Starting a Work From Home Program: A MediRevv Case Study
Nearly a year ago, MediRevv launched a work from home program across its largest division — the one that provides insurance and patient pay A/R follow up for health systems, hospitals, and large physician groups across the nation. The "why" behind this decision is incredibly simple: our employees asked for it! Because we already had a little experience — our Coding Services division has successfully supported remote workers for several years — we were happy to listen, evaluate, and move forward with a plan that would maintain our high standards for productivity and quality and encompass that less tangible "feel-good-about-your-role" element that we call our culture.
What does it take to start a work from home program?
A lot! The learning curve for implementing our "HOME" program was steep and fast, yet our results have been positive. Here are some challenges we encountered, the processes we put in place, and a few lessons we learned along the way. First, to give you a little background, MediRevv’s headquarters are located in Coralville, part of Iowa's Creative Corridor, a seven-county region with a population of over half a million people. Our work from home program not only offers our current employees a new opportunity, but also positions MediRevv to be a viable employer for other talented workers in the region.
Homing in on what it takes to be successful
MediRevv was already familiar with the concept of remote workers prior to initiating a formal program for our qualified representatives. Our medical coding department has relied on remote workers for a few years, and we have learned much about combatting the sense of isolation and involving employees in our positive workplace culture. With this information in hand, we structured our work from home program to include some days of work from home, and some days in the office. This gives each employee a chance to reconnect socially and attend team meetings onsite.
Starting out We sent all employees a survey to understand the scope of interest in HOME while our technology department went to work on logistics, and then, out of the blue, we encountered an ideal opportunity to pilot the program. One of our longtime, high performing employees resigned because she and her family were to move out of state. MediRevv offered her the option to stay on working remotely, so as not to lose a talented employee. This pilot program helped us determine fair benchmarks for productivity and quality assurance and iron out minor technical issues, which helped us set the program guidelines referenced below.
The feedback from the survey mentioned above proved to be overwhelmingly in favor of remote work options. This, the preparedness of our technology team, the ease of our Coding Services division remote work program, and the success and seamless transition of the pilot program bolstered our confidence to move forward. At the beginning of the year, we rolled the HOME program out to a wider scope of employees within our revenue cycle services division. At present, we have 28 revenue cycle representatives and 19 patient experience representatives working from home three or more days a week.
MediRevv's HOME participants have the same set up as their in-office counterparts
Currently, 30 million Americans work from home at least one day a week. By 2020, it’s estimated that 1 in 3 workers will be able to work from home or wherever they want in the world, according to a study by Odesk, which is an online marketplace for hiring remote workers. Large companies like Aetna save about $78 million annually on real estate costs by allowing 47% of their employees flexible work spaces.
Because the HOME program is new to MediRevv, we haven’t yet seen a significant savings on overhead or energy costs. We provide the equipment needed to work from home including monitors, thin client (a lightweight computer that connects to the server from a remote location), and phone. These items are upfront expenditures for the company. Since MediRevv operates on a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) it is easy to troubleshoot technical issues because our technology department can login remotely to the employee’s computer in real time.
Qualifications Participation in our HOME program is a privilege to be earned. Each MediRevver who wishes to participate must meet specific criteria to be eligible, including:
- Working onsite at MediRevv for a minimum of six months
- Achieving and maintaining a quality rating of 95% and productivity of 110% or higher
- Verifying that his or her home work environment meets established criteria to ensure HIPAA compliance and that he/she is able to work from home during business hours without distractions/interruptions
- Having the right connection — while MediRevv provides all necessary technology, each employee is responsible for home internet that meets the minimum speed requirement
And that's not all. MediRevv's policy also makes it clear that no children under the age of 12 should be in the home during employee work hours, and we maintain that HOME may be suspended or modified at any time due to business needs that would require the employee to be onsite, for example, training initiatives or in-person meetings.
Each eligible employee is asked to fill out an application to be considered for the program, which outlines an individual plan on how the employee intends to maintain or increase quality and productivity. This helps determine if the HOME program is a good fit and ensures that the impact to the MediRevver individually, the company, and the client partner are aligned and positive.
Working from home is a win/win: Results at MediRevv (so far) and what we hope to see
We anticipated challenges, but found that those who can maintain their effectiveness, troubleshoot independently, and thrive with a lesser degree of the social interaction that the office work environment provides have an easier time working from home.
We have found our work from home program is a win/win situation for both employee and employer. In a survey of our remote workforce that MediRevv conducted mid-year, it was clear that benefits like saving on travel related expenses, spending more time with family and loved ones, and getting more sleep all reduce stress levels and enhance the job satisfaction rate. In turn, job satisfaction means less turnover, and more engaged employees mean higher productivity which benefits the organization as well as our clients.
Cost savings in fuel and drive time is one of many benefits of working from home, as cited by our employees
There are other peripheral results that are, at this stage, anecdotal for MediRevv employees, but they are evident in other studies. Sure Payroll conducted a survey on remote work benefits and found 86% of respondents stated a preference to work alone. In the same study, the research indicated that work from home participants continued to work when sick (without infecting others), returned to work more quickly after surgery or medical leave, and had the ability to run errands/attend personal appointments without missing as much work time as their in-office counterparts.
While it is too early to see significant company savings on real estate and energy, there is a positive impact on the environment, and going green is yet another incentive to pursue a remote work program. For example, if each of our 47 remote workers lives an average of 15 miles from the MediRevv campus, that saves 30 miles of fuel consumption round trip per employee each day or over 1,400 miles daily. This is equal to a daily cost of $120 in fuel savings at an average of $2.60 a gallon. A savings in drive time and fuel expenditure is cited by our work from home employees as one of the main benefits of the program.
“What I like best about working from home is being in my comfort zone. Working from home saves drive time, and I'm no longer rushed in the mornings since I don't have to go straight to the office after taking my daughter to daycare.” — MediRevv HOME employee
Productivity and quality improvements MediRevv saw a 5.3% increase in productivity and a 1.2% increase in quality, over 10 months of working from home among the 47 remote workers. This increase is on top of the initial qualifying performance metrics of 110% productivity and 95% quality achievements.
Engagement Workplace engagement remains high. Each year we participating in a number of employee surveys that measure different aspects of engagement. One workplace survey that we take annually covers vision of leaders, relationship with managers, function within teams, workplace culture, personal health, rewards, personal development, and whether employees feel they are making a lasting impact in their roles. In 2017, 75% of employees participated across all locations, and our average score (5.26 of 6.0) improved marginally over 2016, when no work from home program was in place.
There were a handful of employees who indicated that the loss of the social environment was detrimental to their engagement, and that they were happier and more productive in an office environment. In these cases, employees were welcomed back to the office, or the number of working days at home was decreased to find a happy medium.
Lessons learned along the way
Building a remote work program from scratch was not (and never will be) a piece of cake, but MediRevv was already a step ahead as the result of maintaining an engaging company culture, setting consistent expectations, and placing value on flexibility. Our culture of accountability and performance, mixed with a little fun, truly was the groundwork for the program's success, which helped us respond to the following challenges:
Addressing isolation Research indicates that while many employees enjoy the flexibility of remote work programs, they often feel isolated from their coworkers — so much so that this is one of the most common complaints. Making the effort to include remote workers in cultural and social events has been shown to reduce these feelings.
MediRevv took a proactive approach to the use of technology. All representatives are on our instant messenger program, which is akin to tapping a co-worker on the shoulder (virtually, at least.) We also incorporate our social wellness pillar so staff can virtually share everything from workout tips to crafting ideas much like you’d share with co-workers around the watercooler in days gone by.
Maintaining performance We strive for operational transparency and honesty, which means we're forthright about the fact that our performance expectations are high for all employees, onsite and remote. Yet the truth is that remote work can be difficult as it requires special discipline and focus. Remote workers are expected to solve problems without the same support as their onsite counterparts. They must independently manage their time effectively as well as their environment, equipment, and unforeseen issues that arise. Being realistic about these challenges when we speak with interested employees helps us determine together if working from home will be successful.
Finding the right fit For some employees, a work from home option is not optimal. Some are more productive and happier in a co-working environment. Fewer distractions and a clean and consistent working environment are some of the understated benefits of working in an office. Keeping remote work programs optional and flexible increases the chances that employees will find the work style that suits them.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Remote work is the way of the future and is driving workplace transformation across every industry. Working from home is big incentive for today’s professionals who leverage technology easily and enjoy the freedom that working from home offers. Our HOME program has given employees at MediRevv flexibility in their work and increased overall productivity while maintaining engagement.
Here’s a quick reference list on how to get started within your company:
- Rollout the program to a handful of high-performing employees
- Develop qualifying criteria and performance metrics for the program
- Work in lock-step with technology to figure out challenges
- Train your supervisors on the specifics of managing off site employees
- Consistently ask for feedback from staff and work to address issues
- Use performance metrics to set up “checks” to monitor measures of success
- Monitor employee engagement and make tweaks to training or qualifications to evolve and improve.
Is your company thinking of implementing a work from home program? Please share in the comments tips or challenges you’ve faced or are facing. We love good conversation!