While the nature of home care is that most of its workforce (caregivers) work remotely in the homes of their clients, the concept of a remote office or management team is a new beast for many agencies. Here are five tips to keep your team functioning optimally.
Weeks into the COVID-19 crisis, the landscape of home care, business, and daily life has shifted drastically. State-wide shelter-at-home orders, rising counts of confirmed coronavirus cases, and widespread disruptions for businesses all ensure that the next few months will be challenging.
One significant hurdle that many home care agencies are now dealing with is the challenge of operating as a remote team. While home care has generally been defined as an essential business allowed to operate during a state shutdown, many agencies have gone remote in order to abide by CDC’s social distancing guidelines.
We’re in the process of conducting a survey to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on home care. (If you haven’t taken it yet, you can take it here—once you submit your survey you can view the results as they’re updated live.)
One question regards which business functions are now being conducted remotely. As of April 2nd, here’s what agencies are saying:
64% of agencies are conducting caregiver interviews remotely
59% of agencies are conducting caregiver training remotely
63% of agencies are conducting their scheduling remotely
54% of agencies are managing their billing remotely
67% of agencies are conducting all sales and marketing remotely
74% of agencies are conducting their regular team meetings remotely
While the nature of home care is that most of its workforce (caregivers) work remotely in the homes of their clients, the concept of a remote office or management team is a new beast for many agencies.
As it happens, remote work is something Home Care Pulse is very familiar with. Some of our team members have worked remotely for years; others work remote on a frequent basis or report to a remote manager since we merged with In the Know Caregiver Training.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, our entire team has worked remotely.
Here are tips we’ve compiled from our own experiences, as well as learning from other remote teams and conducting research into operations during the COVID-19 crisis.
#1: Establish a clear meeting cadence that includes the right touchpoints.
Nobody likes excessive meetings, but consistent, effective meetings take on a more important role for remote teams. Besides whatever regular meetings you hold to discuss issues and keep your team on the same page, we generally recommend a couple things:
Holding daily stand-up meetings at the beginning of the day to get your team on the same page. These should typically be no longer than 15 minutes but are a good way to keep everyone connected and quickly go over what to expect from the day.
Have daily one-on-one touchpoints with each member of your team. In some cases, these might be nothing more than 5-minute calls to touch base, answer any questions, and see how your team member is doing. However, it’s an important part of keeping your team engaged and aligned in the right direction.
#2: Be mindful of your employees’ work-life balance.
While the unprecedented challenges we’re all facing might necessitate some extra hours, be mindful of the ways that work can overtake personal/family time in a remote setting.
When there are pressing problems and your employees live at the office (so to speak), it can be tempting to let work bleed into all hours of the day.
If at all possible, avoid contacting your team outside of regular working hours, and set clear expectations about when you need to be able to reach them.
#3: Establish reporting/accountability protocols that orient every team member around a few key metrics.
For years, Home Care Pulse has used an analogy about choosing the right metrics to judge your home care agency’s performance:
If you were stuck on a desert island and received only a daily message in a bottle with a few numbers on it to tell you about how your business is doing, what numbers would you want to see?
These are the numbers that you as the owner or manager should be focused on above all during the daily running of your business. All others should feed into these core metrics.
Likewise, each of your staff should have 2-3 key metrics that track the most important output or results of their role. We’ll give some examples and suggestions below.
While having these metrics is always important, it takes on a new importance with remote teams because it provides a strong level of accountability and helps people focus on what’s most important.
If you’ve chosen your metrics well, this will alleviate much of the stress of keeping people on task when they’re working remotely; if you’ve chosen the right metric to watch and they’re hitting it consistently, the question of whether people are using their time well becomes largely a moot point.
While the needs and circumstances of your agency will dictate which metrics to use, here are some general ideas that you may consider using:
Short-term gross profit margin (management)
Percentage of shifts filled (scheduler)
New added weekly billable hours (marketer)
Client overall satisfaction (care coordinator)
Caregiver overall satisfaction (care coordinator)
New caregivers hired (recruiter)
Roles that are more about having a constant presence than accomplishing specific projects (for instance, a receptionist) may require adaptations from this system, although you could still track performance with metrics such as percentage of inbound calls answered.
One more note: Because of the nature of remote work and because of the rapidly evolving nature of the current crisis, it’s generally a good idea to watch your metrics more closely than you normally would. Generally, numbers that you used to look at monthly should be looked at weekly, while metrics you used to look at weekly should be looked at daily.
#4: Make sure you’re using the right tools.
While many organizations have quickly adapted to using remote-work tools like Zoom, there are still too many home care agencies (and other businesses) out there trying to function with their existing tech stack instead of adopting the tools that will make their teams more efficient.
Here are some of the functions you need to evaluate that may benefit from using additional technologies while your team is remote:
Inter-team communications. If your team is using email or cell phones to communicate with each other, you’d almost certainly benefit from a platform built for teams to communicate with each other, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. These systems are built with multiple options for quick communication including chat messages, video calls, and team meetings, and offer various ways for you to streamline and organize your communication.
Sales and marketing. Many home care agencies are already using a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) software, but those that aren’t need to look carefully at whether it’s time to start. A remote marketer has an even greater need to document and schedule their communications with referral partners because of the high volume of emails and calls they’ll be making; CRMs are built to make this simple. See our guide to CRMs for home care agencies here.
Interviews. Many agencies have already adapted to this change out of necessity, but we’re still including it for those on the fence about their virtual interviewing options. As social distancing becomes more and more imperative across the country, so does virtual interviewing. If you’re using the recruitment platform myCNAjobs to recruit caregivers, you can use the new virtual interview rooms they just launched. Otherwise, Zoom is a great option for virtual meetings—extremely easy to use, and a basic account is free.
Scheduling and general operations. In addition to these platforms, we strongly encourage you to take the time to revisit how you’re using your scheduling software and evaluate if there are additional features that you’re not taking advantage of yet.
Most scheduling software systems are rapidly trying to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis by rolling out more processes to increase communication and automation; by following their new releases (and increasing your utilization of existing features), you’ll equip your team to streamline operations and stay on top of rapidly shifting needs.
With a remote team, if you aren’t sure whether you’ve communicated something enough, you probably haven’t.
This principle is true not only with your office staff but with clients and caregivers. More than ever before, you need to be ramping up your communications and ensuring that everyone is continually on the same page.
Here are some of the communication channels you need to be considering, and the frequency/platforms that may be useful for each:
Office Team: Daily video call standup meetings and daily one-on-one touchpoints as discussed in the first section
Caregivers: In-app communication through scheduling software (if possible), daily texts from supervisors, and regular wellness surveys to add an extra line of communication
Clients: Regular follow-up on each client through your caregivers, frequent check-in calls from office staff (even with clients who have paused services), and regular wellness surveys
(To learn about setting up client/caregiver surveys and adding in free custom questions to check on wellness during COVID-19, you can request a phone call here.)
On a related note: It’s also important to over-communicate when it comes to alleviating employees’ concerns about the future.
Many companies have been forced to take drastic measures to stay in business including cutting pay and laying off employees; while there’s always a place for discretion, you should make it a priority to be transparent and keep your employees in the loop as far as what to expect.
As a general rule, if your employees have to come to you to ask whether they should be concerned about actions like downsizing, you haven’t communicated enough.
What Was Already Important Is Now Essential
Ultimately, there’s no single playbook for how to operate a remote team, especially for a home care agency.
Perhaps the best advice is that everything that was already recommended (accountability systems, adoption of the right technology, strong team culture, and hiring the right people for the right seats) has suddenly become much more important than ever before.
It’s an important time to be in home care.
Stay safe and healthy out there!
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