For the latest HR Spotlight Interview, BR sat down with Florentin Scarlat, Senior Director, Government Affairs & Policy, Gilead Sciences, being the Global Therapeutic Area Policy Lead for Inflammation & COVID-19. Scarlat joined Gilead in March 2020 initially covering the inflammation portfolio, and now covering Remdesivir as well. He is based in Paris, France and reports into a global team based out of Foster City, California, where he will move in Q2, 2021. Prior to joining Gilead Sciences, he worked for 6 years for AbbVie Biopharmaceuticals as the International Government Affairs Director for Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, based in Paris, France. Until 2013, he worked for different companies in Romania ranging from consumer goods (Unilever South-Central Europe) to pharmaceuticals (MSD Romania).
Business Review: How can employers manage the work force challenges during the pandemic?
Florentin Scarlat: I believe this pandemic poses challenges that were not seen before by employers or employees. The quick answer would be to say working remotely/work from home, which became work from anywhere. In my case, I joined Gilead during the lockdown period, and having a global role has not been easy. Companies are actually supporting now employees to work from home also by reimbursing some of the expenses incurred due to working from home. Like covering the costs of utility bills, etc.
Are there flexible ways to maintain the work force and are they efficient in the current context?
Well, I cannot speak for all employers but in my case, it has been really flexible. Like for instance I spend my late evenings discussing with the California based teams, while as sometimes the mornings are dedicated to Europe or Japan. So I get to have some spare time in between, when I get to jog or workout. From an efficiency standpoint I think to some extent things are pretty similar, but it might take more time to be able to ask a colleague a question. Before you could just knock on the door and now you have to schedule a meeting. Takes a bit more.
What are the biggest challenges for your department in the current situation? Is this what “the future of work” will look like?
Well, I’m part of a global team based in Foster City, California but I currently live in Paris, France. So with or without the pandemic things were going to be difficult. I think the most difficult part is that you cannot meet people face to face. I was planning to go quite often to the US and interact with my colleagues both in DC and in California but this is no longer the case. Is this the future of work? It might be, partially. Nobody can answer that. There are companies which decided to allow their employees to work from home indefinitely while others are asking their employees to return to the office. So, it is a bit case by case.
Are there any specific tools/platforms used by your HR team which significantly improved productivity and helped keep things manageable?
Not in our case, nothing different than before. Maybe some more sessions to support employees well-being. Also, I believe year-end evaluations will look different this year.
What are the redundancy measures that can be implemented by employers?
It might be a bit too soon to tell and this might as well be industry dependent.
What should employers do in this current context?
I think they might be asking themselves the same questions. The short answer is that for the time being we do not know where this pandemic will lead. It is a transformational moment in human history if you’d like and that will lead to significant changes in the medium and long terms. I think employers are struggling to cope with the situation, to understand what changes need to happen and what they need to do. Working remotely was the 1st reaction but what is next? Will it become permanent and if yes, do we need to come up with the infrastructure to support that?
How did you replicate recruiting and onboarding from traditionally office to hybrid working arrangements?
I did join my new company on March 30th and since then everything has been done remotely, can’t even name it hybrid. It is tough, but I think we are learning to cope with that and develop new way of engaging with colleagues.
What programs/rewards/benefits have you implemented in order to keep spirits high in your company?
As I mentioned, in my case the company decided to reimburse some of the expenses that are incurred due to working from home. Acquiring IT equipment, utility bills, upgrading the internet broadband, etc. Also, companies are offering psychological counsel, support for people with young children, etc. We do also have an happy hour Friday afternoons where he drink a glass of wine with our colleagues (I do not get to join often due to the time difference between California and Europe)
As the months have passed since the beginning of the outbreak, have you seen an improvement in employee morale, team cohesion, etc. even as many of them might still be working remotely?
The thing is that due to working remotely, you cannot really tell, can you? I mean all my colleagues are still working remotely.
How did you manage to keep a good level of engagement among your teams / departments / employees?
Being able to communicate to each other it’s key and it does help a lot. At least in my case but I have seen that with other colleagues as well.
Did you make use of professional counseling for employees who reported issues of stress / anxiety?
A lot of companies do and we do have yoga sessions and counseling offered to employees.