by Ann Barnaby, CPC, CRC, CASCC, Founder and Managing Director of Project Resume
Remote Work Environments. These three words mean many things to many different people. A medical coder may have a completely different vision of remote work than a manager does. Over time, the very definition of a remote work environment has changed. What is a good expectation for working in a remote environment? Let’s take a look.
In the past, when managers and coding departments began to explore the possibilities of remote work environments, it was almost like the “Wild West.” Remote environments were often thought of as an environment where the employees made most of the rules: Where to work, when to put their hours in, how to report their productivity. Because of this thinking, early work environments did begin to follow those rules. When an employee “went remote,” they also chose their work schedule, and many times reported their productivity late at night or very early in the morning hours.
As code team and management evolved, so has the remote work environment. Currently, you will find more remote environments that ask coders to work regular business hours, remain on office communication tools, and report on specific measures at specific intervals during the day or week. This shift has actually supported the remote work environment to allow managers to feel more control over the entire team, and to allow coders to feel that they are part of a team and team processes.
Management styles differ by manager, of course, so for some this situation was a perfect solution—it was a way for managers to be more hands-off in their approach, or an avenue of macro-management for those who had veteran code teams that needed very little supervision. However, many managers became wary of the remote environments, due to the perceived lack of control over working hours and productivity. As code teams evolved and grew and office workspace remained the same, a remote environment was sometimes forced upon managers who would rather have their team on-site. All of this turmoil, all of these perceived notions of what it would be like to manage a remote team, and all of the stories that came along with converting to remote work brought anxiety and hesitancy to managers who were faced with the remote vs. office decisions.
If we look at the actual positives and negatives of a remote environment from a manager’s point-of-view, we can see why there may be hesitation. After all, new coders need support; they need veteran coders nearby to answer questions, and they need time to assimilate into a code team. Teams of employees in general need some time to work together before they can work cohesively and efficiently.
Starting out as a remote team may not give an opportunity to form that cohesive, efficient workflow. Also, many coding managers have learned their management style from their own work experience and former managers. Historically, coders have been micromanaged and tracked, with the thinking that this close monitoring breeds the highest productivity. Some coders do work best under these circumstances, and some coders work best with less structure. Managers have tough choices to make, and unpopular decisions regarding who may need to stay in the office to work to their highest capacity, and who could work best from home. The good of the team and the efficiency of the production is what is at the heart of all of the decisions regarding remote and in-office coders.
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