How Providence will bring remote employees back to the office post-COVID

As COVID-19 spread across the U.S. early this year, hospitals and health systems adjusted their workforce. Many administrative workers who could work from home were instructed to do so, and they have remained remote.

Providence, a 51-hospital health system based in Renton, Wash., is no exception. Nearly all of the organization's administrative workforce of 18,000 are working from home full time and will continue to, at least part time, when the pandemic is over, Greg Till, chief people officer, told Becker's during an interview.  

With vaccines closer to reality, Providence has finalized a post-COVID virtual work strategy for administrative employees to modernize how work will be performed when the public health crisis ends. 

"What we will be doing in the future is giving employees the ability to have a more flexible, collaborative, engaging work experience," Mr. Till said. "A lot of that is accelerating plans we've been working on for the last several years, as we've projected what the future will look like."  

July 1 will be the earliest that remote administrative employees can return to facilities and offices, unless they can't work productively from home, Mr. Till said.

A few employees will work on site daily, and a few will work from home daily, but most of Providence's administrative workforce will work anywhere from two to four days a week from home, Mr. Till said.

Where an employee works day to day will be based on the individual and their role, he said.

"Based on what we've seen [so far during the pandemic], we believe it's going to be something that improves our employees' experience [and] their productivity," Mr. Till said. "One indicator that gives us confidence in this approach is our recent employee engagement survey, showing a seven-point improvement for those who have been able to work remotely."

Providence will replace personal offices and cubicles with flexible, open and shared hotel (on-demand) work and collaboration spaces to support the hybrid model, and it will make resources available to support a productive virtual work experience, the health system said. These resources include virtual ergonomic assessments, training on virtual etiquette and maintaining connection to the mission and each other, faster technology equipment delivery, core leader workshops and mental health support.

Mr. Till recommended that other health systems considering virtual work guidelines collaborate with employees to ensure their needs are matched with those of the organization's. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, Providence hosted discussions via surveys, focus groups and leadership sessions to learn more about workers' experiences and what they ideally wanted in a work space during and after the pandemic, he said. All of that was used in developing the post-COVID virtual work strategy.


More articles on workforce:
Strained Wisconsin hospitals asking staff to return to work during quarantine
Hospital demand for travel nurses intensifies as COVID-19 surges: 5 notes
COVID-19 sidelines over 100 New Jersey hospital workers

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