Returning to the Workplace in 2021

Last October, we surveyed over 400 biotech and pharmaceutical professionals to learn if and when they were planning to return to their workplace in-person, as well as if and when they’d feel comfortable doing so. At that time, approximately 30% of respondents did not know when they’d return and 61% said they would not feel comfortable until a vaccine was widely available. Click here to view the complete report

We have seen a lot of changes to these plans since October. Many companies are now starting to explore options for returning to the office this year or have adopted remote or hybrid working models. We decided to conduct a follow-up survey to better understand when people might be going back into the office, how they are feeling about it now, and how responses differ between senior leadership to regulatory affairs professionals.

Dennis Partners conducted an online survey of over 400 biotech, pharmaceutical and diagnostic industry leaders and regulatory professionals during the week of March 18-25, 2021.   This survey consisted of two questions as follows:

  1. When do you anticipate returning to your workplace? The results showed that while approximately 6% of regulatory affairs professionals are back or partially back in the office (working hybrid) currently, 10% of respondents expect to return by June 2021, and nearly 25% of respondents still expect to stay remote through the end of this year. Surprisingly, 27% of regulatory affairs professionals surveyed still don’t know when they plan to return and 33% tell us they are not planning to return in-person and wish to continue remain fully remote. This comes in stark contrast senior leadership (C-level executives) who stated that 35% are already in-office or working hybrid and 35% who expect to return by the end of 2021. 18% of industry leaders say they are still unsure of when they will return, however many respondents let us know they were aiming for a Fall 2021 timeline, or a hybrid model beginning after Labor Day depending on CDC guidelines.

Several respondents typed in their own answers such as:

“I am hoping to continue remote work at least until 2022 but would like to remain remote”

“ I have been hired as a remote worker and if that does not work out, I will look for other remote positions”

“After June but before December”

2. When would you feel most comfortable returning to the workplace? In October of 2020, 18% of our respondents let us know they’d be comfortable returning to the office, but as of March 2021 that number is now just under 8%. 17% would be comfortable with working a hybrid model, spending a few days in the office while being at home the rest of the time. This compares to 22% of leadership who stated they are comfortable being in-office now or hybrid. In October, 61% of respondents overwhelmingly told us they would only feel comfortable going back to the office once an effective vaccine is available. While over 52% of leadership still feels this way, only 37% of regulatory affairs professionals still agree. A surprisingly 30% of regulatory professionals plan to stay remote, while only 4% of senior leadership agrees. As was true in October, there are approximately 5% of regulatory professionals that say they would never feel comfortable returning.

“While I would go back to work in some hybrid situation, I will never go back to an office 5 or even 4 days a week, we have certainly demonstrated that it’s not necessary. My team has written and submitted 2 NDAs in Covid — all working remotely.”

“I would prefer hybrid or remote but that isn’t an option.”

“When I receive my vaccine and my kids are able to return to school safely”

There were many write-in responses where both Regulatory Affairs professionals and senior leadership let us know that their comfortability with returning would increase when children and a larger part of the population has been immunized, as well as when the majority of their in-office colleagues have been vaccinated as well.

In conclusion, it appears that senior company leadership is more eager to get back into the office than their employees are right now.  And everybody is still eagerly awaiting mass vaccinations. Dennis Partners will continue to monitor important changes in the industry along with monthly hiring trends.  Let us know if there are pressing topics that you would like to see us explore in our next survey!

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