Is There Space for Hybrid Working in the Pharma Industry?

Written by: Lucy Walters
Published on: 3 Jun 2021

Hybrid Working in the Pharma Industry

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, it’s time for pharma companies to lay out their plans for their return to ‘normal’ or to even redefine what their ‘normal’ will look like post-pandemic. Many pharma companies have already begun to lay out their plans for a more hybrid future working model which supports employees working both in-office and remotely, inviting more flexibility into the industry and making careers in pharma more accessible and sustainable.

In this article, we discuss what a hybrid workplace could look like for the pharma industry, and how successful pharma companies are already reaping the rewards of a more flexible working model…

How Has Remote Working Benefited Pharma Companies?

Although working remotely has surely had its drawbacks too, this working model has had a proven, positive influence on the pharma industry in the following ways:

Increased Efficiency

In an interview with McKinsey, Brian McNamara – the CEO of GSK Consumer Healthcare – said that remote working increased efficiency in the workplace, with meetings being more structured and focused, improving decision-making and the overall speed at which work is completed. He also goes on to explain that whilst the company’s leadership team are further apart physically, he feels they have surprisingly become more connected, increasing their ability to work collaboratively.

Growing Demand for Remote Clinical Trials

The increasing popularity of remote clinical trials is helping pharma companies to reduce the costs and increase the efficiency of clinical trials, primarily by reducing the amount of time spent travelling to numerous sites by patients, healthcare professionals and Clinical Research Associates. They also open up trials to a wider pool of patients and could increase the work-life balance of those working in Clinical Research.

Increased Workplace Diversity

For pharma recruiters and hiring managers, remote working has also provided access to a more diverse talent pool. Pharma companies are no longer bound to a small proportion of the population based on their geographic location or their ability to work within the 9-5 working day, and instead have the opportunity to increase diversity in the workplace and to reach talent pools that were once inaccessible.

It has also been suggested that remote working can improve the retention of female employees in the industry. Women leave their careers in pharma at a higher rate than men at every level of seniority, with the restrictive nature of the 9-5 workday being a root cause of this, as it doesn’t effectively support women coming back from maternity leave or those struggling to balance work and childcare. 

More Learning and Development Opportunities for Employees

As well as attracting new talent, pharma employers have also had the opportunity to work on retaining their current talent, primarily through being able to increase learning and development opportunities. 

Although there have been concerns about the negative impacts that remote working may have on employee attrition, companies such as Merz Aesthetics have seen an increased demand from employees for online learning, with more opportunities available than ever before due to the increased growth of online learning platforms such as LinkedIn learning, and the extra time employees now have available in their working day. Not only is the pharma industry becoming more accessible, but careers within the industry are also predicted to become more sustainable.

How Could the Pharma Industry Benefit from Hybrid Working?

In a recent Q&A shared by SHRM, Albert Bourla, the Chairman and CEO of Pfizer, believes that inviting more flexibility into the pharma industry is key in making employees happier and more productive. He believes that this will be achieved by reducing the time that employees ‘lose’ from commuting, and by promoting a healthier work-life balance. He also acknowledges the benefits of working in-office, describing the office as a “super-spreader” of culture, and helping employees reach a sense of belonging.

Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis AG, also believes that hybrid working is the future for pharma. This comes after Novartis announced their Choice with Responsibility program in July 2020 which aims to “create a future working model that optimised both personal and business performance.” As part of the program, Novartis will be taking the following steps:

  • Shifting their flexible working policy from being manager-approved to manager-informed
  • Offering in-country support to help employees working remotely to do so in a comfortable environment
  • Expanding mental health resources for employees
  • Continually checking in with employees to understand how the new approach is working and what changes need to be implemented

Shaped by employee feedback, this is just one example of how pharma companies should be collaborating with employees to work on a more efficient working model. 

Learn From your Employees…

Now that employees have had the chance to experience remote working, they should now be aware of how, where, and when they are most efficient in their work. Whilst there are pros and cons to remote working, there is certainly a place for hybrid working in the pharma industry, and employers should take this opportunity to increase the productivity and efficiency of their workforce by adapting their policies around the strengths of their workforce, understanding how best to support them based on their experiences over the past year.

Visit PharmiWeb.Jobs to learn more about recruiting within the pharma industry or to find out more about our recruiter services.