Managing the Mobile Workforce

February 2, 2012
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Mobile Health (mHealth) also involves managing the mobile workforce, but I don’t often hear this administrative function being discussed.  In our efforts to increase access and the quality of healthcare and reduce costs we are moving beyond COWs (computers on wheels) and leveraging and adopting more mobile technologies, such as, tablets and smartphones.  So, lets see what kind of discussion this blog post will generate.

Mobile Health (mHealth) also involves managing the mobile workforce, but I don’t often hear this administrative function being discussed.  In our efforts to increase access and the quality of healthcare and reduce costs we are moving beyond COWs (computers on wheels) and leveraging and adopting more mobile technologies, such as, tablets and smartphones.  So, lets see what kind of discussion this blog post will generate.

A few months ago I read the book Managing the Mobile Workforce and appreciate the guidance on leading, building and sustaining virtual teams.  I was especially happy to see a couple of examples drawn from healthcare environments. One of these examples caught me a bit by surprise.  It involved looking at employees who spend most of their workday out of any office (or nursing station) and on the units attending to patients.  Or those in ancillary and support roles who move from department to department or drive between clinics or other sites throughout their workday. 

My first question is have we, as healthcare leaders, really thought about the new workforce paradigm and our ability to communicate with and supervise workers who are increasingly on the move during the day?

I do believe that effective healthcare leaders will begin to recognize the strategic value of more flexible work arrangements and this will include virtual and remote workers.  Telemedicine technologies are facilitating access to clinicians at a distance and remote coders and IT support are becoming more popular.  But, there are other functions that can easily be performed from a distance with today’s technology — at least a portion of the time.  Traditionally, hosptials and other providers have expanded their real estate to house these workers, rather than turning to “telecommuting” arrangements.  

My second question is are healthcare leaders beginning to recognize that mobility can actually increase productivity and will they follow other industries who are turning to remote and virtual workers to stay competitive?  If so, have they really thought through how to develop motivated and engaged virtual teams?

A new, more mobile workforce in healthcare will also require thought about the type of person needed to fill the job that needs to be accomplished.  And, it will require that supervisors learn strategies to train, support, motivate and manage the performance of teams that include both onsite and remote workers.

My third question is do healthcare supervisors and managers recognize the importance of trust and how to build it with workers across vast distances?

A final question focuses in on the technologies that are improving our ability to even consider the idea of expanding the remote and virtual workforce.

Do healthcare managers, especially high-level ones, know what the tools can do, and what their limitations are, so they can manage their teams more effectively?  

 

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In December, I came across 5 considerations for hiring remote workers and I believe they are an ideal starting point for healthcare leaders who are beginning to reflect on mobility in their workforce.  These five considerations set the foundation for starting to create your organization’s strategy for managing a mobile workforce.

1. Create Common Goals

2. Set Individual Goals and Expectations

3. Develop Trust and Accountability

4. Overcome Isolation

5. Plan Regular Communications