Flexible Working success at North Leeds Medical Practice
North Leeds Medical Practice is a primary care provider with over 20,000 patients based across two sites in North Leeds. The team comprises around 60 members of staff with a clinical team including doctors, an advanced nurse practitioner, a paramedic advanced practitioner, practice nurses, health care assistants and a practice pharmacist. We also have the non-clinical team including the practice manager and non-clinical manager leads, HR advisor, patient liaison manager, receptionists and administrators.
Covid, like other places, heralded a need for the workforce to work remotely and this increased flexible working arrangements. This has helped staff work around other responsibilities and demands outside of work.
Our clinical staff have some flexibility with start times; for example, one clinician works 8:00-14.00.
- Our pharmacist does 2 days from home and is contactable at home on those days when she is not in the practice.
- Our partners and salaried doctors have the ability to take unpaid sabbaticals. This helps with resilience and retention.
- Our non-clinical team have varying start times to help their work-life balance.
We can also flex in the short term to allow temporary working from home in the case of child-care needs or a bus strike.
If you offer flexible working to one team, you do not have to offer flexible working to all. It is about balancing the individual’s needs and request with the needs of the service to fit with patients and other colleagues.
In some cases, we wanted to offer flexible working with some reception staff working from home and we put the processes in place. However, after the trial period we had to stop the arrangement as the unintended consequences was that it was putting additional pressure on the staff in practice and wasn’t meeting the patient or service need.
A common myth is that staff won’t do any work whilst at home. Many staff report they are more productive and able to complete more work away from the office environment. We have processes in place to monitor how effective the changes are. We encourage all staff to attend in person to our in-practice target events and other meetings to help them feel part of the team.
As a larger practice we are in a beneficial position where we can support a HR advisor role. This additional resource has supported operationally with the process and changes needed to consider and accommodate flexible working request where service, individual colleagues and patients’ needs could be met.
The flexible working solutions offered to our team are a mix of short and longer term solutions, in part reflecting that the working pattern someone is able to work when they join the practice might change as their personal circumstances change.
Being able to offer flexibility has improved satisfaction at work and reduced turnover of staff. Flexibility helps staff to feel valued.
We have a process where when we have a flexible working request, staff know it will be considered. We consult with our HR advisor and check with our team leaders on the impact on patients, service and other colleagues. The practice has tried to implement working from home requests and in some cases, these have not met the service and patient need so they have had to stop.
You can offer flexible working to clinical and non-clinical colleagues, including home working and changes in hours, but before this starts it is good to work with the person to define expectations and what ‘good’ looks like to ensure clarity and have an outcome-based approach.