Returning to the Workplace

The pandemic has dramatically changed the way people work within the biotech, pharmaceutical, and diagnostics industries.  During the last six months, most non-laboratory employees have been working from home and have adjusted to “the new normal.” As many companies are now starting to explore options for returning to the office, we decided to conduct a survey to better understand when people might be going back into the office, and how they are feeling about it.

Dennis Partners conducted a brief online survey of 400 biotech, pharmaceutical and diagnostic professionals during the week of October 5 – 9, 2020.   This survey consisted of two questions as follows:

  1. When do you anticipate returning to your workplace? The results showed that only 15% of respondents are currently back at the office.  Approximately 14% plan to return by January 2021 and 13% expect to return by June 2021.  Nearly 30% are still unsure and 28% say that they plan to stay working remotely indefinitely. 

Several respondents typed in their own answers such as:

“Likely sometime between January and June or when a vaccine is available. Even then, the model will be a hybrid one… remote with some in-office time”

“Early 2022”

“My company is still exploring options”

“I’m only accepting remote work right now”

2. When would you feel most comfortable returning to the workplace? A whopping 61 percent said that they would only feel comfortable going back to the office once an effective vaccine is available.  18% said they are comfortable now, while 7% said they will feel comfortable by January and about 9% by June.  Only five percent said they would never feel comfortable returning to the workplace.

Several respondents typed in their own answers such as:

“Only once a vaccine is proven safe and effective”

“When the pandemic is declared over”

“Once public transportation becomes safe”

I am back but only because my direct reports are and I feel guilty”

Some respondents commented that, while feeling confident in their companies’ new safety procedures within the workplace, they are not yet comfortable commuting; while others expressed they felt obligated to return [before they were ready] because their supervisors had.

Our takeaway is that most people in the industry aren’t in a big hurry to get back to the office soon, and the majority wants to wait until an effective vaccine is available. In the meantime, Regulatory professionals have proven themselves to be resilient and adaptable, finding new and innovative ways to network, communicate, and maintain productivity while working remotely.