The Flex Factor: A How-To for Adding Flex Time To Your Healthcare Schedule

Skills Gaps Healthcare

In any job, stress can have an insidious effect on performance. In healthcare, the effect goes straight to bottom lines.

In today's environment, where the reimbursement schedule is more and more connected to the quality of care, healthcare systems with poor patient outcomes will have lower reimbursement rates. And stress that negatively affects healthcare performances can ultimately lead to poorer patient outcomes.

It's a cause/effect equation taken on in the practical publication, "Workflex and Health Care Guide, from Forced Flexibility to Effective Schedules." In it, authors Jamie Leick (Life Meets Work) and Kenneth Matos (Families and Work Institute) define a flexible workplace and effectively illustrate why employers should consider adjusting their scheduling policies to support creating this type of environment.

Inflexible Work Schedules Are a Substantial Source of Healthcare Stress

Why should employers be so concerned about flex time? Apart from the stress factor is the fact that employees in healthcare must be on the job. Unlike other workforces, nurses and other providers cannot simply pick up their work another day or have their role accomplished in some automated fashion - such as by robot. There's also the generational factor. Millennials are bullish these days on balancing their work/life universes, making a flex-option no doubt to their liking. As a higher percentage of the workforce shifts from Boomers, to Gen X, and then Millennials, giving employees the ability to provide input and have control over their schedules will become increasingly important.

But stress additionally looms large. And scheduling - and in particular, poor scheduling - is a significant source of stress for these employees. This is true for any round-the-clock organization, but more so in 24/7/365 healthcare organizations.  Poor scheduling can lead to mandatory overtime and unpredictable work hours with little to no room for accommodating life events of importance. The guide not only argues that more employee input and control into work hours would help, but offers tangible solutions for how to do it including:

  • Developing and maintaining in-house float pools for patient caregivers
  • Creating alternative schedules that may include staggered start times
  • Utilizing mobile scheduling software to assist with last-minute scheduling issues - that can guide the way.

Policies and Procedures for Flex Time in Healthcare

The guide goes on to discuss policies that may need to be in place to support the flex-scheduling success, and offers suggestions in such a way that HR professionals and others responsible for scheduling can pick a few ideas and understand how to implement - even if only in a pilot. It's a topic that many employers have put significant time and resources into addressing in a tangible way; this offers not only a practical starting point, but concrete suggestions on how proceed.

No doubt, the idea of flex time in healthcare is overwhelming. As I wrote recently, it would be impossible to give everyone exactly the hours they want without completely shaking up the system. And even hospital administrators who have bought into the need for employee input and control into their schedules are scratching their heads about how to do it. The guide is a terrific starting point. Anyone with responsibility for shaping the scheduling policy for a 24/7/365 workforce will benefit. But for healthcare providers dealing with a stressed population of people who must be on the job, your bottom line may depend on it.

Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

About the Author

Bright Horizons logo on yellow background

The Bright Horizons Blog Editor frequently posts on the real solutions that meaningfully support employees, advance careers, and drive the world’s leading brands. The Editor curates the latest news, trends, and challenges facing HR pros because your time is scarce. Follow the Bright Horizons Blog to receive this insight in your inbox.