Thanks to developments in technology, many employees and business owners alike have been able to work from home and have been doing so for years. However, for a growing number of Americans, working remotely is no longer a nice workplace perk, but rather the new norm. Now, amid the recent COVID-19 pandemic, most health system access centers and their agents are following suit, raising the question: is this the new normal?
The answer to that question is likely “yes.” Even though working remotely has been a transition for most of us, many of our customers have found that taking their access center operations remote has been incredibly beneficial for both their organizations and their agents. Even post-pandemic, most health systems we engage with have expressed that they plan to keep remote work at least part of their access center operations on a permanent basis. Here are three reasons why taking your access center remote can offer a win-win.1. Working from home can improve employee engagement
Agent turnover ranges anywhere from 30-45% annually. And, while working remotely won’t eliminate turnover or burnout alone, it can help lessen it by giving employees back what many lack: flexibility. For example, a parent could easily see their children off to school, take care of an errand or two, and then jump into the phone queue between 10 and 2 – the busiest time of the day in most access centers. This scenario not only gives agents a way to earn extra cash and be available for their families, but it also enables access center leaders to match supply and demand in a cost-efficient way.
Another obvious example of this is not having to commute. The average American's commute is now nearly 30 minutes, which equates to an extra 250 hours, or 10 days, of free time each year. Giving this time back–or at least some of it–can improve morale and enable employees to take time for themselves, like working out more. It's a win-win situation.2. Employees are often more productive given the flexibility
Research from AirTasker also found that remote employees are more productive. Researchers polled 1,004 full-time employees throughout the U.S. about their productivity, their commutes, and other facets of their lives. Among that group were 505 people who worked remotely. The study found that remote workers take comparable breaks to in-office workers and, over the course of a year, actually work two weeks more than in-office workers:
- Remote workers take comparable breaks to in-office workers: 22 minutes a day compared to 18 minutes for in-office workers.
- Office workers reported being idle for about 37 minutes a day, excluding lunch and standard breaks, while remote workers only cited 27 minutes of unproductive time.
- Given the added flexibility of working from home, employees are also less likely to be absent. On average, they work 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days every year.
3. Taking operations remote can yield cost savings
There is no doubt that our hospitals and health systems have stepped up in heroic ways to meet the challenges of this COVID-19 situation. However, these challenges have also created historic financial pressures–in fact, a new report from the American Hospital Association estimates that U.S. health systems are losing more than $50 billion per month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These losses will force hospitals and health systems to assess their expenses. Over 240 have already furloughed employees, as human capital is typically the largest expense item for hospitals. However, real estate costs account for 8-12% of hospitals costs. Having administrative positions, such as an access center, working remotely will allow health systems to reduce the amount of real estate they need and help them operate more efficiently.
It is not often that a decision allows an organization to improve employee engagement, productivity, and save money at the same time. And while everyone can benefit from health systems’ shift to a work from home model for their access centers, don’t forget about the role technology can play. To streamline operations and empower employees to do their best work, ensure that your organization is investing in the right technology to enable effective remote working.
Scott Andrews is Chief Customer Officer at Kyruus. Prior to Kyruus, he spent 17 years at athenahealth, 2 of which he spent building and managing the company’s 500-person call centers in Maine and Georgia.