Successful Hybrid Work Schedules for Health Care Orgs Depend on Communication
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Successful Hybrid Work Schedules for Health Care Orgs Depend on Communication


The argument over remote and hybrid work is over. There’s no need to continue weighing the pros and cons. Instead, it’s time to recognize that a growing majority of workers expect hybrid work options, and companies, including in the health care space, plan to provide them.

That said, organizations are still figuring out what their hybrid work environments will look like and how that will affect management and communication styles. It’s going to take time, trial and error, data analytics, and new tools to keep teams engaged, productive, and happy.

Defining a Hybrid Work Environment

First, let’s define hybrid work. At its simplest, it’s a combination of on-site and remote work. What it looks like differs from one organization to the next, or even from one employee to another. Usually, team members spend a certain amount of time in the office, hospital, or clinic while working their remaining hours in a variety of environments and locations.

Hybrid work may involve schedules other than the typical 9-to-5, especially for those working in health care. For example, some organizations allow their employees the flexibility to determine their business hours and which days they visit the office.

Understanding the inherent flexibility of approaches within hybrid work environments is critical. Organizations have almost endless possibilities to choose from, which means they should be thoughtful in establishing policies that work best for both their staff and patients.

Managers and other leaders must also recognize the possible hurdles. A hybrid work environment means, at any given time, you’ll have team members scattered across the region and working at different hours of the day. As a result, leaders must address obvious management, productivity, communication, and cybersecurity challenges, regardless of the industry.

Is Hybrid Work Really the Future?

Accenture found 83% of employees surveyed preferred a hybrid work model, defined as working remotely between 25% and 75% of the time. Thirty-four percent of them strongly agreed that remote work made them feel safer, which we may assume has something to do with COVID-19.

Respondents strongly agreed on other factors:

  • A better quality of life (32%)
  • More freedom in their schedules (31%)
  • Technology making remote work effective (30%), and
  • Sufficient workspace at home (28%)

Workers want hybrid options, so how are employers responding? Accenture found 63% of high-growth companies were already allowing staff to work anywhere.

McKinsey & Company came to a similar conclusion after surveying 100 executives across geographic regions and industries. Nine out of 10 organizations were combining on-site and remote work, and most organizations had already started to think and articulate the particulars of hybrid work to their teams.

And what about in health care? The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions found since the pandemic began, most employers either plan to or have started implementing new work methods. As of 11/2020, 78% of respondents had plans or had begun implementation, and another 9% were already introducing new ways of working.

The Challenges of Hybrid Work in the Health Care Industry

1. Post-pandemic workload

Unfortunately, as health care organizations consider hybrid work options, they also face a massive workload due to pandemic medical countermeasures.

Health care organizations, and their in-house legal departments, in particular, have to address several key issues:

  • Compliance issues: The health care industry has benefitted from several enforcement waivers during the pandemic, including waivers related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Stark Law, and the Anti-Kickback Statute. As these waivers come to an end, organizations must fully comply.
  • Employment issues: Employers must decide what they will do regarding individuals refusing vaccinations, possible terminations, and potential wrongful termination claims.
  • Anti-trust issues: Organizations that collaborated with competitors out of necessity must revert to previous, non-collaborative arrangements.
  • Accessibility issues: Organizations must reevaluate communication and accessibility for patients and colleagues, including concerning telehealth services

From local providers to large hospital systems, every business will have a great deal of work to do as they transition out of the pandemic—fingers crossed—soon.

2. Culture

The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions surveyed 100 health care employees and interviewed 13 chief human resources officers. It found maintaining an organizational culture was a top concern: 59% of employees felt less able to build camaraderie with coworkers during remote work.

HR leaders aren’t sure yet how they’ll foster working relationships and mentorships, and they’re worried it’ll affect collaboration, innovation, and productivity. This is especially true in some health care areas where travelers have been hired as temporary employees and others have come out of retirement during the pandemic.

3. Varied work-from-home experiences

Deloitte uncovered generational differences in productivity while working from home. Younger generations may feel more productive compared to baby boomers.

Then there’s the question of how managers will review performance without as much face-to-face interaction or supervision. Millennials are more worried about how their managers will measure their performance than baby boomers.

There are gender differences, too. More often than men, women reported liking working from home, having an easier time building camaraderie, and finding communication with leadership effective.

4. Mental health

Employers are focusing on their employees’ mental and spiritual health and well-being. Burn-out and working too much are constant threats—particularly for the health industry over the past year and a half. Many employees who shift to remote work find it hard to establish boundaries and separate work from the other aspects of their life.

Communication is a Fundamental Problem-Solver

Health care leaders understand they have a lot of work to do before building a sustainable hybrid work model. One aspect of that work is fostering communication and connection among team members.

McKinsey found “microtransactions” sustained or improved productivity during remote work. Colleagues who touched base to network, mentor, or chat about a project built stronger connections and remained productive.

The conclusion is that employers should design a work model that gives employees the tools and opportunities to have small interactions with one another. That will require enterprise collaboration software that keeps everyone within arm’s reach, so to speak.

K&L Gates follows the same train of thought. Desirée Moore, Partner and Director of Professional Development of K&L Gates, an International AmLaw 100 firm, discussed how her firm fostered connection and shared experiences during the ILTACON Tuesday keynote, “Talent Development in a Hybrid Work Environment.” For example, weekly check-ins started with good news from each participant, and summer associates went through digital programs that helped them meet other lawyers in an approachable way.

Virtual Collaboration Tools for Anyone, Anywhere

It’s one thing to acknowledge that communication and connection are essential to hybrid work and another thing entirely to give employees the right business collaboration tools and opportunities.

Instant messaging

To begin with, employees rely on real-time collaboration. But legal professionals and other leaders in health care organizations have the added burdens of security and privacy concerns. Their teams can’t download just any chat function. Instead, they need a solution like NetDocuments’ ndThread or ChatLink that ensures conversations are categorized, organized, and protected based on pertinent regulations and information governance policies.

For example, one of our nation’s largest public universities takes advantage of ndThread to privately and quickly connect more than 200 lawyers and legal professionals across its campuses and offices.

Historically, the university’s legal teams shared document management and enterprise legal management systems yet remained separate in all other ways. The result was as annoying as you can imagine. Everyone struggled to collaborate efficiently.

The university, a decade-long user of NetDocuments, chose ndThread and encouraged desktop and mobile adoption. The tool quickly gave every team member access to each other from anywhere. Even better, ndThread offers flexibility in organizing channels, groups, and conversations. The tool also automatically records and classifies conversations, saving time immediately and in future document review projects.

Secure remote access

The point of remote work is to be able to do your job anywhere, even if that means your child’s piano lesson, your dentist’s office, or a working vacation. As a cloud-based digital document solution, individuals can access NetDocuments anywhere without forgoing security and compliance. Additionally, NetDocuments has advanced security features to prevent breaches, leaks, or unauthorized use of data, including additional encryption options.

A centralized workspace

A common issue for organizations with communication and collaboration tools is the lack of a single source of truth. Conversations about a particular issue inevitably take place in various IMs, email threads, and document notes. The real danger is that the separate conversations end up stored in different places, including inaccessible and unsecure personal devices.

If teams don’t keep track of it all, information slips through the cracks, wasting peoples’ time and efforts. Not to mention, disorganized information creates a nightmare for in-house legal teams handling accreditation, audits, discovery, or any other scenario requiring document retrieval.

NetDocuments’ document management system (DMS) and task-tracking systems solve the problem of siloed information. Team workspaces offer central locations to view and search documents, emails, IMs, and more. They are customizable based on employee duties, clients, or projects to ensure privacy and compliance with regulations and information governance policies. Most importantly, the enterprise search feature, powered by tagging and metadata, makes finding information almost instantaneous.

An accessible and secure single source of truth keeps everyone on the same page, at all times, no mater where and when they work, and allows in-house legal teams to breathe a sigh of relief.

When no one can tell if you’re working remotely. That’s Work Inspired.

Collaborating with coworkers should never be a hassle, whether it’s about an urgent matter or a fun teambuilding activity. Employees need communication tools that enable them to interact throughout the day no matter where they are because each microtransaction builds connection and culture.

If your team is ready to explore NetDocuments’ collaboration software, reach out today to schedule a demo.

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