We recently had an interview with the CEO of one of the largest Support Coordination Agencies located in NJ, about the current COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it is having on their business, employees and the families they serve. The CEO & his partner, who is also a managing member of one of the largest Support Coordination Agencies, are continuing to serve families during this difficult time.
In recent weeks Coronavirus has triggered the nation’s largest work-from-home experiment. Companies and employees are learning to adapt to working conditions where people all over the world are being forced to socially isolate. For Social Services Agencies and their Support Coordinators, whose work revolves around home visits and building strong relationships with their patients, this is proving to be a challenging time. Upon interviewing the CEO we found that a combination of early planning, strong state support, and the use of appropriate technology can largely overcome the difficulties of running a “relationship-based business” during a time of social isolation and it helps us take a better look at how technology is enabling them to work from home.
FieldWorker: Hi, Thanks for taking the time to discuss the current situation and how the COVID-19 pandemic is currently impacting your business, Support Coordinators and the families that you serve. First, how are you doing personally?
CEO: We’re doing well, thanks. I’m working from home on the first floor of my house and my wife is working on the third floor.
FieldWorker: Glad to hear that you’re doing well. We were thinking of you guys and how things must be a little crazy right now. Will your partner be joining us as well?
CEO: I don’t think so, she’s been on emergency calls and if I get bombarded with calls, I might need to drop off as well.
FieldWorker: That’s perfectly fine, and we understand. We’ll try to keep this short so you can get back to helping families!
FieldWorker: How are you doing as a company? Both Management & Support Coordinators in the field?
CEO: We are doing well. We got out ahead of this, we were concerned about the safety of our employees and asked our Support Coordinators to start working from home in early March to keep our staff out of harms way. It’s been pretty hectic trying to keep up with all of the calls and emails, but we’ve been using technology to stay connected.
Fieldworker: How are the families you serve managing and coping in the current environment?
CEO: it’s a difficult time for the Parents since they closed all of the day programs, parents have to stay home to look after the children but the state is doing a good job and allowing Parents to become Self-Directed employees to ease the financial burden.
FieldWorker: If & how has the State of NJ or the federal govt. changed/adapted to work with Support Coordinator and service provider agencies to make sure that the needs of the families are met?
CEO: The state has done a good job, they have deferred face to face and home visits and allowed us to use technology to do video calls for now.
FieldWorker: What are you as a business finding difficult at this time?
CEO: Ours is a relationship-based business, we want to meet people face to face and that is not possible, we are making do as best as we can.
FieldWorker: Is there something that you wish you could do differently that would have been able to make things better?
CEO: I wish that there was a pandemic protocol and plan in place already, instead we have had to scramble and rush and do things to continue to provide the level of service we like to provide.
FieldWorker: How are the Service Provider Agencies that you work with adapting to this new environment?
CEO: The service provider agencies that we work with are excellent and have very committed people. They have had to adapt even more since a lot of the day facilities that are operated by Service Providers are now closed, and they have had to go in the field to provide these services. They are doing a very good job as well.
FieldWorker: What message do you have for the State?
CEO: Governor Phil Murphy, and the state are doing a very good job, they have adapted, the DDD and DHHS have been sending emails, webinars, materials and keeping us, Service Providers and families informed of the changes.
Despite the difficulties they had been facing, the CEO was calm and hopeful. He spoke about how they hoped this pandemic would create a sense of urgency across all industries to create “pandemic protocols and plans”. They also kept emphasizing how theirs was a relationship-based business, and when it came to resources and technology, video calling was only the tip of the iceberg. They are often overwhelmed with paperwork and taking notes for all of their meetings, where technology can step in in the form of dictation tools. Moreover, there is a huge requirement for online data banks and document archives in order to appropriately store and retrieve important information for patients.
As a result of distressed families and parents, the CEO and his partner are also taking more calls and checking in with their patients more often, sometimes even responding to emergencies. This reality makes all of us at Fieldworker think about how we can adapt our Field Service Management Technology to serve the new demands of support coordinators. In the current situation, we all find ourselves asking each other, how can we make our businesses and jobs pandemic proof by using technology? One thing we know for sure is that such technology must enable support coordinators to spend the most amount of their time taking care of their patients, and the least amount of time worrying about paperwork, document archiving and note-taking.
Upon asking the CEO and his partner what advice they would give other Social Services Agencies they said:
Look out for your staff, and the families you serve, provide the staff with the resources they need and the materials so that they can do their job well and access the information they need at all times.
This answer reaffirmed our mission to create easy-to-use software that ensures daily heroes, like the CEO and his partner, can continue to do their job well.
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