Bridging the Opportunity Divide

The Health Care Company That Lets Its Shift Employees Choose When They Work

January 5, 2015
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The Health Care Company That Lets Its Shift Employees Choose When They Work
The online scheduling tool Smart Square helps nurses balance their hectic work schedules. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
This online scheduling app gives workers more control and enables greater work-life balance.

Consistently ranked as one of the best companies to work for, WellStar Health Systems is strengthening its reputation with its new online scheduling tool: Smart Square.

Named to Working Mother’s 10 family-friendly employers list, Fortune Magazine’s list of top 100 employers and a six-time recipient of the “When Work Works” honor from the Society for Human Resource Management, WellStar is well-recognized as a flexible and accommodating employer, according to National Journal.

The nonprofit is a health care network employing more 12,000 in Marietta, Ga. With 83 percent of it employees being female, WellStar offers services to ease the balance between work and home life. In addition to a traditional pension plan, WellStar provides an on-site day care center and a concierge that coordinates dry cleaning pickups, oil changes and grocery shopping.

Smart Square, though, is what’s really transforming the lives of WellStar workers. The company’s nurses work long shifts and advanced knowledge of work hours is one of the most useful pieces of information employers can provide as it gives the employee time to schedule home duties. This is exactly what Smart Square helps with.

Erica Kilpatrick is a WellStar nurse who also juggles home life and caring for her mother, who is currently in the hospital. Due to this hectic lifestyle, Smart Square gives Kilpatrick the chance to plan her three 12-hour shifts according to her needs.

“Smart Square equalizes everything,” Kilpatrick tells National Journal. “I get called to where the greatest need is.”

How does it work? Up to eight weeks in advance, employees can start signing up for working shifts through Smart Square. (While they have the flexibility to work hours of their choosing, all employees must work the required holiday and weekend shifts.) Managers have the final say on scheduling approval, but the process is collaborative between employer and employee — rather than a dictation of hours that must be worked.

One disadvantage of the system? It can’t account for the unpredictability of life in the medical profession. Since the appropriate nurse-to-patient ratio must be followed, during hectic times, employees may be called in to work with only one or two day notice.

Despite this, though, Smart Square is still very efficient, especially since the app which allows the nurses to manage their shifts and sign up for additional ones.

“It definitely has opened up that ability for the nurse to have a lot more control over his or her schedule,” Kris Betts, WellStar’s assistant vice president for workforce engineering, says. “It’s not, ‘I’m hiring you specifically for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and you’d better be there on those days.’ This way is a lot more fluid.”

Which companies will be next to implement employee-friendly apps like this?

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