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Life Sciences 2020

Leaning into social distancing

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Ridofranz

Fiona Dunphy

Commercial Manager, The Pharmaceutical Managers’ Institute

Ireland’s life sciences scene is booming, but the COVID-19 outbreak presents difficulties that test the industry’s ability for smart working.

The pharmaceutical industry in Ireland has seen several large-scale acquisitions over the last decade, resulting in considerable changes and restructuring. Roles have evolved, individuals’ responsibilities have changed and demands on time, skills and capabilities have continued to grow. Companies need highly skilled, knowledgeable professionals to develop and manufacture new therapies along with an education system that recognises and delivers graduates with the skills that are required.

While the sector continues to research and innovate there is an ongoing concern for the pharmaceutical industry around market access and reimbursement for new innovative medicines and the length of time it can take for new treatments to reach Irish patients.

Of course, the greatest risk facing not just the pharma industry, but the entire world right now is COVID-19. Our members and their colleagues in the industry are working closely to support the HSE healthcare professional and patients throughout this challenging time.  

We’re in the middle of a rapidly changing situation, with social interaction curtailed. There’s a requirement for organisations to empower their staff efficiently, keeping them engaged, inspired and continually learning.

As a result, a need has arisen for smart, flexible and remote working arrangements, encouraging diverse thinking, participating in professional bodies and remaining connected while being physically distant. Smart working has to increase; now is the time to embrace it and empower our staff.

What is “smart working”?

Smart working is distinct from simply working remotely or working from home. It  includes working from a flexible location, greater autonomy around work schedules and when hours are worked. It has been recognised that employees who feel more in control of the variables in their working world are much more likely to have a greater commitment to their role, which in turn benefits their company.

By giving employees tools needed to choose when, where and how they do their jobs, it contributes to a more even work-life balance, improves staff satisfaction, which in turn, aides retention. Over the coming weeks, communications will be transformed, relying much less on face-to-face meetings and instead creating novel ways to connect and develop connections with colleagues both in Ireland and around the world. 

The key to success will be in creating a virtual environment that both facilitates and encourages two-way conversation. An environment that has an emphasis on creating space for people to have their voices heard and valued will be critical.

What challenges will we need to navigate?

We will need to enable, engage and reward people in innovative ways. We’re in the middle of a rapidly changing situation, with social interaction curtailed. There’s a requirement for organisations to empower their staff efficiently, keeping them engaged, inspired and continually learning. 

Reach out, lean in

While social distancing and isolation are, in effect, an attempt to halt the spread of this virus, there are things everyone can do to reduce the downsides. While live, face-to-face connection is best, it’s often not an option at the moment. So simply call people – a phone call is better than a text or email, and a video chat is better than a phone call. Use the time to learn a new skill, deepen your knowledge and build up your connections. There’s plenty of opportunities in professional communities to stay connected and continue to learn, connect and grow, don’t be afraid to reach out!  We are better together and will get through this difficult time together even while physically apart.

The Pharmaceutical Managers Institute supports our members through the pillars of Learn, Connect and Grow, which contributes to having highly skilled and highly networked people across the wider industry.  The PMI represents over 80 companies involved in different areas across the life sciences industry:  commercial organisations, supply chain companies, market access and a broad range of companies that supply services to the sector. 

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