Reimaging the Non-Clinical Healthcare Workplace

Work options need to be flexible

By Ashley Rader, MHA, Director, Remote Workforce Solutions

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In 2019, workers primarily had access to local jobs. Today, advances in technologies and policies allow remote work to be done on a much wider scale so workers in many industries have access to jobs across the country and beyond.

Large companies and organizations in major metropolitan areas are recruiting talent nationwide, creating more job opportunities than ever before. In healthcare, this means there are lots of attractive options to work anywhere for non-clinical professionals, such as those who work in financial or IT, procurement and risk management, legal, and communications.

Lack of job flexibility is one of the biggest attrition drivers. At Cleveland Clinic, the top search terms on our job opportunities website are “remote” and “work-from-home” jobs.

To retain non-clinical employees, HR leaders in healthcare would be wise to embrace workplace flexibility, specifically remote and hybrid work arrangements. Leaders can’t expect that non-clinical employees who have been working from home for the past two years — and have other job options to continue doing so — will come back to the office five days a week. According to a recent Gallup poll, about 60 percent of the approximately 60 million full-time U.S. workers who report that they can perform their current jobs remotely from home want a hybrid set up. Four in 10 want to be in the office two to three days a week and another three in 10 want to spend one or two days in the office each week.

To remain competitive, healthcare leaders need to understand that people today demand workplace flexibility. They need to recognize that the way jobs are structured might look different for different people. And they need to accept that the once temporary shift to remote work is now permanent.

Creating flexible work environments

At Cleveland Clinic, approximately 8,100 non-clinical employees are classified as remote or hybrid. These administrative or corporate workers make up 13% of the healthcare system’s global workforce. While they may not be involved in direct patient care, they are essential employees, and Cleveland Clinic couldn’t operate without them.

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Cleveland Clinic launched its long-term remote work strategy in June 2021 — and the strategy is built on workplace flexibility.

Since then, two-thirds of administrative employees have worked fully remote. The rest are part of teams that spend two or three days a week in administrative buildings. Leaders are empowered to choose the best model for their employees based on enterprise guidelines. Cleveland Clinic established these guidelines to create consistency across divisions, but left the final assignment to leaders, who know the nature of their work and employee population best. And engagement scores for remote and hybrid employees are higher than ever, with scores in the 98th percentile for recommending Cleveland Clinic as a place to work — well above the industry average 81st percentile.

Cleveland Clinic’s philosophy is that remote work is the foundation for all work because it establishes reliable methods of communicating and accomplishing goals together. Remote work is more about how employees work than where they work. And hybrid work is remote work, with the added benefit of regular onsite interaction.

Our leaders believe that remote and hybrid models should be developed based on the type of work employees perform as well as how work is measured. Work models should be clearly defined upfront. For example, employees who are part of the fully remote model perform work that is quantitatively measured daily or weekly, such as medical coders, helpdesk and call center employees. The hybrid model is for employees whose work is based on objectives and key results milestones and assessed through weekly goals. Types of employees who work in this model include project managers, coordinators, analysts and many leaders.

Hybrid work models should never be deployed as a compromise between those who think everyone should return to the office and those who want to work from home. Hybrid work should be an intentional acknowledgment of the benefits of remote work as a basis for accomplishing work, while creating meaningful and purposeful in-person interactions. In-person activities shouldn’t be work that employees can do remotely.

To determine what constitutes purposeful in-person work, our leaders suggest using the four C’s as a guideline: collaborate, celebrate, connect and create. In healthcare, some might add a fifth C, clinical, if their team supports clinical operations.

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When your team is in the office, be there together. Book a space to collaborate or ideate. Establishing small and large group meeting spaces is imperative. Celebrate to recognize a new team member or better connect with others. Hold in-person meetings or have one-on-one management time. Schedule a team-building session. Have coffee or lunch together to network and build social connections with each another.

This type of work won’t always be a huge white board session, but it should give employees mental permission to flex their muscles and do something interesting while in the office.

Technology and tools for flexible work

Important to creating flexible work environments is the technology and resources to support them. Organizations should have technologies in place to support collaboration, space sharing, communication and more. This includes virtual meetings, file sharing, team channels and chats, direct messaging, meeting room management technology, and reservation systems for hoteling spaces.

Additional considerations include deploying and collecting IT hardware, mobile phone software options, remote VPN access, remote timekeeping, hybrid meeting room technologies and remote employee engagement and listening offerings.

Cleveland Clinic employees benefit from the company’s Remote Work Resource Center, which is an online community designed to create the best employee experience regardless of work location. It features remote work guides, policies, live and recorded webinars, other educational materials and resources, and opportunities for remote and hybrid employees to engage and connect.

The future of flexible work

There will soon come a day when remote work won’t be called remote work. It will just be work. Flexibility will be non-negotiable, and it won’t just be for those who work 100% remote. The future will require different types of workplace flexibility for more people who work in healthcare. Challenge your organization to consider how you can give flexibility to a variety of employees, in a variety of ways. Organizations need to prepare today to be a top workplace tomorrow.