A hybrid working strategy has been a hot topic of discussion for professionals across all industries in the recent past as companies and employees alike aim to find a suitable working solution moving forward that will accommodate the needs of all parties.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it countless challenges that our industries have had to deal with from reduced capacity and limited resources, to full-closures and the adoption of new working strategies. Working from home is not a new concept but the use of the idea has been vastly accelerated to keep all sectors alive and in action while restrictions have plagued society.
As we continue to get to grips with living in a pandemic, the working world is aiming to distinguish the best way forward for those operating in it whether that be a full return to offices, remain working from home, or a combination of both known as a hybrid working strategy, where employees can split their time between remote and in-office locations.
While some industries such as enterprise have seen great benefits of implementing remote strategies and others remain cautious to fully invest in a certain approach, the question remains whether all industries can achieve a level of using a hybrid working strategy or are industries such as healthcare restricted to only being operational from an in-person basis?
Here we look at the possibility and benefits of implementing a hybrid working strategy within the healthcare sector:
Is a Hybrid Working Strategy possible in Healthcare?
In short, yes. There is a possibility that certain areas of the healthcare sector will be able to carry out duties from a remote base without having to be in the office every working day. The impact that the covid-19 pandemic had on all industries globally is obvious and none more so than the healthcare industry, who remained open providing critical services throughout.
To reduce the pressure being put on our frontline workers moving forward, enforcing some form of remote or hybrid working strategy must be considered as a possible solution. While not all areas of the industry can afford to move to a fully remote or hybrid basis, we have seen the possibility to make aspects of the healthcare industry remote. Certain technological advancements have seen Doctors taking appointments over the phone, video meeting calls, monitoring of results, diagnosing, testing, and other elements all taking place from a remote setting helping to make this a real opportunity.
As workers continuously put their health at risk given the increasing number of Covid-19 cases worldwide, the constant time pressures, increasing workloads, and more creating a remote working strategy should be a priority for the future of the industry. An increasing number of industry workers have also started to see the benefits of adopting a remote working strategy with 43% of workers admitting working from home would help them see more patients and boost efficiency whilst a further 48% stated that a similar strategy would help improve patient care.
Challenges of a Hybrid working strategy in Healthcare
With the possibility of this strategy in mind, why would decision-makers not try to implement a hybrid working strategy for their workers?
This is both an advantage and disadvantage of detailing a hybrid working strategy for the healthcare sector. While as aforementioned many workers feel that patient care would improve as a result of a hybrid strategy, the needs of all workers must be taken into account. While admin workers and certain types of doctors would be more than capable of taking on their duties remotely, others such as social carers or GP’s might find this to be difficult.
The healthcare industry is so diverse in nature, that implementing a blanket strategy would be harmful to the sector as a whole, not to mention the patient. The logistics and requirements of each level of worker and patient must be taken into account and maybe varying strategies can be designed to accommodate for different worker/patient needs.
There are many technical issues associated with setting up some form of a hybrid working strategy and teething problems are expected. Data systems and new technologies are required which comes with a huge time and financial cost for the areas of the industry that attempt to adopt a similar working style. Understanding each and every user requirement is essential and the transformation must be flawless given the importance and impact that the healthcare industry has on everyone’s lives.
This can create data security issues for the healthcare industry similar to that we saw with over 50% of Irish firms being targeted for cyberattacks in the past 12 months. The data is held by the healthcare industry is of the most sensitive nature and any cyber breaches or malfunctions could be devastating, which is a major risk for the areas of the industry that are thinking about adopting a hybrid working strategy.
While many employees within the healthcare sector have hoped for the introduction of a hybrid working strategy, it can come with its underlying challenges that must be overcome before either the employees or organisations can call it a success. Healthcare workers have been on the frontlines together since the start of the pandemic, which has helped to strengthen workplace relationships and overall communication.
If a hybrid working strategy is adopted, this will interrupt the routine that many workers would have created and become accustomed to throughout the pandemic, which can bring with it negative implications such as increased employee isolation, a collapse in communication standards, and more.
Benefits of a Hybrid working strategy in Healthcare
Following on from the challenges, we must observe the potential benefits of introducing a hybrid working strategy into the field of healthcare:
Improved Staff Motivation
One of the major disadvantages for healthcare workers throughout the pandemic has been the lack of work-life balance. Workers within the industry have had to work longer shifts under high pressures which have reduced the amount of time that they have spent at home with their families in this difficult period. This can lead to higher levels of workplace stress which can lead to negative results for all related parties.
60% of workers who do work remotely or in a hybrid working strategy have stated that they have maintained a healthy work-life balance which is much higher than those who have never worked remotely. Other than the obvious benefits of reducing commute times, reduced stress, and increased productivity, hybrid working strategies have demonstrated positive effects on employee morale and motivation which is helping to lower the incidence of treatment errors.
According to recent research, the healthcare sector is one of the most affected industries from worker burnout. Over 52% of workers have suffered from symptoms of burnout which can have negative effects for both the employee and the organisation on a personal and professional level. Workers have cited reasons such as increasing workloads, unmanageable pressure, and lack of control as the main contributors to burnout.
Companies that have adopted a hybrid working strategy have noticed improvements in employee stress levels and burnout reduction. It is clear to see that the Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on everybody and the healthcare industry most of all is aware of the stress that each worker is under, and reducing this burnout will be critical to the continued success of the industry moving forward. To learn more about employee burnout and its symptoms, click here.
Healthcare staff has put their health at risk going into work every day since the pandemic began. Introducing any form of remote/hybrid working strategy will greatly reduce employee potential exposure to a disease which can in turn help to reduce transmissions through the reduced number of interpersonal interactions. The safety of a worker is always at the top of the list of priorities for any industry and the healthcare sector is no different.
The dangers that present themselves to healthcare workers are clear, with employees within the industry 7 times more likely to become severely infected in comparison to other industries, which is by itself reason enough to pique the interest of industry policymakers.
As many industries were, to begin with, the healthcare sector has been wary and cautious in its approach to adopting any method of a hybrid working strategy. The challenges that present themselves as listed above, are making it difficult for the sector as a whole to decide what is best for all parties in this situation.
With that said, it is also clear that the plethora of potential benefits that may arise from implementing such working strategies is making a good case as to why this could be the right path for future decision-makers, who have the tools and knowledge necessary to take the healthcare industry into its next chapter.
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