With the widespread implementation of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), the possibility of remote work became an option for CTRs. However, many facilities remained hesitant to allow remote work. In 2020, many companies across all industries were forced to allow staff to work from home. Cancer Registry staff can successfully work remotely with proper preparation and planning by both the employer and employee(s).
Listed below are the five primary areas that employers should focus on when preparing for staff to work remotely.
First and foremost, to be able to work outside of the office, employees need to be able to remotely connect to all systems required to complete their job functions.
- The facility IT department should assist with setting up remote access for the employee(s). Ensure that the employee has tested each connection and will be able to fully function remotely.
- The employer should determine which equipment and resources will be provided by the company and which will be the responsibility of the employee(s) (e.g., computer, printer, internet fee, phone).
- Provide remote employees with a contingency plan in the event of computer or software downtime. Also, provide IT contact information and helpdesk hours as a reference.
Workflow processes should be moved to an electronic format rather than relying on printed lists and documents. The department will need a centralized place to store and collaborate on documents. Ideally, multiple users should be able to access and update the documents at the same time. The facility IT department can assist with providing collaboration tools and shared folders. Of note, it will be important to only use collaboration tools approved by IT and deemed acceptable for PHI use.
Consistent check-ins and open lines of communication are key to a successful transition to remote work. The employer should define the methods of communication to be used for various scenarios. The primary communication outlets include email, phone, instant messenger, and video conferencing.
For remote work to be successful, clear expectations need to be set and communicated at the onset. These may include:
- Goals – use the S.M.A.R.T. format to create clearly defined goals for each employee.
- Productivity Standards – consider completing a time study to define productivity expectations for the main tasks completed by employees.
- Priority of Work – outline the tasks to be completed and the prioritization of each.
Part of accountability is the ability to monitor progress and ensure employees are meeting the expectations that have been defined. There are many options for monitoring goals, productivity, and workflow. A few options are listed below:
- Daily or weekly detailed timesheets
- An accounting of tasks completed
- Reports from registry software
- Recurring dashboards to display department goals & timeliness
As telecommuting is becoming more common across all industries, including the Cancer Registry field, many employers are facing the need to allow remote work. Employers may consider a trial period initially or require a “work from home agreement” to be signed by the employees. Once a solid foundation has been created for productive telecommuting, the responsibility lies with both the employer and employee(s) to ensure success.