A new divide is making the workforce crisis worse

https://mailchi.mp/bfba3731d0e6/the-weekly-gist-july-2-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

How the Hybrid Workforce will Drive the Future of Work

Health system executives continue to tell us that the top issue now keeping them up at night is workforce engagement.

Exhausted from the COVID experience, facing renewed cost pressures, and in the midst of a once-in-a-generation rethink of work-life balance among employees, health systems are having increasing difficulty filling vacant positions, and holding on to key staff—particularly clinical talent. One flashpoint that has emerged recently, according to leaders we work with, is the growing divide between those working a “hybrid” schedule—part at home, part in the office—and those who must show up in person for work because of their roles. Largely this split has administrative staff on one side and clinical workers on the other, leading doctors, nurses, and other clinicians to complain that they have to come into work (and have throughout the pandemic), while their administrative colleagues can continue to “Zoom in”. There’s growing resentment among those who don’t have the flexibility to take a kid to baseball practice at 3 o’clock, or let the cable guy in at noon without scheduling time off, making the sense of burnout and malaise even more intense. Add to that the resurgence in COVID admissions in some markets, and the “help wanted” situation in the broader economy, and the health system workforce crisis looks worse and worse. Beyond raising wages, which is likely inevitable for most organizations, there is a need to rethink job design and work patterns, to allow a tired, frustrated, and—thanks to the in-person/WFH divide—envious workforce the chance to recover from an incredibly difficult year.

Advocate Aurora to make remote work permanent for 12,000 employees

Advocate Aurora keeping 12,000 employees on remote work assignment

Advocate Aurora Health is implementing a new work model that will move 12,000 non-clinical employee positions in finance, consumer experience and more departments to remote-first operations, according to a May 21 BizTimes report. 

Under the new work model, dubbed WorkForward, the 12,000 non-clinical employees who have been working remotely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to do so permanently; these employees will “no longer have dedicated workspaces” like cubicles or offices at the health system’s Milwaukee and Downers Grove, Ill.-based offices, the publication reports. 

Affected departments include finance and accounting, consumer experience and public affairs, strategy and business development, government relations and administration. Employees will be able to choose to work from home, at a coffee shop or other locations, Advocate Aurora Chief Human Resources Officer Kevin Brady told BizTimes

“For some departments, remote-first may come to mean monthly team meetings in the office, once-a-week collaboration sessions or a trip to an outside-the-box location that inspires the team,” he said. 

Advocate Aurora will “regularly evaluate” its real estate needs with the work model transition; the health system recently vacated non-headquarters office space when its lease ended at the end of 2020. Advocate Aurora is also reconfiguring its remaining facilities to create more “innovative and productive” work areas that employees can use for meetings or temporary office space, according to the report.

Teachers want the vaccine, but they’ll have to wait

https://www.axios.com/teachers-want-to-get-vaccinated-covid-51b9016e-1f2d-4e67-adc1-4928b1fc06bc.html

Some teachers don’t want to return to the classroom until they’ve been vaccinated — setting up potential clashes with state and local governments pushing to reopen schools.

Why it matters: Extended virtual learning is taking a toll on kids, and the Biden administration is pushing to get them back in the classroom quickly. But that will only be feasible if teachers are on board.

Where it stands: Although the rise of new, more contagious variants has scrambled the calculus on school reopening, for now the expert consensus is that vaccinations aren’t essential to safely reopening schools.

  • A pair of studies from the CDC this week reiterated the agency’s stance that schools can operate safely with the proper precautions, along with other mitigation measures in the broader community.
  • Most states haven’t put teachers at the front of the line for vaccines. Only 18 have included teachers in the early priority groups that can get vaccinated now, and in all but four of those states, teachers are competing for shots with other higher-risk populations, including the elderly.

Yes, but: Teachers in some large school districts don’t want to return to the classroom without being vaccinated — which could mean several more months of virtual classes.

  • The Chicago teachers union has asked to delay reopening until teachers receive at least the first dose of the vaccine, but the city’s public health commissioner has said it could take months for teachers to be vaccinated, the Chicago Tribune reports.
  • “If you are required to work with students in person — which thousands of educators have been doing for months now — you should be vaccinated as soon as possible,” Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union, said in statement after teachers were bumped behind the elderly in the state’s priority line, per Boston.com.

What they’re saying: “The issue is that we should be aligning vaccination with school opening. That doesn’t mean every single teacher has to be vaccinated before you open one school, it means there has to be that alignment,” Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, told ABC News.

  • Teachers should be eligible for vaccination by “late January,” she wrote in a USA Today op-ed over the weekend.

The other side: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has said school staff will be prioritized for vaccination, with the goal of having students return to classrooms by March 1.

  • But prioritizing teachers can be controversial. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has been criticized for the decision to vaccinate teachers ahead of the elderly, high-risk essential workers and other vulnerable communities.
  • In a rural county in Georgia and at a private school in Philadelphia, teacher vaccine clinics were shut down by their state health departments, which said that educators were not yet eligible.

The bottom line: “It’s challenging to make those decisions about how to prioritize different populations, all of whom are at significant risk,” the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Jennifer Tolbert said.

Go deeper: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic

What can Whole Foods tell us about integrating telemedicine?

https://mailchi.mp/f2794551febb/the-weekly-gist-october-23-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

How Whole Foods' Suppliers Are Shifting From Shelves to Screens to Better  Sell on Amazon | Inc.com

A quick stop at the local Whole Foods Market recently yielded surprising insights into the dilemma faced by physician practices in the COVID-era telemedicine boom.

The store location opened just last year, part of a brand-new residential and shopping complex designed for busy professionals. It’s larger than the old-style, pre-Amazon era stores, and was designed to integrate Amazon’s online grocery operations into the bricks-and-mortar retail setting. There’s a portion of the store set aside for Amazon “shoppers” to receive and pack online orders for pickup and delivery, along with an expanded array of convenience-food offerings for the app-powered consumer to scan and purchase.

But when COVID hit, the volume of online orders went through the roof, and the store hired a small army of Amazon shoppers (including one of our own adult children who’s on a “gap year”) to keep up with demand. The result has been barely controlled chaos—easily 70 percent of the shoppers in the aisles last weekend were young Amazon employees “shopping” on behalf of online customers. They’re all held to an Amazon-level productivity standard, which makes the pace of their cart-pushing somewhat frantic and erratic. And the discreet area at the front of the store for managing the Amazon orders has become a noisy hub, making entering and exiting the store problematic. Even the “regular” store employees at Whole Foods have begun to complain about the disruption caused by the Amazon fulfillment operation.
 
It’s a cautionary tale for traditional physician practices and other care delivery organizations looking to “integrate” telemedicine into normal operations. Integration sounds great in theory, but in practice raises important questions:

1) What physical space should be set aside for delivering virtual care?

2) Should telemedicine work be done in a separate, centralized location, or in existing clinic space?

3) How does the staffing of clinics need to change to meet the demand for virtual care?

4) How can we flex staffing up and down based on demand for telemedicine?

5) If new staff are required, how will they be incorporated into the existing team—or should they be managed separately?

6) What operational metrics will they be held accountable for, and what impact will those metrics have on other operational goals? 

If Amazon, a worldwide leader online, renowned for running tight, precision, productivity-driven operations, is having trouble figuring out physical-virtual integration at the front end of their business, imagine how difficult these challenges will be for healthcare providers. The sooner we start to dig into these issues and find sustainable solutions, the better.