Maxine Carrington, Northwell Health

Maxine Carrington

The Future of Work

What are your views on the future of work and what will the office of the future look like?

Deloitte and others have written extensively on this and our workforce planning team at Northwell is researching and readying recommendations for our transition over time. When we contemplate the future of work, there are three main areas of focus we think about: the work, the workforce, and the workplace.

Work – In the realm of work, we know that we’ll be increasingly co-creating and working alongside technology in greater ways, e.g., automation, robots, and artificial intelligence. Human-machine collaboration exists today at Northwell in our operating rooms, pharmacies, and even in areas like human resources. Members of our HR team are experimenting with ChatGPT to generate low-risk within-team communications and we expect this practice to increase. Almost all industries will witness the phasing out of some existing roles which isn’t a new phenomenon – remember token booth clerks – and the adjacent evolution and creation of roles, integrated with digital.

Workforce – We’re anticipating that the future workforce will be generally and comfortably data-literate and likely less tied to a fixed job description and more flexible in learning and trying out new skills. Employees will be more diverse – in every way. For example, many employees are remaining in the workforce longer and working beyond what traditionally has been considered retirement-age for financial and other reasons. Programs that enable continued access to their subject matter expertise and institutional knowledge and support their well-being and employment needs through various stages of life will be key. The gig economy is here to stay and employers would be wise to incorporate gig workers to help fill staffing gaps. We’ve experienced success at Northwell with FlexStaff, a staffing agency we created a few years ago which supports internal staffing needs and our revenue diversification strategy through its commercial arm.

Workplace – Digitally enabled, sustainable, healthier, and more “work from anywhere.” In healthcare, that certainly means work from home, but it also means increasingly bringing care into the homes of our patients and customers.

How can companies maintain culture and a collaborative environment in a remote work structure?

In a remote environment, as with any type of work model, when thinking about maintaining culture and collaboration, we should always begin with seeking input from and listening to our team members. By that I mean, having ongoing conversations with your team about the realities of working remotely and what it will take to ensure that each team member feels seen, well, and continues to grow and contribute. The team has to weigh in on what the culture is and opportunities for improvement as well as what collaboration should look like and how it can be sustained. Without input from the team, our approaches might miss the mark. We know that incorporating well-being, recognition and celebration, and shared brainstorming and problem-solving are critical – and these can all be achieved virtually. In our organization, while the majority of our teammates work in person, we do have remote and hybrid working teams. Leaders of these teams are intentional about maintaining culture and collaboration. Most bring teams into the office or one of our collaboration hubs periodically as well as schedule virtual “open-door” hours where team members can pop in to connect, ask anything, get advice, and make suggestions.

As an HR leader, is it necessary for employees to be in the office to build employee engagement?

It isn’t absolutely necessary for teammates to work in person to ensure engagement. We’ve certainly all witnessed low engaged teams who work in person, right? Regardless of work model – in-person, remote, hybrid – intentionality is always key. We have to be intentional with how we communicate with team members, how we listen and welcome ideas and solutions, how we create community and collaboration, how we recognize and celebrate, how we develop and grow, and how we check in to address concerns and promote well-being. We also have to be intentional with our personal leadership development and there is no shortage of resources, many free and online, to help in this regard. If, ultimately, team members feel cared for, that they belong, that they are valued and that they are growing, you and your organization will benefit from better outcomes.