Bench International

Life Sciences – Where Are We Going with Hybrid Work?

Life Sciences – Where Are We Going with Hybrid Work?

By DeeDee DeMan

There is now constant debate within the healthcare and life science sectors (term used broadly to define all patient-centric as well as B2B enterprises serving patients), as to what constitutes the best practice workplace in the aftermath of the pandemic. Executives and employees alike are considering how, and to what extent companies should support remote-based work and still be able to maintain a productive and competitive edge in their respective markets. This is particularly tricky for research and lab-based enterprises. However, it has also evoked a new debate, how to build and maintain a corporate culture and team bonding with virtuality.

A year ago, we probably all would have suspected that remote work was here to stay, sponsored by our meeting surrogates, Zoom and Teams. However, my team and I are witnessing the tides turning with employers wanting employees back in the office – if even for 2-3 days/week, and some having the chutzpah, aka, audacity, to insist on 5-day, in-office work weeks. This began with major financial institutions and now those seeking the favor and financial commitment of those institutions are often following suit. According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data, in-office work has returned to within 10 – 15% of pre pandemic levels.

In the healthcare and life science sectors, the hybrid work debate will remain highly dynamic until the pendulum finds its new balance. Yet our many of our CEO Client Partners are flatly stating, ‘If I’m in the office, so will be my team.’ Certainly, at the C-Suite level, where the CEO needs to have her/his right-seat pilots around her/him to not only operate the business, lead by example, and meet, toe to toe with much more tight-fisted investors, this is neither a wish, or a drill. It’s viewed as vital to the rebound of a sector that has rolled out of favor, and rolling back into favor can be potentially delayed when leaders are taking meetings in their slippers.

From an executive recruitment standpoint, the remote work debate is absolutely a major issue in dictating the right fit, particularly in assessing shared values, beliefs and cultural fit. Today, with this subculture of enterprises wanting this kind of candidate to ‘stand and deliver,’ there is no fueled rush, but a spigot that merely drips candidates ready to buckle up and be a physically present leader. In these cases, it is forcing greater regionality in recruitment, and even relocation and co-location being back on the negotiating-to-hire table.

We cannot condone cross country commuting as a steady diet for our candidate executives, unless families have worked this out pre-pandemic and are willing to re-engage. One way we are solving for this with our clients is helping them establish regional, yet small hubs, to attract candidates living within 20-to-25-mile radiuses, where their presence at the “mother ship,” is negotiated pursuant to team needs.

The bottom line is that in 2019, none of us had a clue that this would be the center point of how to build and grow a healthy, successful company.  The world will have to pardon us while we make it up as we go along.