June 4, 2020

Employees working from home bring value, safety to VUMC

As of early May, an average of 8,000 VUMC employees were working remotely each day, equaling more than 25% of VUMC’s total workforce.

On March 17, Vanderbilt University Medical Center began encouraging all employees who work in non-clinical areas to work from home to help curb the spread of COVID-19. As of early May, an average of 8,000 VUMC employees were working remotely each day, equaling more than 25% of VUMC’s total workforce.

To support this effort, over the last two months VUMC has issued roughly 4,000 Zoom licenses for access to secure videoconferencing and has distributed 358 loaner laptops, 61 monitors, 35 docking stations and around 200 webcams.

Technical teams have worked hard to help migrate tools from desktop computers to distributed laptops to ensure all employees could continue their work efficiently.

While working remotely helps keep VUMC’s patients and clinical staff safe with less risk of exposure to COVID-19, the move has also helped flatten the virus’s spread in the community. Remote employees have been able to maintain their vital contributions to VUMC’s mission while enabling the institution to lead by example on the importance of social distancing.

“COVID-19 is changing how we work. Just as telehealth is needed to meet the needs of clinical care, ‘tele-management’ is needed to support that effort. How we work remotely to minimize unnecessary risks to those patients and health care workers on the front lines while supporting them requires a different set of skills, tools and technology to connect us as a community rather than disengage,” said Mary Yarbrough, MD, MPH, executive director of Occupational Health and Wellness.

“Luckily our hard work over the past three years is paying off. This has prepared us to focus on excellence in patient care and move out of the bricks and mortar to be where we need to be to make it happen.”

VUMC has been investing in both technology and people to amplify the value of connection across the organization through multimedia communications, departmental well-being committees and peer support initiatives.

Identifying this value before COVID-19 made it easier for VUMC to enable employees to still come together when separated by physical distancing.

Even with the use of these tools, working from home can be a challenge and often involves sacrifice on the employee’s end.

“We very much appreciate the flexibility and teamwork exhibited by those who have taken on this new, and for many, unfamiliar experience,” said Lori Rolando, MD, MPH, director of VUMC’s Occupational Health Clinic. “Allowing those who can continue their contribution to VUMC’s mission from home to do so has been an important component of the Medical Center’s response during this challenging time.”