Flexible Work: Golden Opportunities in Healthcare
Flexible work schedules aren’t just for people who work desk jobs. Many positions in healthcare can be flexible, giving employers as well as employees the opportunity to find balance while still serving patients. In some cases, it’s a policy recommendation: The American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program recommends flexible staffing options for nurses, for example.
Healthcare employers seem to have a better idea about how to make flexible work fit their organizations as well — a report from the Families and Work Institute says healthcare employers are more likely to use flexible work to attract and retain candidates, and to use it as a business tool to drive results, rather than treat it as a perk. The report also says healthcare employees are more likely to say that having the flexibility to manage work and personal life is “extremely important” when considering a new job compared with employees in other industries.
Here are some ways your organization can embrace flexible work.
Give Shift Work a New Look
In many cases employees are simply looking for choices about when and how to work, and shift work may be the answer. Shift work can make flexibility easy, says Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla, an internal medicine physician who is a past president of the American Medical Women's Association and founder of BusyMomMD.com, which provides work-life balance advice. “Taking on a position with clearly defined shifts with overarching coverage in case of emergencies has great flexibility for employees. I'm seeing more physicians and healthcare employees moving towards shift work," Haffizulla says.
However, it’s important to provide variety within those shifts. “Rigid 12-hour shifts, even if they’re three days a week, don’t always work for a working parent or people who need to be home at a certain time every day,” says Kimberly Kizziah Bocell, a former registered nurse who is now an Attorney and shareholder who works with healthcare clients at Chamblee Ryan. It’s often easy to find people who are willing to share four- or eight-hour shifts, but organizations have to make it an option, she says.
Apps and software platforms can facilitate telemedicine options for providers, who in some cases can even work from home while diagnosing and advising patients. Many employers find that offering flexible schedules along with tech tools for remote work can help boost employees’ productivity.
Obviously, any solution must be HIPAA-compliant and secure, Bocell says, but these tech options can make it easy for employees to catch up on charting, review patient info and prepare for the next day. “Most other professionals have this option. It’s beneficial and the technology is out there to do it the right way,” she says.
Encourage Flexibility in Skills
Cross-training can open the doors for more flexibility for employees in some positions and make scheduling easier for the employer. Alice Heebner, an Occupational Therapist at HM Systems, which provides therapist staffing services for schools and families, says her organization tries to offer different work situations for its therapists in addition to full- and part-time positions. “If we have someone who has never worked pediatrics except in grad school, we can have them try an early-intervention therapist position for a period of time,” she says. Participants gain skills that can help them cover for each other to provide scheduling flexibility. “It offers opportunity without too much of a commitment.”
Flexible work has benefits for both employees and employers, Haffizulla says. “While employees gain a more flexible set of work-time options as they maneuver the work-life balance spectrum, employers can benefit from additional expertise and a safety backup with job coverage,” she says. Consider doing anonymous surveys of your employees to determine overall satisfaction, need for flexible work hours and ideas for improvement.