More than a year after a global shutdown and our normals haven’t fully returned. They likely never will; instead, the things we recognized then as normal continue to be redefined.
That’s especially true for an integral part of life: the workplace. The healthcare community was mightily disrupted, with the pandemic hitting healthcare workers on the front lines and behind the scene and leaving them to face an immense emotional toll.
But healthcare organizations got creative, adapted to handling a new crisis, and continue to plan a viable roadmap to the future of a post-pandemic world. Let’s look at 6 quick workplace lessons learned this past year that can help healthcare professionals manage the changing landscape of the community.
#1) Remote opportunities provide freedom and flexibility
The pandemic has demonstrated the immense value of remote professionals along with virtual care delivery.
Those who work remote in a variety of departments including billing and coding, revenue cycle management, health information management, and more pulled together this past year to keep healthcare systems running. In the not-so-far future, we’ll likely wonder why it took a global health emergency for us to realize that a more remote approach can help make hospitals healthier and can improve work/life balance for team members.
Expanding telehealth opportunities such as Amazon’s “first foray into direct patient care on a national scale” will surely continue. There’s no pause on demand more virtual options from patients, and the industry continues to tie these options in with the patient experience in today’s value-based landscape.
For healthcare professionals, these options means more freedom in their schedule, more flexibility in how they approach workload management, and more accessibility in working with disabilities.
#2) Investing in technology – and experts – is vital
Healthcare organizations that deliver virtual care have opened new financial avenues by investing in technology as well as investing in experts who manage it. Budgets fluctuate, but it’s a good idea to strategize how to approach and grow your organization’s digital needs and initiatives.
With this year’s increased shift to telehealth and remote work, the protection of patients’ and staff’s personal data became especially important. Healthcare providers know how crucial it is to have the right data storage, transfer, and access systems in place to be able keep up with this shift.
Rolling out telehealth and remote work tools “requires a lot of attention on the front end, and then a lot of maintenance throughout the process of actually using it, to make sure you’re controlling who can get in and get out of any session at any given time.”
#3) Communication is worth its weight in gold
We know that proper avenues for communication have always been essential. But working in a pandemic certainly cast even more light onto the importance.
If your organization made time during this pandemic to invest in effective and accessible communication tools and strategies, that work is likely to “encourage unity and promote loyalty among staff and differentiate your facilities in the eyes of the public.” When you’re considering new communication strategies, ask yourself questions such as:
- How quickly can I contact a colleague?
- What communication tools and strategies should we reevaluate to improve accessibility?
- Who on my team should I reach out to in a crisis?
- How does access to technology during the workday impact communication?
- How can my organization improve how quickly external stakeholders receive updates?
Putting together a communication plan after all we’ve learned this past year can help ensure everyone will be on the same page – and have that page be quick, convenient, and accessible.
#4) Flexibility is essential
If this pandemic taught us anything, it’s that flexibility makes things possible. As healthcare leaders in your organization continue to embark on new projects as well as integrate workplace lessons learned from the pandemic into our new normals, they have surely recognized one factor: there is no single right way.
Flexibility provides the freedom for creative thinking to arise. But it also ensures that staff members feel heard and that their concerns and needs are accommodated. Rather than stressing exact processes and policies based on pre-COVID expectations, more organizations now see that embracing new strategies and process can give their teams more freedom to find new ways to succeed.
#5) We need to rethink workspace
Shifting away from open workspaces and shared equipment and instituting more space and privacy between workers can be quite the challenge. However, we can’t ignore the benefits and the peace of mind for fear of that challenge.
Research has found that open office spaces reduce morale, productivity, and communication. While it is impossible for everybody to have a private office, especially in the healthcare setting, there are plenty of ways to use healthcare workspace better, including:
- shared spaces such as locker rooms and break rooms can be replaced by more discrete spaces
- some administrative departments can transition to remote environments
- options for self-check-in can minimize interactions with others
#6) Leadership should take a stand
COVID exposed leadership to weaknesses in their organizations in real time. Some of this was to be expected, as it can take moments of crisis to bring about awareness.
However, effective role models and members of leadership knew the significance of standing up and taking action. They delegated, innovated, and created order in a time of uncertainty. Their efforts to “drive to the knowns to understand the contingencies they face” so they could “forge unity of effort across the larger enterprise” were critical to quell panic.
And many did all of this while making sure that staff and patients felt heard.
As we continue to make advances in this pandemic, it’s imperative that leaders continue to model safe behavior such as adherence to proper mask and social distancing guidelines, to inspire confidence in diverse teams, and to help their teams endure transformation.
COVID changed our world forever, including our world at work. But there is so much that can be learned from what we’ve experienced. It begins with fostering a culture that supports communication, flexibility, accessibility, diverse voices, and technology.
Integrating such lessons into your organization can help create a healthier, stabler, and more thoughtful tomorrow. At Harmony, we’re here to guide your organization with expert solutions in population health and reimbursement so you can create just that.