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How to Successfully Implement and Review Remote Working in Primary Care Networks in 2024 and Beyond

Updated: May 1

At THC, we provide resources for primary care leaders, and in this week's blog, the THC team got together to discuss

How can we improve remote working?

✅ How to remain visible when working remotely

✅ Managing remote working as a leader and manager


From the perspective of the employer, employee and staffing provider.


Whilst many networks have created systems, processes and a culture, where both in-practice teams and those who work remotely feel connected, respected and valued, others have not, resulting in a huge detrimental impact that covers:

 

🚩 Low productivity

🚩 Employment law issues

🚩 Low morale across the team

🚩 Recruitment and retention issues

🚩 Negative health and well-being of individuals

 

When we have a team all rowing in the same direction,  the sky is the limit, but it takes conscious and consistent efforts from everyone involved in the network.


In this blog, you will receive:

 

1️⃣ A summary of the benefits of remote working

2️⃣ 31 challenges which could be hampering effective remote working in your network

3️⃣ 6 questions you could use to survey your network, to gauge  how effective your engagement is  

4️⃣ 5 questions for you to consider when it comes to how effective the systems and processes are in your network in relation to information

5️⃣ A video explanation of the importance of being proactive and personable in our communications



how to successfully implement and review remote working in primary care networks


The benefits of remote working

 

Before we jump into the meat of this blog, it's not all negative. There are many benefits of working remotely.  

 

1.     Reduces carbon footprint

2.     Better time management

3.     Widens the recruitment pool

4.     More relaxed to start work as there is no commute

5.     More flexibility, which can aid a better work-life balance

6.     Saves time and money on childcare, travel, food, clothes for the employee

7.     Save time and money for the employer

8.     Allows for extra capacity and your workforce to grow from a practice point of view

9. The option to allow staff to work from home may make you more of an attractive employer, increasing your ability to recruit

10. Increased productivity due to reduced distractions depending on your home set-up


However, regardless of where you sit on the spectrum of we have everything figured out to this DOES NOT work at all, I am sure you will be able to relate to at least one of the following statements. ⬇️


The challenges of remote working AND managing remote working


Below is a list of 31 factors which many Primary Care Networks experience when trying to balance remote working alongside those who are based in practice.


1.     Space to work

2.     Technical issues

3.     Poor governance

4.     Different cultures

5.     Unclear expectations

6.     Lack of accountability

7.     Personal circumstances

8.     Confidence – introversion

9.     Lack of interaction. It can be isolating

10. It can be difficult to build relationships

11. Lack of in-person IT support is not working

12. A lack of or poor performance management

13. Sometimes, staff feel out of sight, out of mind

14. The lack of policies results in different expectations  

15. Managing needs and wants and different preferences

16. An understanding that job requirements can change

17. Lack of understanding of the context you work within

18. Sometimes causes a divide. A ‘them and us’ mentality

19. Misinterpretation of communication when not in person

20. Monitoring the workload of some roles can be a challenge

21. Different employment contracts result in different expectations

22. Lack of understanding of and appreciation for each other's role

23. Lack of communication regarding rotas, roles and responsibilities

24. Training and supervision is not  as robust or frequent or does not exist at all

25. Tension when staff members do want to work in practice but there is no space for them

26. People taking advantage of the flexibility, and this negatively affecting the whole team

27. Navigating multiple organisational cultures can become harder without in-person interaction 

28. Tensions because not all jobs can be performed at home, so not everyone has the choice

29. Managing conflict or challenging conversations virtually can be tougher when conducted remotely


30. Another factor to highlight is related to personal legitimacy.


Practice-based staff may not feel remote or hybrid staff warrant as much legitimacy as their role suggests on the basis of them being physically absent.


Equally, staff based remotely may not have a full appreciation for this way of thinking and may need guidance on how to change colleagues’ perceptions.


31. Lastly, in this section, this may be an unpopular opinion, but as an employer, I also think it's important to highlight that the needs of the service/business may change. Nothing is forever, which may require employees to change their way of working, just like an employee would want more flexibility if their personal circumstances changed.





What can we do?

 

1. You could survey your team to better understand their thought and perceptions. Or you could answer these questions yourself and see what comes up.


Here are some questions for you to build on.

 

Q1. To what extent do you feel your contributions and efforts are recognised by your colleagues and superiors while working remotely?

This question aims to assess the perceived visibility of employees and whether they feel the team acknowledges their work.

 

Q2 On a scale of 1 to 5, how connected do you feel to your team while working remotely? (1 being not connected at all, 5 being very connected).

This question helps measure the sense of belonging by directly asking employees to rate their perceived level of connection with the team.

 

Q3 How often do you have one-on-one check-ins or virtual meetings with your manager to discuss your work and address any concerns or questions you may have?

This question delves into the communication and support structures in place, which can impact visibility and the overall sense of belonging.

 

Q4 Do you feel that there are opportunities for professional development and growth in your remote role?

Understanding employees' perceptions of growth opportunities helps gauge their overall satisfaction with their role and network, influencing their sense of belonging.

 

Q5 On a weekly basis, how often do you engage in non-work-related virtual activities or discussions with your team members?

This question explores the social aspects of remote work, shedding light on the informal connections that contribute to a sense of belonging and team cohesion.


You could also invite your team to share any additional thoughts, comments, or suggestions you have regarding their experience working remotely, especially in terms of visibility in your role and your sense of belonging to the team.




 

2.     Utilise the technology in your network to aid your communication

 

You will have many of these at your disposal:

 

➡️ Whatsapp

➡️ Teamnet

➡️ Clinical systems

➡️ Microsoft Teams

➡️ Project management tools like Asana, Trello, etc… 

 

Use them and turn your cameras on, as this will enhance your communication.

 

You will have to make an extra effort until this becomes routine.

 

3.     Create systems and processes to increase visibility and information sharing

 

From the list below, consider the following:

 

➡️ What do we already do?

➡️ What works well?

➡️ What could be improved and why?

➡️ What should we stop doing?

 

🎯 Action logs

🎯 Dashboards

🎯 Newsletters

🎯 Progress reports

🎯 Using a shared drive to file information


ETC...


4. Be proactive and personable


Please watch ⬇️



Questions for consideration


Can you share your priorities for the week and then what you achieved at the end of the week?

Can you acknowledge this?

Can you share good news?


 Can you celebrate this?

Can you attend and be present at meetings?

Can you extend meeting invitations to those who would benefit from attending?

Can you share snippets of your life to aid in the building of relationships?

Can you find connection points, especially with people who you may be struggling to work with?

Ensure your communication is clear, thorough and succinct

Can you read the communications being circulated?

Can you attend some in-person meetings?

Can you ensure your meetings have a purpose and are welcoming?

What else can you add and commit to?





Final Thoughts


With continued challenges with general practice estates, and a growing non-clinical workforce, the national direction for integrating team working, and working with colleagues who do not sit in the same building with you is here to stay.


However you feel about it, it's important to find a way to make it work for you and your team by creating systems and practices in place to foster a culture with a sense of belonging.


Building an effective team has to be a deliberate and conscious effort.



 

Work with us


Do you need support with your PCN Team?


🎯 We provide facilitation

🎯 Primary care network audits


If you need support to apply the insights we share, we would love to help you. Email admin@thcprimarycare.co.uk to set up a call.


Find out more about THC Primary Care at www.thcprimarycare.co.uk


If you do not need further support, please just keep enjoying and sharing the blog.



 

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About the author


the business of healthcare podcast with Tara Humphrey

I'm Tara; I am the founder of THC Primary Care, an award-winning healthcare consultancy specialising in Primary Care Network Management and the host of the Business of Healthcare Podcast, where we have now published over 280 episodes.


I have over 20 years of project management and business development experience across the private and public sectors, and I have supported over 120 PCNs by providing interim management, training and consultancy.


I have managed teams across multiple sites and countries; I have an MBA in Leadership and Management in Healthcare, I'm published in the London Journal of Primary Care, and I am the author of over 250 blogs. 


I have 3 children. My eldest has Asthma, my middle child has a kidney condition called Nephrotic Syndrome, and my youngest daughter has Type 1 Diabetes, so outside of work, healthcare plays a huge role in my life.


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