How To Adapt To A Flexible Work Schedule In Healthcare
Learning to adapt to a flexible work schedule in healthcare became even more important with the outbreak of Covid-19 at the beginning of 2020. We quickly saw that the healthcare sector is in dire need of reorganization and restructuring.
Nurses, physicians, and other medical staff were overworked, and many countries experienced a lack of medical professionals. Since patient care is always a priority in healthcare, staff coverage and proper scheduling are crucial.
Let’s dive in and look deeper into all the ways the healthcare sector can adapt to flexible work schedules.
1. Choose the right flexible schedule
When we mention work flexibility, we immediately think of “work from home” scenarios. But, how does a doctor work remotely?
In healthcare, locational flexibility might not be the best option, but that doesn’t mean you can’t offer flexibility in terms of schedules: shift working, job sharing, compressed workweeks, alternating days off, flex time models, etc.
Of course, non-medical staff like administration or HR could be allowed to work remotely full-time or to adopt a hybrid work model - some days in their office, and others from home or remotely.
Try to include your employees in the scheduling process, and encourage team collaboration as much as possible.
2. Use technology to your advantage
Take advantage of tools to help you organize and structure your staff schedules and keep track of it all. For instance, a healthcare scheduling app can be a great way to simplify staff schedules, provide shift coverage, and find last-minute replacements.
Such tools can also help you track and record hours worked, generate reports, and even calculate payrolls and budgets. And, the best news is that tools like these can streamline the communication process and ensure everyone is always in the loop and informed of the latest updates.
Additionally, decide on a set of tools that your staff will use for internal and external communication. Which tool is for patient communication? Which tools will be used for internal communication among colleagues? What to do if you need to reach someone urgently?
If you also have remote workers, don’t forget about tools for screen sharing, video conferences, and a centralized document storage location like Google Drive or OneDrive.
3. Educate and train your staff
Another critical point for healthcare professionals to adapt to a flexible work schedule is providing the appropriate training and guidelines. Employee education and training incentives can help them learn how to navigate the changes in the work environment.
Work with your HR team to carefully compose a policy with clearly set guidelines that outline all the DOs and DON’Ts, communication methods, expectations and KPIs, and more. For instance:
- What type of flexible work schedules are allowed?
- Who can use the flexible schedule (frontline medical staff vs. administration)?
- Are there essential work hours that have to be covered?
As an added plus, paying attention to your employees’ personal and professional development, and ensuring they’re on board with all the changes, will increase your retention rate and engagement.
4. Pay attention to employee engagement
Adapting to flexible work schedules is challenging for all industries, especially for more traditional ones like healthcare. It’s completely normal that the entire team goes through a short transitional period, but don’t forget to engage your employees throughout this process.
Employee engagement in healthcare helps with staff retention and a more straightforward onboarding process for newcomers. Having an engaged staff is vital at any point, but even more so once flexible schedules come into play.
Keeping this engagement up means you’ll have more satisfied employees who will communicate with each other better, and won’t mind stepping in for a replacement shift. No matter how good your organizational or managerial skills are, disengaged employees will still struggle to adapt to this new flexibility.
5. Build an on-call talent pool
A significant part of flexibility and adaptability in a sensitive industry like healthcare is handling last-minute shift coverages. A talent pool of on-call nurses, physicians, and other medical professionals can help you find a replacement quickly.
Medical emergencies aren’t a rarity, so having a doctor swoop in and save the day can be priceless. And for clinics and healthcare facilities that work with flexible schedules, on-call staffing can (quite literally) be a life-saver!
You’d be surprised at the number of medical professionals willing to switch to a more flexible work schedule. So, the fact that you’re offering this flexibility should always be a highlight in your recruitment efforts and job descriptions. With this, you’ll attract more talent, and be able to build your talent pool faster.
6. Promote a culture of trust
A large part of the reason why flexible work schedules are scary for managers to accept at first is the loss of control over an employee’s workday. But, micromanaging your employees’ work can get exhausting pretty quickly.
There are many great alternatives to ensure your employees remain productive when switching to flexible schedules:
- Use software for time-tracking where your employees can log in hours worked;
- Set clear expectations, guidelines, and KPIs upfront;
- Promote transparency and honesty as company values;
- Lead by example and be trustworthy;
- Delegate project ownership and responsibility;
It’s worth noting that the 2021 Gartner Digital Worker Experience Survey showed flexible work hours are the biggest reason for increased productivity (43% of respondents). And, who doesn’t want a more productive staff?
Flexibility and adaptability in work schedules are the best tools against the increasing demands of the healthcare system, and perhaps the only solution to the depleted healthcare workforce. So, the sooner healthcare adjusts to this flexibility, the better.
Lastly, let’s not forget that adapting to a flexible work schedule will positively impact not just the organization, but employee engagement and retention, and - of course - patient care.
About Author - Derek Jones.
Derek spearheads key initiatives at Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets and communication. With a focus on healthcare, Derek helps business owners and workforce leaders simplify employment law compliance, keep labor cost in line and build award-winning workplaces. Derek has over 16 years’ experience in delivering data-driven sales and marketing strategies to SaaS companies like MarketSource and Griswold Home Care.