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It has been a few months since companies transitioned their staff out of offices. By now, the immediate struggles of changing on-site employees into remote workers have been resolved. Now, healthcare collections and other accounts receivable businesses are starting to realize that managing remote staff may be a long term necessity.
No one knows how long the Coronavirus pandemic will last or what the future of healthcare AR will look like when it has passed. What is becoming apparent, though, is that many remote workers feel – and have proved – they are more than capable of performing their jobs from a home office.
Healthcare payment operations should begin to think about the logistics of managing remote staff long-term to remain productive and avoid further disruptions to business.
Managing Remote Staff: Policies and Procedures
Just as you have policies and procedures for in-office staff, it’s important to create written guidelines for those who work from home. This will benefit employees who are new to the environment as well as those hired in the future if your agency decides to keep your healthcare collections team remote. Clearly outline the company’s expectations for your remote teams in terms of the basic telework policy, how they should track their hours, and the tools and equipment necessary to do the job.
Healthcare Collections Telework Policy
This policy should cover what is not only expected of your remote workforce but what these employees should expect from management and the company. This policy should include:
- Equipment and Tracking - Explain what equipment will be provided to staff so they can recognize whether they have not been issued items they might need. Also, outline how the equipment will be tracked and accounted for. This helps IT stay organized and reminds those using hardware to treat it with care.
- Compliance Requirements - Clearly explain in the telework policy that all on-site regulations also apply to remote work. Although working at home may feel less formal, you are still running a business. Employees need to know that they must adhere to all applicable compliance and regulations.
- Office Setup Expectations - If your company requires an inspection to determine the staff’s home office setup is adequate, this needs to be mentioned within your telework policy document. Include any points of inspection management will be looking for (safe cord placement, workspace privacy, etc.)
Document Work Schedule Expectations
You may decide to maintain set shifts for employees or decide you can still manage remote staff properly while offering flex shifts – or a combination of the two. Whatever your policy, provide guidance for how and when employees are expected to work. This helps managers keep track of whether employees are doing adequate work.
If offering flex time, it’s advisable to only allow employees flexible start and end times, but require employees to work a standard eight hour day. It is hard for staff to remain productive while working in two or three-hour blocks rather than dedicating themselves a full workday in one stretch.
Track Time Worked
Once you’ve established expectations for work hours, also be sure your organization provides a simple way to track the shifts being worked. If you allow flex schedules, provide a deadline for when you require staff to submit the hours they plan to work each week. This way, you can easily compare planned hours with time punches if you notice performance issues with a staff member.
From friendly chats to communication about work issues, you and your employees can miss a lot in a remote setting. If you are looking to maintain good morale and relationships with a remote team, put extra effort into your systems of communication.
- Communication tools - make sure everyone is using the same tools in the same ways. Train all employees to use these programs so important communications don’t get lost.
- Encourage feedback and discussion - When possible, schedule meetings at times that are convenient for all team members. If you hold meetings at the end of a workday or a time people are busy with other tasks, you may not get the highest level of engagement. Also ask members to come to meetings prepared with topics so they are ready to participate.
- Motivation and engagement - Have a plan to keep employees motivated and engaged. Proactively reaching out to employees if their work seems lacking can help uncover problems before they get out of hand. However, keeping good employees motivated also means having friendly conversations that sometimes won’t revolve around work at all. Ask about weekend plans, shows people are watching, or other light, non-work topics. These conversations help you build relationships with your staff and learn about who they are.
Tools For Remote Healthcare Collections
Even the best medical debt collectors may struggle if they aren’t set up for success. Managing remote staff successfully requires training, setting expectations and providing the right tools for the job. Many offices require face-to-face system training before new hires begin working in their own homes. This may cut down on technical issues during the first weeks of work and help build rapport with new team members. Aside from system training, there are a few other considerations that will prepare remote staff:
- Dedicated workspaces - Provide guidance on what an employee’s workspace should (and shouldn’t) include. Currently, many more people are working in their homes while families or housemates are also home. If employees deal with sensitive consumer data, explain HIPAA and PCI and FDCPA guidelines to ensure the home workspace is compliant with these regulations.
- Internet access - Decide on the minimal internet speed acceptable for your healthcare collection staff to perform. Ensure this requirement is established during the hiring process so you don’t invest time in an employee who can’t perform the job.
- IT Help - Create and share the proper system for contacting IT for help. Do you have a dedicated phone number? Should staff submit tickets for help? When employees are working remotely IT can be a greater challenge during troubleshooting and equipment replacement. Be ready for these difficulties by talking to your IT staff about what they think will work best for in the long run.
- Equipment (Hardware and Software) - Decide what items your workers will need to perform based on their job duties. Provide monitors, computers, headsets, cords and other hardware that is necessary to perform job functions. Also, think about the software your company uses. If you want agents to take payments from home, you can still follow payment security and compliance guidelines with the proper software.
While many offices did not plan the transition to a remote workforce, this pandemic has created an opportunity for many companies to rethink the way they operate. As long as your business creates a framework for employees and follows payment and other regulations using the right tools for the job, this work model can benefit your company, employees and consumers.
To learn more about how to maintain payment security and compliance while allowing remote agents to accept payments, download PDCflow’s FLOW technology for remote work how-to.