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Staffing your Practice to Reopen Post-COVID-19

May 6, 2020

Ashley Buehnerkemper


Whether you closed completely or reduced your hours to meet demand, you are likely trying to decide what your staffing needs will be in the coming weeks. Will you be able to bring back your entire team? Are there some positions that are more of a necessity than others? Taking an objective look at your team, their skills, and the needs of your practice can ensure your office will operate efficiently as possible.

Evaluate your team’s skillset

As you begin making tough staffing decisions, this can be a perfect time to take inventory of your team’s skillset. Given that your revenue forecast and patient demand for the foreseeable future may dictate some modifications in staffing, you can do yourself a service by determining who you might need most in the office when your practice does reopen and in what capacity. Recognizing in advance which team members are the most proficient in their skillset may help make some of those decisions slightly less difficult.

Toward that aim, we recommend you use a tool like the “nine-box matrix” to help you evaluate each one of your team members. Use the bottom axis to rank each employee’s performance in one of three boxes: high performer, average performer, poor performer. The vertical axis, then, can be used to rank each employee’s potential in three similar boxes: high potential, average potential, and low potential. After you’ve ranked your team members, you should have a clear idea of their value and potential; employees in the upper right quadrant, for instance, demonstrate both high performance and high potential. Conversely, employees in the lower left quadrant demonstrate both low performance and low potential and are, at least by this metric, your least-valuable team members. This tool can help you evaluate which team members should be first up to return as the business begins picking back up.

Consider offering remote work

It might be an option for select team members to work remotely. Hourly positions such as billing, scheduling, or even marketing can be done from a home office. Offering this flexibility limits your team member’s exposure and also allows them to work on an as-needed basis at their convenience.

If you’re debating which employees should work from home or return to the office, consider the following:

Reasons for an employee to return to work in the office

  1. Because they’ll be more productive in the office:
  • Fewer distractions will allow them to better focus on work processes
  • Collaborative in-office work will allow them to better innovate, develop new ideas, and benefit from real-time decision-making
  • In-office settings will allow them streamlined communication channels
  1. For physical work and required tools:
  • If their work necessitates access to equipment, data infrastructure, or testing
  • If their work requires computer power, monitors, printers or copiers, or even files that cannot be accessed from home
  • If their work simply cannot be done in any way from home
  1. For team reasons:
  • If the team will not function as well if that person is not physically present
  • If the team will miss that person’s leadership or specific skills and others’ work performance will suffer as a result

Reasons for an employee to continue working from home

  1. Because they’ll be more productive at home:
  • If it may be easier to work remotely and keep synchronous communication between team members
  • If they’ll be safer at home, and therefore more able to focus on their work tasks
  • If it will reduce time lost to commutes
  • If patients will get the same level of care
  1. For health and personal situations:
  • If the employee (or an immediate family member) will be put at greater physical risk by working in the office
  • If anxiety caused by in-office work will severely hamper work performance
  • If the employee lacks appropriate options for childcare or eldercare
  • If the commute is not financially feasible right now for the employee

You may have your own metrics to consider, as well, but keeping in mind that some employees may function better in one setting or the other can help you more effectively reopen.

Recognize that some team members may better adapt to workplace changes

Change is hard, and empathizing with your team members is crucial. Naturally, some team members may be better able to adapt to workplace changes made necessary by the novel coronavirus. You likely already have a good sense of who on your team adapts best to change, just as you probably know which team members do not handle change very well at all. When you consider that everyone may be feeling extra stress as a result of the current pandemic, understanding that some team members are better able to adapt than others may help you more effectively staff your practice as you work toward reopening.

You are likely to modify many policies and processes to make your practice safer for both team members and patients, and you need the right people in the right seat to execute these changes for you. For example, you may need to identify which team member is best able to safely interface with site visitors such as vendors and contractors, or which team members might be more skilled at communicating shifting policies and expectations with patients. Using these tools can help you identify these team members and make more effective decisions as you look at aligning staffing needs to your team members’ strengths and weaknesses.

Need help navigating the reopening of your practice post-COVID-19? Let our practice affiliation experts help you navigate.



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