When you think about industries that facilitate remote working, ‘health care’ might not be at the forefront of your mind. How can an industry which relies so heavily on in-person contact adapt to working virtually? Furthermore, how can clients seeking help with physical problems or concerns receive an adequate level of health care from the comfort of their own home?
While there will always be situations where physical proximity is integral to providing an acceptable level of care for some clients, many roles in the health industry can be performed remotely. It just takes some planning and know-how. We’ve gathered the best tips and tricks for how to manage your practice while you or your employees work from home.
1. Review Which Roles Are Flexible
The first thing to confirm before moving to work from home arrangements for your practice is how feasible this is for each role. Your receptionist can likely move to work from home with little more than a call forward function. However, if you have pathology staff, they may need to remain in the office while conducting certain types of work. Identify who can work remotely and how to minimize in-person contact for the remainder if required; for example, can you stagger the staff remaining in the office so they have limited physical contact while performing specialized tasks, and could they then complete their admin and reporting from home, to allow them some flexibility?
2. Utilize Purpose-Built Technology
Although not particularly common in metropolitan areas until recent times, telemedicine is not a new concept and has been used to provide supplementary health care to remote communities for some time; it is one of the most interesting ways health care has been adapting to remote working over the years. From phone-based hotlines to online video consultants with clients, there is an abundance of technology available for health care practices to take advantage of in moving to predominantly online work. Video technology can be used to demonstrate and correct stretches and physical movements provided to the clients of chiropractors, discuss and supervise appropriate administering of client medication, and even diagnose some patient conditions or ailments that are visible via webcam. Even personal training sessions can be conducted online, as demonstrated by the increasing popularity of freely accessible virtual classes found on platforms like YouTube, all the way up to the high-end subscription services used with Peloton equipment.
3. Support Your Staff
If your employees have a laptop and a phone, chances are they are equipped to work from home. Once you have provided laptop access to any systems they may need, your employees will technically be able to work remotely; just keep in mind that they may need some support. Working from home is a big change from working in an office, and you may need to assist your employees in understanding and utilizing strategies to remain productive without the routine a regular office environment provides. Your staff may have additional stressors at home, such as children or spouses also working in the same area, they may be extroverts who need a higher level of social interaction throughout the day, or they may be just fine; it’s up to you as a practice manager to understand the needs of your team and support them through this change. At a minimum, you should ensure your staff is taking regular breaks to avoid burnout and limit how often they work excessive hours where possible.
4. Maximize Productivity
Once your practice is working remotely, you need to ensure the focus on productivity doesn’t drop; maintain your regular routine in terms of meetings and individual employee check-ins, just conduct them virtually! A continuation of their normal office schedule will provide a sense of structure for your team. If you’re concerned about productivity, consider time tracking programs, but keep in mind this may have an adverse effect on employee morale if not rolled out and utilized correctly. You may also find it helpful to maintain dress code standards (to some degree) in order to support a productive work environment, or go the opposite direction and institute fun dress days that you couldn’t do in the office, like ‘pajama Fridays!’.
5. Know Your Goals
Are you planning on remote working being the ‘new normal’ for your practice, or is this a temporary measure? Be clear with your team and your clients on how long you expect remote working to last or what milestones need to be met to consider making it a permanent arrangement. There are no doubts that overhead costs are lower in a practice that does not require a physical location (or only needs a smaller location for unavoidable in-person activities), looking at remote work as a permanent option may be better for your hip pocket in the long run if you can maintain appropriate standards of client care and satisfaction via virtual means. If you do require your employees to return to the office at some point, consider easing into it slowly or keeping some flexibility on the table; morale could be positively impacted by the option to work even one or two days at home on an ongoing basis.
6. Check-In With Yourself
Making a major change to your practice, like moving to work from home arrangements, can be time-consuming and stressful; it’s important that you lead by example and avoid burning yourself out. Your staff and clients will be looking to you for confident direction, and you need to remain calm and collected. There may be trial and error as you find what works best for your practice, remember that nobody gets it right straight away, and it’s ok to learn as you go. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, you hired your team for a reason, and they’ll likely be more than happy to assist you as you navigate a new way of working.
In closing, remote working is an increasingly valid form of operation in today’s rapidly changing business environment, even for health care practices. By being clear about your goals, prepared with the appropriate technology, and open and transparent with your team and your clients, turning your practice into a virtual health care option could be the best decision you’ve ever made.