Hiring Out-of-State Contact Center Employees

By Elizabeth Woodcock, Executive Director

Work-from-home is here to stay, but the transition isn’t easy. University of Maryland Faculty Physicians’ Director of Patient Access Services, Lori Bruelheide, MBA reports that the new model means new challenges related to employees: “Being late to work still exists – we’ve traded the excuses related to traffic to problems with technology.” To mitigate these challenges, Lori – and the two other panelists who joined her at the PAC’s webinar on Work (Far) from Home – supply the equipment for their remote associates. Scott O’Neil, the VP of Patient Access and Service at University of Vermont Health Network not only sends the telecommunications and computing equipment, but also a desk and a chair. The University of Vermont is now recruiting from all 50 states as a response to the labor pandemic. With such a sparsely populated state, Vermont is particularly impacted by the staffing shortages that are affecting health systems across the nation. O’Neil exclaimed that the applicant pool “blew up” after opening applications from all states, concluding, “This [out-of-state hiring] isn’t new – it’s just new to us in healthcare.”

Other nuances that require navigating recruiting out-of-state associates for their health system’s contact center, according to our expert panel: 

  • Managing time zones, as associates may be three hours different
  • Training employees to sound like they know the area (when asked about directions or location of the practice)
  • Scheduling protocols have always been important, but now they are essential as the key navigation resource for remote associates
  • Internal chat channels are healthy for morale – and provide a lifeline for real-time questions by remote associates
  • Webcams are typically required, and are integrated in the computer monitor shipped to new associates
  • Getting equipment back via prepaid labels has proven successful – and the potential loss is small compared to the new model’s benefits
  • Basic troubleshooting technical skills are key for new associates; vetting for them isn’t easy
  • Fully remote training is essential for the model to work
  • Performance measures will – and should – change; schedule adherence, for example, is a key performance indicator for remote associates
  • Fostering culture isn’t impossible, but efforts must be intentional

Michael Yaitanes MHA, Director of University of Washington (UW) Contact Center, reported a key outcome the new remote workforce had at UW – shedding the expenses of a (very!) expensive downtown Seattle office suite. “I have a great team,” touts Michael, who is a big fan of a remote workforce, “and I don’t anticipate ever meeting most of them.” In the past, that may have given us pause as healthcare leaders. Today, however, it represents the norm.

For PAC members, go to Webinars to listen to our panel of experts, who presented at the August 18, 2022 webinar titled: Work-(Far)-From-Home: Rethinking Employee Recruitment and Retention in Access Center.

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