Resource management challenges in the healthcare industry
Flexible working in Healthcare
The global Covid pandemic forced a seismic shift in working practices across every organisation in every sector. The adoption of flexible working that started with the first lockdowns has been replicated in the healthcare sector as staff want to take advantage of the benefits this can bring, not only to their work but also their work–home life balance.
The NHS report ‘Flexible working: Raising the standards for the NHS’ (January 2022) defines flexible working as ‘an arrangement which supports an individual to have greater choice in when, where and how they work’, but flexible working isn’t just about the individual, it’s also about the organisation. How can the organisation benefit from supporting its staff to work more flexibly?
The obvious answer lies in how estates and resources are used. A more flexible estate is one where space can be reused relative to the different requirements it now needs to cater for. Operational and back-office staff no longer need the amount of space they required when operating a full-time office presence, enabling that surplus space to be reused and repurposed for more appropriate and specialist use. Staff that don’t need to be present on acute care sites are being relocated to sites and buildings that previously couldn’t meet their capacity requirements. Organisations have recognised that a staff member working flexibly may choose to do so from alternative locations than they would in a full-time capacity. The organisations are beginning to share their resources with other Trusts and public sector organisations to create a wider, more flexible, and better-utilised estate.
In this blog, we’ll talk about some of the technology that is being adopted widely across the healthcare sector to support flexible working, examples of this technology in operation, and some of the outcomes and benefits that are already being seen through the adoption of this technology.
The impact of hybrid working
The widespread adoption of flexible working has changed the world of work forever. Never in history has a single event had such a global impact on the way people work. It accelerated the change of working that was already on the horizon for some; for others, it forced them to adapt and to think in a new way completely.
Of course, not everyone can or indeed wants to work flexibly. Especially in a healthcare setting, certain roles and functions have to be delivered in-person and it’s also important to consider that not everyone has the appropriate facilities to work at home. An organisation has to consider:
the needs of staff
how they want to perform their roles
where they feel that’s best achieved
balancing the needs of the organisations and the people they serve.
A clear flexible working policy gives staff and the organisation all of the above without compromising the service to their patients.
Let’s talk about tech
When speaking to organisations about flexible working, two words in particular feature commonly: reassurance and data.
Staff members may be thinking:
“With no permanent, dedicated workspace commuting to work, I need the reassurance that there are going to be workspaces and facilities available for me to use. Without it, why would I travel to the office?”
Organisations may be thinking:
“Implementing flexible working, we want the data that shows how our resources are being used so that we can base our flexible working policies and future business decisions on it.”
This is where technology comes in.
Technology is being harnessed to not only facilitate time at home, such as conferencing and remote networking tools, but also to facilitate time in the office. Resource management platforms, previously used for the sole purpose of managing meeting rooms are now being widely adopted to manage the booking of desks and other spaces, such as car parking spaces, clinical rooms, and collaboration areas. These platforms have adapted as our working practices have adapted, with many now offering additional features and functions to support the booking of key resources, but also to help answer key questions, such as:
“When are my colleagues attending the office?”
“Where will my colleagues be in the office?”
“What resources are available to me, when, and where?”
“What is the location closest to my home?”
We often hear that there now needs to be a reason for staff to go into the office and how both the availability of resources and the presence of colleagues or team members form a key part of that decision. A resource management platform can help support this decision-making process and the securing of resources once that decision has been made.
When it comes to data, resource management platforms can bring up data on how estates and resources are being used. Underutilisation is just as important as utilisation. With reporting tools available to report on both areas, estates and facilities teams now have access to the kind of data that can help drive key business decisions and help plan their future estates’ strategies.
Facilities managers may be thinking:
“Do we need as much desk space in the building as we had before?”
“Are people mostly using desks or meeting spaces when in the office?”
“What is the utilisation of our buildings side by side?”
The sharing of resources between Trusts and local authorities has long been a feature for many organisations, but the rise in flexible working has added another dimension to this. The concept of staff being able to work how and where they want is now being adopted on a cross-organisational basis. This is leading to greater flexibility for staff, increased utilisation of resources by offering them to a wider pool of users, and helping to drive a reduction in commuting time, cost, and carbon output. Staff can see and book resources in a wider, cross-organisational estate through a single platform. This ensures not only the visibility of what is available, but also the data to determine how the estates are being used and by whom.
The future of the healthcare estate
As we have seen, technology has and will continue to play a key part in the future of healthcare estates. Evolving technology will help to address the constantly changing landscape of large, multi-site or multi-use estates, helping to make the most of them that already exist by adapting their use to meet the requirements of new ways of working.
The growth of estate sharing will see organisations working together to meet their key goals around staff flexibility, resource utilisation as well as cost and carbon reduction. We hope the future will bring a wide network of healthcare organisations partnering together to deliver a connected healthcare estate.
There’s no getting away from the fact that flexible working is here to stay, but we are only part way through the journey that started three years ago regarding how and where we work. We are only now at the point of being able to analyse and adapt, using technology to support not only the way the staff want to work, but how we need our estates to deliver the benefit and value required currently and in the future.
We hope you found this article informative.