COVID-19 has made a lasting impact on life science workplaces, changing the where, when and how scientists and administrators perform their work. During the pandemic, many scientists who were accustomed to a specific routine were suddenly required to adjust their core hours and lab schedules, while those in administrative roles, like finance and legal, found themselves navigating unfamiliar technologies at home.
As science leaders look toward the future, they are trying to determine how to address employee concerns and needs, handle workspace safety, implement workplace best practices and react to rapid growth in the complex “new normal.”
Coming from a biotech background, I chatted with a small group of scientists from my network to confirm first-hand what they are looking for going forward and what strategies their leaders can put into place to create the ideal workplace.
One of the most important strategies to incorporate is to keep clear, consistent communication with employees. Give your teams a voice. Post-pandemic guidance is still changing quickly, creating a lot of unknowns and causing anxiety. People want some control in their workplace and have a safe space to be heard and a safe place to go to. Where am I going to sit? How will I use the office? How have the lab workflows changed?
They want to take an active role in building their most productive working environment. By making employees a part of the conversation, companies are helping minimize fear and anxiety while maximizing engagement and productivity.
Traditionally, many scientists were used to being in the lab and the office for set hours and days. The pandemic caused a shift, where they were required to be onsite only for essential tasks like lab work. This was never an option in their jobs before, but it has created new profiles and roles. While some people like the change, others want to return to their routines. Activities, tasks and collaboration no longer have to happen in a traditional office setting, so now, it is about creating flexibility for employees.
There’s been a major surge in life sciences funding, and hiring is bigger and better than ever. The pandemic has led people to pay closer attention to what their employers are doing for them. As the job market evolves, employers need to think about new, innovative and even niche benefits to attract and retain talent in this competitive landscape. For example, the scientists I spoke with are concerned about their office parking situation, because they work in an urban setting and can no longer be strapped to a public transportation schedule.
The pandemic disrupted how scientists and other staff members interact with one another. Time in the lab or office moved from highly collaborative activities to essential, task-based operations. As companies approach a culture shift and establish new operating models, they need to focus on building equity. They can bridge the communication gap and cultivate team connections through enhanced technology, so people at home have the same experience as those in the office.
Companies now have to solve for flexible schedules, growth, a shift in culture, social distancing plus current and future CDC guidelines. Many employees have become accustomed to doing a variety of work at home. Structurally, companies are removing the traditional 6’ x 8’ workstation and adding designated collaboration spaces, including soft walls and space dividers to create separation. They are beginning to move away from the standard office setting and introducing new types of furniture to create a more comfortable, “resi-mercial” feel.
The introduction to these new concepts also takes training to navigate technology, relieve anxiety and answer questions for those returning onsite like, “where do I go, who sits where, how do I reserve a desk?”
Every life sciences company is going to be different in terms of how they see the “new normal” and how they want to implement policies. Executives are aware of the shift, but don’t necessarily know how to respond.
At T3, we help life sciences companies understand their employee personas, the types of tasks people are doing and when and how people are using the space. We help management think proactively about how their employees will come to the space, when they’ll come in and how they’ll use it, so they can develop a customized workplace design that will engage their employees and keep their company competitive in the rapidly growing life sciences workforce.
Interested in knowing more about building the right real estate solution for your life sciences company? Contact me at kelly@t3advisors. I’d love to chat!