5 ways care agencies can adopt hybrid working practices

A recent study by Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has found that half of the employers in Great Britain expect an increase in demand for flexible forms of working as the world adjusts to a ‘post-covid’ reality. But what does this mean for businesses like care agencies, that operate uniquely with a mix of office-based and remote members of staff? Is hybrid working the answer?

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What is hybrid working?

A hybrid work model gives employees the flexibility to get work done when and where they are most productive. This could be working from home rather than in an office, or at a time in the day that best suits them. 

What are the benefits of hybrid working?

Advice from Acas strongly implies that hybrid working can help businesses attract and retain staff as well as increase staff productivity – allowing them to better balance work and personal responsibilities. This is especially important for home care businesses, as data from Skills for Care’s latest ‘The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England’ report shows retention in the sector is still a problem, with an annual turnover rate of 28.5% in 2020/21.

How can care agencies adopt hybrid working models?

From the outset, it may seem impossible for a care agency to adopt hybrid working practices. Can a care worker ‘work from home’ when their job is to visit clients and provide personal care services?

But, by thinking outside of the box, it may be possible for care agencies to learn lessons from hybrid models and incorporate some hybrid behaviours into the way they operate – making care work more flexible for all.

1. Determine which roles, if any, might be eligible for remote working 

Not all employees in a care agency work remotely visiting clients’ homes. Some may be office-based and work in coordination, finance, marketing or HR roles. Consult widely about introducing hybrid working and discuss practical considerations such as how people may feel about hybrid working, as well as the principles that could govern hybrid practices. 

2. Think about holding online meetings instead of gathering everyone at the office

According to Ofcom, the regulator for communication services in the UK, during the lockdown in 2020, the number of adults making video calls doubled, with more than seven in 10 doing so at least weekly. So, instead of gathering team members from far and wide for an office-based meeting – consider holding them digitally. And if Bill Gates’ vision comes true, in the future you may even host them in the metaverse – a 3D space with digital avatars!

3. Digitise the way you train and develop your team

Traditionally, employee training would be held on specific ‘training days’ and would necessitate getting team members in the same place, at the same time and delivering learning through lectures, exams and practical tutorials. Now, training can be digitised, allowing employees to complete modules on their terms at a time that makes sense for them. Businesses like My Learning Cloud provide a learning environment and suite of online e-learning courses endorsed by Skills for Care, that allow care providers to fully manage training and learning digitally in their business.

4. Make use of asynchronous tools – like Slack and WhatsApp

While employees may already be familiar with using tools like WhatsApp to contact friends and family, many businesses are now using these apps in a professional capacity. Asynchronous tools help teams collaborate at different times and different locations at times that suit each user. A care worker could use WhatsApp or Slack to send out a helpful message to colleagues advising of road closures – to be read whenever they are due to start their next shift. This can help teams operate in a more agile and responsive way. And soon, we’ll even see these apps integrated into care management systems.

5. Still paper-based? Upgrade to a comprehensive care management system

A care management system can help care agencies take a huge step towards digitising their whole operation – introducing hybrid working practices as it is rolled out. From rostering to care planning, eMAR to accident forms and staff management to payroll, a dedicated care management platform can help care businesses reduce the need to perform mundane in-person processes. Timesheets are generated and sent directly to care workers via a dedicated app, care plans are updated digitally, and medications are recorded instantly – which helps free up more time for in-person care.

Most care management systems can also be used remotely from preferred devices as long as there’s an internet connection – whether it’s an admin day using a laptop at home, an employee development review on a tablet in a coffee shop, or a quick schedule change using a smartphone while out on the school run. No internet? No problem! When carers are on the move, data inputted into their mobile devices is cached and pushed when it regains a network connection/Wifi.

At a time when recruitment and retention issues in the care sector are at the forefront of care leaders’ minds, providers need to be doing all they can to develop a working environment that meets the needs and expectations of today’s workforce. And with 85% of UK workers wanting a more flexible approach to working conditions, there hasn’t been a better time to consider hybrid working styles.

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