with each of your remote employees.”
And finally, some tips and tricks to help people settle into a WFH environment, and to achieve success if they continue to work remotely over time.
It’s also not too soon to begin considering the lessons employees and employers are learning now. When the pandemic ends, what will be next in terms of remote work? A result of this forced experience may result in more employers having WFH as a popular and effective option moving forward, Akers says.
“Your employees are going to feel that they're trusted, that you've trusted them to do their work at home,” she says. “And it also gives them flexibility. Maybe if it doesn't matter that I work 8-to-5, I can start work at 6 a.m. because I have a dental appointment in the middle of my day. So I have that flexibility to work maybe when it's convenient, as long as it doesn't conflict with me completing my work.”