- One study of U.S. workers revealed that after health insurance, the flexibility of remote work topped the list of desired perks.
- The benefits of remote work in reducing burnout and stress make it an essential offer for healthcare frontline staff, who can get a lot of their paperwork done at home.
- Without comprehending the role of remote work in easing frontline workers’ stress and challenges, leaders might fail to recognize the necessity to make improvements to the work environment.
The unemployment percentage is very low at 3.7%, surprising economists who predicted an uptick in unemployment and a dip in job hires.
Jobs in frontline fields like healthcare are in the lead, generating substantial employment growth. These frontline workers are hot commodities; however, wage growth saw a cool-off at .3%, marking the tiniest increase since August 2021. This indicates a rising number of job openings but a stagnant pay rate, presumably due to the looming specter of a recession or at least economic deceleration.
In such circumstances, non-monetary benefits become pivotal in both enticing and preserving frontline workers. One such benefit — remarkably low-cost yet exceedingly attractive — is the prospect of remote work. An exploration conducted by benefits provider Unum on 1,500 U.S. workers revealed that after health insurance, the flexibility of remote work topped the list of desired perks.
My consultation work with 22 entities on hybrid and remote work environments has highlighted how these benefits enhance staff retention, job recruitment, productivity, engagement, and even cost reductions. It may come as a surprise that my experiences extend to frontline scenarios too, including a couple of hospitals where I ushered in hybrid work programs for their healthcare personnel.
Under the Microscope: Healthcare Frontline Workers and their Non-patient Care Workload
It may raise eyebrows to discover the time frontline healthcare staff allot to non-patient care tasks such as communication and documentation. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that while physicians spend 27% of their time in the examination room with patients, almost half their time (49%) is committed to desk work, including emails, communication tasks, and electronic health records. In addition, they often dedicate one to two hours after work to complete electronic health records.
Similarly, a study by Jackson Healthcare in Alpharetta, Georgia, found that nurses allocate around a quarter of their 12-hour shifts to patient care tasks. A significant chunk of their remaining hours is consumed by documentation tasks, which include recording patient care data in multiple places, completing logs, checklists, paperwork, and acquiring essential supplies and equipment.
Case Studies: Remote Work Benefits for Healthcare Frontline Workers
Similar situations apply to other healthcare professionals like nurse practitioners and physician associates (formerly physician assistants). This is where the power of remote work can shine.
By permitting healthcare personnel to manage their paperwork at home, we help them save time and energy otherwise spent on commuting and administrative duties at the hospital. This leads to enhanced job contentment and a decrease in stress levels, resulting in a boost in staff retention and better hiring results.
My assistance in transitioning two hospital clients towards enabling remote work for their doctors and nurses for relevant tasks, and for telehealth follow-up visits, proved very fruitful. It required adjusting some scheduling and granting more flexibility, trusting the staff to complete their tasks remotely. We also had to set up adequate privacy protections for healthcare workers’ home offices. Though it needed some innovative thinking and trials, we overcame these obstacles.
The outcome was splendid, with these hospitals emerging as the top employers in their regions, surpassing their rivals in terms of both staff retention and recruitment. Remote work offers a range of benefits, such as:
- Increased flexibility
- Improved job satisfaction
- Increased productivity
- Enhanced recruitment efforts
These are especially significant, considering almost 20% of healthcare workers have quit their jobs since the pandemic began; 49% cited burnout or stress as their prime reason for leaving the healthcare sector. The benefits of remote work in reducing burnout and stress make it an essential offer for healthcare frontline staff.
Why Are Other Hospitals Reluctant to Adopt This Model?
Despite the financial and practical sense this model makes, overcoming cognitive biases and changing mindsets can be tough. These biases, or unconscious thought patterns, affect our perceptions and decision-making, leading to adverse consequences at work.
Cognitive biases like the status quo bias and empathy gap can deter hospital leaders from exploring alternative work arrangements. This often results in healthcare workers burning out due to unnecessary commutes just to complete paperwork and emails. Without comprehending the role of remote work in easing frontline workers’ stress and challenges, leaders might fail to recognize the necessity to make improvements to the work environment.
The healthcare industry plays an indispensable role in delivering quality patient care. It’s crucial for employers to recognize and address the influence of cognitive biases on their staff. Flexible work arrangements like remote work can help alleviate administrative burdens and enhance job satisfaction. Acknowledging and minimizing these biases can lead to a more supportive, efficient work environment, which ultimately improves patient care and outcomes.
In a competitive labor market, healthcare organizations must strive to differentiate and lure top talents. Allowing staff to work remotely can lead to increased job satisfaction, productivity, and the ability to attract and retain high-quality talent. As technology continues to evolve and remote work becomes even more prevalent, healthcare organizations must seize this trend to stay competitive and reap the multitude of benefits it offers.