Through the turbulence of the past two years, one of the more frequent topics to come up regarding the future of work, is how to acclimatise to new cultures and new working patterns.
According to new research from TDM Group, most businesses are not getting the right IT support or advice to provide employees with the technology they need to transition to hybrid working.
Meanwhile, Gartner’s recent report also stresses the importance of hybrid work policies to attract talent.
It is also evident that the pandemic has changed office culture forever, according to 64 per cent of employees.
In healthcare, the stories are the same, but also different. Many healthcare practitioners have returned back to hospitals and care centres full-time. But many back offices are still operating at reduced capacity.
Indeed, since 2020, healthcare professionals have become accustomed to leveraging digital tools to provide care from a distance.
This is especially true in areas such as preventative care, mental health care and post-operative follow-up.
As the transition to truly hybrid ways of working continues across the healthcare industry, many questions are naturally arising around what great employee engagement and support truly looks like.
Most leaders, whatever the sector, understand that the question of boosting employee engagement starts with daily interactions and points of connection between the people they work with.
From a patient perspective, this is even more crucial in healthcare as good communication effects patient outcomes. What role does technology have to play here?
The importance of engagement in healthcare
Employee engagement is crucial for the health and success of any organisation – and arguably, nowhere is this more important than healthcare.
So here are some tips to successfully raising the bar for employee engagement – regardless of the physical environment where the work gets done:
Invest in the right tools
Technology will make or break company success, but it can also have a huge effect on employee culture.
The right collaboration and communication enabling technologies can make all the difference to how engaged employees are.
Unfortunately, effective communication can prove to be a huge challenge in hybrid environments.
In hospital or clinical settings, this can manifest as onsite or on-duty staff, including admin staff, receiving crucial information in person, which remote workers won’t always be privy to.
It can be difficult to communicate small problems or provide quick information and opportunities to workers at home.
As a result, the digital channels of communication have to be well set up, fast, effective and convenient.
With faster and more efficient ways of communicating, remote workers will be able to feel more integrated with the team as a whole and also stay engaged with the work.
Tools such as Microsoft teams, Slack, Zoom, and Egnyte can help boost productivity and collaboration, and provide patients a clear and effective way of communicating with healthcare staff.
The importance of such investments can’t be overstated.
Invest in the right hardware
Ultimately, the equipment that employees have at home needs to be just as effective as what they would normally have in the office.
This means laptops and accessories that are built to be as efficient as they are reliable. Naturally, portability is important too.
Employees that regularly have to carry their laptops between home and work – doctors making home visits for example – will benefit from lighter machines, with a slimmer design and enhanced battery life.
In healthcare in particular, laptops must also come with heightened security features, such as biometrics, and two-factor authentication to make sure that information remains secure as employees shift from space to space.
Given that the average cost of healthcare breaches rose to $7.1m in 2020, this is particularly important.
Invest in unified communications
Hybrid working requires a unified communications (UC) approach and collaboration platforms to enable it.
Simply the reality of having half of your workforce onsite, and half remote drastically increases the IT burden for UC and magnifies the importance of software tools that can swiftly identify any UC issues before they arise.
While these investments can be large upfront, they are likely to save your organisation money over time.
Employees and patients in particular need access to high-quality conferencing experiences, frequently on multiple UC platforms.
This will mean call quality needs to be tracked and spikes need to be monitored to ensure experience parity.
Troubleshooting tools that can identify in-home and in-office crises simultaneously will also be extremely valuable.
While it is unlikely that any transition to hybrid working will be seamless and perfect immediately, IT teams can track and leverage their data to identify areas that need reconfiguration or adjustment.
The number of calls failed, video latency, bandwidth spikes need to be regularly assessed and benchmarked to ensure that IT teams can move beyond experience to excellence and engagement.
The four day working week?
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in a shorter working week had been gaining momentum.
Microsoft trialled a four-day working week across its Japanese offices in 2019, with positive results that included more efficient meetings, happier workers and a 40 per cent increase in productivity.
Similarly, 86 per cent of Iceland’s workforce has now either moved to a shorter working week, or gained the right to do so without reduction in pay, thanks to a number of positive trial results.
According to a recent report by the Financial Times, more employers are also now exploring the feasibility of a four-day working week.
It isn’t really any wonder that a four day working week can dramatically improve employee engagement. An additional day off dramatically helps to shift the work/life balance.
Andrew Barnes, CEO of Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based company that ran a trial run of the four-day work week, implemented the shorter work week at his company.
They found that not only did the sense of work-life balance shoot up from 54 per cent to 78 per cent, but that team engagement increased by 20 per cent on average too.
Fewer hours in the office may help some workers to focus more intently than they would in a longer five day week.
In addition, a four-day week may also lead to more company pride, less stress, and better morale.
In healthcare, this can be hugely beneficial, given the burnout being experienced by NHS workers following the pandemic.
It’s estimated that the annual cost of workplace stress to the global economy is somewhere around $300 billion.
So giving your workforce more time to relax, and decompress can go a long way in ameliorating this issue
Keeping employees engaged, completely and consistently within the healthcare sector, is a big enough task when everybody is in the same place.
The growing demand for hybrid working may not make this easier – but with the right communication and collaborative tools, the best equipment, and a tailored approach to show business understanding of individual needs, can help any organisation get on top of the challenge.
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