Council Post: How Biotech And Other Industries Can Find Balance In A Hybrid Work Model
Leen Kawas | Entrepreneur, Inventor, Innovator and Leader | Managing General Partner at Propel Bio Partners.
Hybrid work, especially what I am witnessing within biotech and biopharma, is helping bring opportunities to the companies that endorse it. Whether it’s the post-Covid arrival of the blended workplace, the emergence of the remote workplace as distant from the office or the growing access to decentralized talent, there’s been a dramatic and growing importance on where we work.
But unlike the pandemic-required remote work for some industries, it was essential for some positions in the life science industry to continue to be in-person or to move into a hybrid work style. Here is how I believe leaders can find balance in creating a hybrid work environment, particularly for tricky industries such as biotech.
Pros And Cons Of Hybrid Work
Some people are more comfortable working from home. They want to avoid the commute and enjoy the flexibility of balancing personal and professional tasks.
Others find importance and long-lasting value in face-to-face time and hallway conversations and appreciate the separation between work and personal life, and really, the soft skills that you can gain from being in an office.
I believe that because many Zoomers started their careers remotely, they really can’t appreciate the personal and career development that happens when they are present in person. While there are obvious benefits for individuals working from home, there are certainly missed opportunities not being there in person, at least for part of the time.
Hybrid work allows for things like periodic in-person meetings that I believe can more effectively help companies get a comprehensive view of all the teams that are working on the same program. This can help build a collaborative and cohesive work environment and reinforce the sense of ownership and accomplishment for the work being done.
When it comes to in-person meetings, though, make sure to design events in an authentic way that is purposeful and helps build strong relations.
Confronting Challenges In Remote And Hybrid Work
Some companies are requiring workers to return to the office full-time. For example, in February, Amazon announced it was asking all employees back in May for at least three days per week.
For the biotech industry, there is a need to be in person. In fact, a good number of scientists, physicians and clinical operations teams have continued to work in person, fully or partially, throughout the pandemic.
Until decentralized clinical trials can become valid alternatives, operational teams that work in clinical sites will need to continue showing up in person. The same goes for many manufacturing and supply chain positions.
One way an employer can be more flexible, though, is to allow a work-from-home option when scientists do not have experimentation and are simply working on reports or analyses. It is important for leaders to find ways to create a balanced environment between all teams in their organization and to be intentional in creating these connections between their multidisciplinary teams.
Overall, while working in person can be important or even essential, creating flexible work hours can help workers who need to balance their personal and professional commitments or just want to avoid traffic in their daily commute. Make sure as a leader that you are listening to the pulse of your organization and adapting and optimizing accordingly.
Leveraging Hybrid In Biotech
The task for life science leaders is to leverage the best of both worlds. There are ways to give people the flexibility to work from home but also have some incentives to bring them into the office and cultivate a strong, collaborative culture.
The feedback I’ve seen from employees is that they like the mix of face-to-face in-person time and work-from-home time. On a larger scale, what employees think of remote work is indicated in a survey of 12,000 employees by the Boston Consulting Group, which revealed that the majority of employees surveyed early in the pandemic, a total of 79%, reported being satisfied or experiencing improvement in four key areas while remotely working: social connectivity, mental health, physical health and access to workplace tools.
Additionally, respondents noted that they were able to maintain or even increase their productivity remotely. Productivity on collaborative tasks, though, was shown to be more strained.
The bottom line is that organizations that build a hybrid and flexible workplace can attract a more diverse workforce. This includes young parents who appreciate the added freedom to manage their time during the day. You can hire talent that may be in a different geographical area, save on overhead costs and repurpose those costs toward intentional cultural, team- and organization-building activities.
Particularly, you can allow positions like project managers, program managers and clinical trial monitors to have the flexibility of hybrid work-even mainly working from home if that is their preference. And even team members that need to be there for clinical studies, scientific experiments or manufacturing runs can be given the flexibility to work from home on tasks that don’t require them to be at the lab or on-site.
Recruiting Top Talent With Hybrid Work
Even with some of the constraints in biotech, companies with flexible policies are attracting top talent from competitors that are viewed as less accommodating. Recruitment firms are emerging that target dissatisfied individuals who seek remote or flexible working arrangements.
In the end, I think it is of growing importance for organizations and leaders to adapt and create environments that enhance the wellness and performance of their organizations. I recommend finding ways to include coworking spaces that invite collaboration when people are in the office, digital co-working systems that reinforce the working relationship when remote and intentional team-building activities that cultivate a strong and supportive culture.
I believe if leaders are spending time with their teams at all levels, they can create unique work models and cultures that will bring innovation to our industry.