Janet Elkin, our CEO and President, recently wrote an article for Staffing Industry Review about working remote. Here is what she had to say…
Our world has been turned upside down and staffing is no different. After buying two companies in the middle of a pandemic, it’s been interesting, to say the least. Going to a remote environment was, in my opinion, necessary to keep my people safe. Over time it has basically been a great adventure, one we will continue. We realized some silver linings from the last couple of years.
Expanded talent pool. We wanted to add experienced team members rapidly to grow Icon; now, we had the opportunity to add seasoned recruiters and account managers who lived anywhere. With studies from Chicago Booth to Harvard Business School showing that with careful planning, remote can be viable and beneficial to employees, we realized that we could have employees in hubs around the country, such as Atlanta or Boston.
Expense management. Not having permanent office space is freeing. We can scale up or down without dealing with long-term leases. As we grow our hubs, we can take an executive suite in a particular city. We can fund get-togethers at various times of the year in different parts of the country.
Time efficiency. Although much has been written about loss from seeing others during the day, our people are way more productive without gossip or drama to distract them. And without commutes, people get more time in working but still enjoy more work-life balance.
That’s not to say there haven’t been challenges. Here are a few.
Getting to know your employees. I always had a monthly company call, which became even more important being remote. Losing the “water cooler” time, your employees can miss out on things like meeting new colleagues and learning of each other’s life changes. Having short Zoom calls every day really helped. Over time, those calls have evolved too. Once a week we have a team member lead it where they gently joke and tease while also cheerleading accomplishments. Zooms with games and prizes helped, too. In a remote environment, you can’t overcommunicate. Reaching out on a regular basis to your staff is imperative.
In-person meetings. We recently had our first in-person event since the pandemic. Most of the time was spent on activities promoting getting to really know each other, such as a scavenger hunt using our city location as a backdrop. I would recommend doing at least three of these a year. Is this enough? Without the expense of rent to deal with, we can do other things like taking our folks to dinner or lunch in various cities. For me, seeing my employees, whether payroll processor or VP, means everything.
Is this a sustainable model? I wanted to give people the option of being remote years ago. After interviewing enough people who wanted flexibility, I became a fan. Unfortunately, it was hard to change a model and people’s minds. The pandemic forced us to rip off the Band-Aid. Do I miss the camaraderie of an office? Yes! Every single day. However, this is where the future of work is going, and I don’t think it will change back. We will make sure to visit our employees where they are, and they can get together as desired. But every day needing to be in at 8 a.m.? No, not happening here. The interesting thing is that by and large, our people are more productive than when they were in an office.
Changing your model. When I purchased Independence Anesthesia Services, it was not a remote model; in fact, everyone but two employees worked in the office. Seeing the success of Icon and knowing the difficulty in hiring tenured employees in a college town, we added people remotely. It’s working and although there are some different challenges, they are growing rapidly as well.
Listen to your employees. As a CEO, I know all too well how we can get set in our ways and change can be, well, terrifying. However, I have learned that if we don’t pivot with the times, our firms will be left behind. It’s exhilarating to change your mindset.
About Janet Elkin: Janet has been crafting workforce solutions for the healthcare industry for well over 20 years. Passionate about patient care, she has always strived to make a difference in the lives of both providers and facilities. In all her roles, Janet has believed in customizing answers to challenges that we face in healthcare.
She acquired ICON because the caring and committed attitude of Ashley and team came through loud and clear. Together they are forging a path different than the typical cookie-cutter approach to locums. She believes in innovative programs like giving stock options to providers, ensuring no gaps between assignments and income, and having one point of contact to healthcare systems. By making candidates and clients feel like they matter, together they will do great things – and provide excellent patient care.
Janet, a New York City native, graduated from Syracuse University. She resides in Dallas, Texas with her husband, four daughters, and a growing brood of grandchildren.