One of the many effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a dramatic shift in the way people approach their professional careers. Rather than suffering in silence, those who don’t feel fulfilled are running toward the exit, in record numbers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the number of Americans quitting their jobs in any given month hovers near all-time highs, and job openings across the country hover around 10 million” (The Business Journal). In November of 2021, a record 3.5 million resignations were reported, with healthcare being one of the hardest hit industries.
This comes as no surprise to CIOs and other leaders, many of whom are scrambling to recruit and retain top talent. With tight margins to consider, competing with tech and other lucrative verticals is out of the question, prompting more organizations to rely on hybrid and remote work models as an incentive.
With these new models, however, comes a new set of challenges – one of which is ensuring teams are utilizing PTO and taking time to recharge. This, as many employers are finding, is easier said than done. According to a survey by software firm Skynova, despite the fact that nearly 39 percent of employers have increased the amount of PTO offered, the majority (around 64 percent) of employees say they “sometimes or often avoid taking time off because they feel they are unable to do so.”
The result is a disconnect that has left many feeling frustrated, to put it mildly. For healthcare leaders, it has upped the ante when it comes to ensuring IT, clinical, and security staff are able to maintain balance in their lives.
The big question, of course, is how? To that end, healthsystemCIO reached out to a handful of influential leaders to get their thoughts on how they’re addressing these challenges. Previously, we’ve heard from Aaron Miri, Nicholas Szymanski, Kate Pierce, Craig Richardville and Chani Cordero.
This week, we’ll hear from Lee Milligan, MD, who recently ended a 22-year stint at Asante, including three years as CIO.
When you take time off, are you able to disconnect completely, or do you tend to check in?
In the healthcare provider industry, our customers need our IT products and services to be available 24/7. So we have to architect a plan to account for when things potentially go amiss. We put together a ‘Manager On Duty’ approach where each manager/director takes call for 1 week at a time. When issues are large enough, the service desk reaches out and the MOD leads our investigation/resolution. On occasion, the CIO needs to get involved. On those times I want to be immediately available, even on vacation. However, that’s rare. To create space for less emergent scenarios, I simply remove my work email from my cell phone during vacation. It stops the unconscious ‘checking of email’ that otherwise would occur. And if there is a real emergency, the key people have my cell number and are empowered to use it.
Have your habits changed since Covid – and the ensuing spike in hybrid/remote work models? If so, how (is it more or less difficult to go “off the grid”)?
Because many teams are in a WFH scenario – and many teams have been given latitude in terms of the hours of their workday – there’s a tendency to communicate outside of standard hours. You need to be cognizant that if you’re emailing someone at 9 p.m., they likely won’t respond in a timely matter, unless they have a similar schedule. And if you receive an email or other correspondence during your off hours, and it is not an emergency, it should wait until the next day. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to both communicate this and set an example on this front. Admittedly, this is hard.
Do you encourage your team to disconnect on vacation, or does it depend on the situation?
I do encourage my team to take vacations often and for lengthy periods. I also encourage them to truly disconnect. One way to accomplish this is by asking them to appoint one of their direct reports as their acting position. So, for example, if the Director of Applications is going on vacation, he/she should appoint one of their managers to act in their stead while out. It serves the dual purpose of filling the void while allowing for professional growth for that individual. This has been a big hit within the teams.