• Four Considerations for Implementing Workplace Flexibility

    By Sheri Stoltenberg Sep 24, 2018

    Remote work, flex scheduling, short-term staffing options, and a long-term strategic outlook can help healthcare organizations flourish in the competition to fill specialized positions.

    Workplace Flexibility_Sheri StoltenbergIn the 6th annual Health IT Industry Outlook Survey, 31 percent of healthcare professionals cited overcoming IT staffing shortages as a significant challenge in 2018. Given these shortages and numerous competing projects, organizations need to modernize their workplace policies to retain and attract qualified professionals.

    The healthcare industry will only become more competitive for talent, especially among IT professionals who are skilled and experienced in value-based care environments. To gain an edge, here are four areas to consider when implementing workplace flexibility policies in healthcare organizations. 

    Remote work and staff retention. Remote work is becoming an increasingly attractive benefit for today’s employees. A recent Gallup poll found that 37 percent of workers would like to work remotely at least some of the time. Remote work in the healthcare and health IT fields keeps the industry competitive with other professions for employees seeking to balance work and personal goals. 

    In a Deloitte survey of almost 8,000 millennial employees (ages 23 to 34), 45 percent of those working in the “least flexible work environments” said they intended to leave within two years. Turnover significantly hinders an already short-staffed healthcare industry, and employers spend up to one-fifth of a departed employee’s salary to hire and train a replacement. The financial loss is even more substantial when considering positions that require specialized training, which is especially pertinent in healthcare IT. 

    Offering remote work can help an organization retain valued employees while saving on facility and project-outsourcing costs. For short-term IT projects like electronic health record (EHR) data conversion or legacy application support, remote work allows greater flexibility for support-shift coverage while providing proactive redundancies to protect against power, Internet, or central-facility outages. 

    Flexible work hours. Schedule flexibility stands out as another attractive benefit in the modern workplace. Many employees credit flex hours with improvements in productivity, organizational performance, engagement, and personal well-being. Millennials are especially attracted to the freedom to decide when they start and stop work and, within certain guidelines, their daily job duties. Millennial employees feel almost three times as much personal accountability toward their organizations’ reputation and service when they work in flexible environments. 

    Flex scheduling supports the more experienced spectrum of today’s leading workforce, too. By 2024, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts, 36 percent of people within the 65- to 69-year-old demographic will remain active workers—up from just 22 percent in 1994. Many of these baby boomers want to keep working simply because they are passionate about their work or want to stay active, while 79 percent of all retirees plan to remain in the workforce for pay, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. 

    The issue for this highly qualified group of workers is having opportunities to utilize their skill sets beyond the traditional schedule.

    Short-term staffing. Freelancing, consulting, and short-term project work are ideal options for employees seeking better work-life balance on their terms. For short-staffed health IT departments, utilizing these options is highly cost-effective for short-term critical events, such as an EHR go-live or system upgrade. 

    In many cases these professionals can work remotely, saving hospitals transportation costs or the need to create physical workspace in limited areas, such as a go-live command center. 

    Long-term strategies. Today’s employees are more invested in positions and employers that enhance their quality of life. As a competitive employer, consider these long-term strategic tips for workplace flexibilities: 

    Make it fair. Workplace leniencies cannot apply to a select few. Animosity and resentment can grow among employees if only some gain flexibilities. 

    Find a realistic workplace fit. Realistically assess the company culture and employee workload beforehand to offer flexibility that will truly be utilized. For example, having a ping-pong table in the breakroom does not mean a company is automatically deemed a “great employer.” If the workload is too high, no one will take advantages of such workplace perks.

    Enable accountability. Whether utilizing flex-hour or remote-work options, employees can still be transparent about their daily work through weekly time and expense sheets or project reports. 

    Spread the word. In many cases, staff do not actually know their employment benefits package beyond vacation time and pay. Provide a clear explanation of benefits to all new employees, and distribute reminder documentation each year to existing employees. 

    No matter what workplace flexibility policies your organization offers, keep in mind that meaningful relationships and a sense of employee value ensure staff engagement and empowerment. Carefully weigh benefits options while assessing which best match your organization’s culture, client or patient needs, and strategic direction.


    Sheri Stoltenberg is founder and CEO of Stoltenberg Consulting.

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