Embedding Pandemic Best Behaviours

The current health crisis has had unparalleled effects on the Life Sciences workforce. It has forced teams to change ways of working amid manifold challenges, including the rise of virtual working, personal stresses of a global pandemic, and the impacts on the industry.

Through the adaptation processes which have and are continuing to take place, best working behaviours have emerged which companies should embed into their culture as part of their crisis management and recovery plans.

To begin with, the working from home experiment has been proven a success and has shown that workers can be productive at home. Many employees are now calling for flexible working options, and companies indeed have incentives to provide these. In addition to increasing the attractiveness of an employer’s offer, a 2014 study in the American Journal of Industrial and Business Management showed that flexible working increases employee productivity, well-being and the profitability of companies. It should be noted that, however, because de-centralised teams require a different management approach, companies implementing this new mode of working should ensure to train managers of virtual teams on effective remote management methods and skills, like setting clear expectations, virtual team engagament, and a mindset oriented towards goal accomplishment rather than pure activity.

The crisis has also demonstrated the importance of empathetic leadership. Amy Morin, a psychotherapist, said that during this moment, ‘empathy is being amplified’ among leaders. Empathy helps us to understand others and therefore better anticipate the impact of decisions, thus making it a valuable leadership skill. As companies continue to manage the crisis, they should view empathy not just as a ‘good to have’ skill, but as a staple one to be sought in recruitment and developed in training processes.

We have also seen increased attention to employee health and well-being due to the inescapable effects of the health situation on the workforce. In research by Ginger, nearly 70% of workers surveyed said this period has been the most stressful time of their careers. But focusing on employee health is always important, not just in a crisis. Companies must therefore ensure that workforce health continues to be a top priority in workforce management strategies by giving HR departments the resources they need to support employees’ well-being.

Finally, although the lack of in-person communication has presented challenges for some remote teams, the particularities of digital mediums presents a chance to review the efficiency of office communication habits. For instance, some degree of isolated work in group projects could enhance team effectiveness. In an experiment on virtual team collaboration by Carnegie Mellon University, in which a team of software engineers had to develop a medical algorithm in a 10-day competition, one of the findings was that short episodes of communication – as opposed to continuous streams of communication – resulted in better team performance. Thus, companies can use the lessons gained from digital collaboration tools to rethink collaborative practices and habits, such as the frequency of meetings and office spatial layout.

Beyond identifying best behaviours in their own workforces, companies should also seek to learn from the experiences of other teams and apply good practices to their own teams as appropriate. This will ensure teams harvest all the potential lessons of the pandemic to improve organisational efficiency and resilience during the crisis.

References:

  1. Empathy Is An Essential Leadership Skill — And There’s Nothing Soft About It. December, 2017, Forbes.
  2. The benefits isolation can have on your work, May 2020. BBC Work Life.
  3. Is COVID-19 a turning point for workplace mental health? Human Resource Executive.
  4. 10 Management Skills Remote Leaders Need for Success, April 2020, Owl Labs.