In the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 global health crisis, the team here at Curvo Labs has turned its digital engagement efforts toward empowering and connecting healthcare supply chain teams as they face this pandemic head-on. 

In part 1, we shared strategies for dealing with masks and other PPE shortages. In this post, we’re diving into workforce management and work-from-home topics as they apply to healthcare supply chain.

Access the entire series here:

Part 1: Dealing with Covid-19 Shortage: Masks and Other PPE

Part 2: Managing a Hybrid or Work from Home Team

Part 3: Planning for the Chronic Phase of the Pandemic 

Part 2: Managing a Hybrid or Work from Home Team

One unique byproduct of the current COVID-19 pandemic is a sudden rush to support working from home. In many businesses, those who can physically conduct their work from their home are now doing so – some of them for the very first time.

As the healthcare environment has an inherently high risk of exposure to COVID-19, this is the time to send home anyone and everyone who can perform their job duties at their house. But managing a remote or a hybrid team brings a new set of challenges. For teams who haven’t explored remote work until now, the adjustments have been abrupt and, in some cases, haphazard.

Below are some strategies and principles that can help you manage your workforce, including those adjusting to the new work from home lifestyle.

Plan for Team Continuity

Dr. Li Ern Chen emphasized the importance of ensuring that a hospital’s supply chain team has a plan for continuity:

  • What happens if one of your staff tests positive for the coronavirus? 
  • How will you continue to function if those who work closely with your infected staffer are forced to quarantine?

Other healthcare leaders have shared a best practice of splitting the in-person team into A and B teams with different shifts. That way, you’re not completely stuck if one team is forced to discontinue work for a period of time.

Another key to team continuity is identifying who among the work-from-home team could fill an in-person role if needed. This allows you to have a backup plan in case a team member gets sick.

Remote and Hybrid Team Management

Healthcare supply chain is dealing with particular complexities related to work from home, as are many businesses. Chief among these is the reality that some supply chain functions and roles can, given the circumstances, work mostly or completely remotely. But others simply cannot. In healthcare supply chain, you’re most likely not managing a fully remote team; rather, a hybrid mix of at-home and on-premises team members.

Managing a hybrid team requires finesse and know-how. And many managers may have been forced into it with no real training or support. Thankfully, there are technology tools available to make this transition more seamless.

Tools, Technology, and Resources For Working From Home

There are many tools and strategies that can ease the challenges of managing a remote team. Since engagement is one of the primary challenges with managing a remote team, make sure to approach this through a creative lens. It’s doubly significant right now as your team has real concerns and worries related to this pandemic – ones that transcend their work.

High technology companies have had a headstart on work from home strategies. Many leaders hold daily standups to stay agile in a dynamic and changing space. These meetings can be 10-15 minutes and can read the team in on important updates, task priorities and daily individual commitments.

In addition to using Slack as a chat service at Curvo, we’ve introduced full company check-ins via Zoom on a daily basis. These are optional, and don’t have an agenda. If team members are busy, they need not join. This brings a daily connection in our team, so we stay connected, supportive, and engaged.

These same tools can help your teams communicate about work-related functions. In fact, they’re essential for a hybrid team. As a manager, you’re in a place both to stress the importance of communicating using these tools and to teach your team members how to use them. Some will gravitate to these tools with ease, while others may struggle to learn the tool or to adapt their communication style.

Team members who are working remotely for the first time may require additional technical support. They’ll need a headset with a microphone to participate in video calls, for example. We’ve found that noise-canceling gaming headsets are a great way to go: they’re not very costly and they work very well in this use case. 

Work From Home Management Techniques

Clear expectations are key for managing a remote or hybrid team:

  • Are you setting clear expectations on hours, availability, dress code, etc? 
  • Does your team have a way to stay engaged with each other and to feel encouraged?

Communicate your expectations to them so there are no misunderstandings. Working from home brings a greater degree of flexibility. But you as the manager must proactively communicate where that flexibility starts – and where it ends.

This is true for all your direct reports who are working offsite. But don’t forget the supply chain staff who cannot work offsite, either. They need to know what’s changed (and what hasn’t) regarding your expectations of the team and of remote individuals. As a manager, it’s your job to share your expectations clearly to your entire team.

Further Reading

Managing a hybrid workforce is just one of the urgent issues facing healthcare supply chains. Be sure to check out the other two entries in this series: Dealing with COVID-19 Shortages: Masks and Other PPE and Planning for the Chronic Phase of COVID-19.