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Executive blog

by Tracy Platt
Published on June 3, 2021

Navigating through COVID-19 over the past year has upended any sense of normalcy in our lives, both personally and professionally. While changes to work locations and mandated quarantine periods affected most of us as individuals, Cerner’s collective workforce has been successful and resilient – proving consistently that high-end productivity can be maintained, flexibility enhanced, and delivering for our clients even during unusual circumstances.   

At Cerner, despite a quick pivot to a remote working environment last March and facing a number of unique challenges and complexities due to the pandemic, we had some remarkable accomplishments. Cerner associates stood up field hospitals and surge locations in U.S. and non-U.S. locations; we quickly developed COVID-19 forecasting tools and predictive models; we accelerated development of Cerner’s Command Center dashboard to help with real-time data analytics; completed the industry’s first virtual go-live  and partnered with local providers to provide mass vaccination efforts. We not only stepped up to the fight against Covid-19, but continued to innovate, keeping the unique needs of our healthcare clients in focus. We reached a historic milestone by achieving our 600th patent – with more than 100 new patents issued within the past year. All of these achievements were due to the commitment and determination of Cerner associates, exemplifying our mission to relentlessly seek breakthrough innovation that will shape tomorrow’s healthcare.

As vaccination rates continue to increase, the pandemic is loosening its grips on parts of the world and companies across the globe are turning their attention to a future workplace that may be quite different than before. According to a recent study by global research firm Gartner, 90% of employers say they are adopting hybrid work models going forward. This is unchartered territory for most businesses as there is no rulebook that explains how to return to work after a pandemic. Employers will need to learn and adjust in real-time.

For Cerner, our future workplace and workforce is about flexibility within a framework -  balancing the needs of our associates with the needs of the business. In a recent survey, nearly 70% of Cerner associates indicated they desire a mix of in-office and work from home flexibility. From a business standpoint, remote work is delivering near-term productivity boosts but may be creating longer-term negative impacts because of a lack of social connections (Harvard Business Review, April/May 2021). And after a year of working primarily at home, a majority of our associates are finding it hard to turn off work mode at the end of the day. The mental health and well-being of associates is a critical component of any companies’ future workforce strategy.

As we begin the transition of returning to the office methodically and strategically throughout the remainder of the year, we are committed to providing a highly flexible, hybrid work environment to continue fostering the necessary organizational conditions for enhanced associate engagement and innovation. Based on current COVID-19 guidelines and recommendations, we are anticipating the opportunity to get back to full capacity in a hybrid environment on our U.S. campuses in fall of 2021.

A hybrid workforce is a type of blended workforce consisting of associates who work remotely, those who work from an office or central location, and those who have the flexibility of both options. At Cerner, we’ll have a small percentage of our associate base designated as full-time on-site (due to the nature of their work) and a small population of associates designated as full-time virtual.

The majority of our associate base will be dynamic – allowing them the flexibility of working from home or on-site as determined by the activities and work to be completed and their work style preferences. Associates in the dynamic model will have access to Cerner campuses to foster social connections, enable group collaboration and allow for in-person team building.  Additionally, they can utilize existing Cerner facilities as often as desired if they prefer to be on site vs. an in-home or remote work setting.

While there is no single recipe for success, we envision many teams will choose to work on-site   a few days a week, or a few weeks a month, with the remaining time spent at home or in a remote location. As I mentioned in a previous article, we are committed to promoting a culture of mutual trust and empowerment to truly unlock the potential of our workforce. As such, we are relying on our leaders and their teams to determine the best scenario for their organizations, working within the framework provided. We have confidence that our mission-driven associates will ensure the company continues to meet or exceed all business and client commitments.

We recognize that Cerner leaders will need to lead differently in this new environment. As we transition into our hybrid work environment, we’re providing additional training and development opportunities to help our leaders and our teams collectively succeed in managing and engaging within a hybrid distributed workforce model.  

As with most organizations, this is a new enterprise approach for Cerner and we expect it to evolve over time as we learn more about what works best for our associates, our clients and our company. Cerner’s future @work is being intentionally designed to further attract, engage and retain a competitive global workforce capable of executing on the company’s mission and helping us transform the future of healthcare.

We are proud to be implementing innovative, flexible, forward-thinking workforce strategies that balance the needs of our associates, our business, and our clients. We believe flexibility and inclusion foster innovation, and innovation drives change. Because … healthcare is too important to stay the same.