Teamed for Success – Communication is Key to Maintaining an Engaged, Remote Workforce
In mid-March 2020 approximately 13,000 of Advocate Aurora Health team members were challenged to start working remotely, while juggling multiple responsibilities of home and family. Our leaders were tasked with providing the necessary tools, resources and support so Advocate Aurora team members could strike a workable balance between maintaining a productive work and home life.
The learning curve for working remotely was easy for some, more challenging for others. Many employees began homeschooling children for the first time, while simultaneously performing their work responsibilities. At times team members needed flexibility in their work schedules and we accommodated their needs whenever possible.
The leadership team at Aurora Sinai Medical Center began a unique, hybrid working arrangement. Each member of our administrative team, including myself, began working remotely one day per week. This ensured social distancing in the office and reduced congestion in the administrative area. Working remotely provided each of us with new insights and a deeper understanding of the challenges facing the remote workers we supervise. It’s been a valuable learning experience for all.
We recently passed the one-year mark on this large, work-at-home experience. What have we learned? We knew beforehand that our workforce was committed, resilient and adaptable. The past year has confirmed that Advocate Aurora Health is a human resource-rich organization.
Our experiences underscored how important communication is to maintaining a productive and engaged workforce. This is especially true for remote team members. We quickly learned how to leverage technology to encourage productivity and engagement. While we all miss those impromptu, in-person “water cooler” interactions with colleagues, we’ve made a commitment to stay connected and intentionally create opportunities to communicate in other ways.
Honest, open, two-way communication builds camaraderie in a workforce. Communication is key in helping team members feel like an important part of their team. We continue to rely heavily on various communication platforms (email, texting, video conferencing) to help remote workers feel personally connected to the success of their team. In addition to connecting with their direct report, remote employees benefit from regular communication with fellow team members and organizational leadership. Some Advocate Aurora team members report feeling more connected today than ever before, thanks to regularly scheduled check-ins and corporate-wide messaging.
So, where do we go from here? While the pandemic produced countless changes and challenges, it also presented opportunities to explore remote work options that will help us design appropriate, sustainable working models for the future. All indications are that remote work arrangements and flexible ways of working will increase during the next decade. The workplace (and individual workspaces) will continue to evolve and look different in the future. These areas of discussion are currently underway in our organization. It’s likely that some of new ways of working we’ve adopted will continue in a post-COVID-19 world. Others may change over time.
As human beings we possess the unique ability to change and rapidly adjust to new situations when needed. These attributes will remain vital as we work our way toward a post-pandemic workplace. Advocate Aurora Health will continue to refine and reexamine which jobs can successfully be done remotely — exploring new ways to improve the lives of people we serve —and ultimately helping more people live well.
For additional resources on employee assistance program support groups, wellness services and more, check out Advocate Aurora Employer Solutions.
Carrie Killoran serves Advocate Aurora Health as the president of the organization’s Greater Milwaukee Patient Service Area and leads the administrative team at Aurora Sinai Medical Center.