Andrew Armes from Roche talks to workingmums.co.uk about how the pharmaceutical company’s flexible culture has made adapting to lockdown easier.
Andrew Armes is UK Head of Talent Acquisition. He spoke to workingmums.co.uk about how the pharmaceutical company, which is leading the way on antibodies testing during the coronavirus pandemic, is adapting to recruiting and working under lockdown.
workingmums.co.uk: Are you continuing to recruit and, if so, how are you doing this and how are you onboarding new recruits?
Andrew Armes: Long before any enforced home working, we’d been experimenting with technology as a way to improve and add value to our recruitment processes, including gamification, the use of psychometrics, video applications and virtual interviews. Coupled with the fact that we are a global organisation and many candidates and recruiting line manager interactions were remote or virtual anyway, lockdown has simply allowed us to accelerate or implement even further process changes that have allowed us to continue as normal with our recruitment. In fact, it’s fair to say that, after 10 weeks or so, that we’ve probably been able to speed up our end-to-end recruitment. And we’ve taken our onboarding to new levels as well using technology to improve the new recruit experience, support line managers further and run our full corporate induction virtually.
wms: How much has your flexible working culture helped you adapt?
AA: This has been critical. Lockdown has allowed us to accelerate our plans to move towards complete flexibility. When literally no-one can get into the office you soon find out which roles, if any, can’t be location agnostic. And apart from a few building and security related roles we’ve managed to carry on operating without too much disruption. I think a more nuanced advantage for us has been our culture of inclusion and also hiring for and developing in our employees their ability to cope with uncertainty and be creative and resourceful during times of change and our long-term efforts in this direction have really been of immense benefit to us during these times.
wms: Are you offering any extra support to people working from home who are trying to do so while managing caring responsibilities and if so, what or is it business as normal?
AA: We have no expectations of anyone, other than to stay connected with each other. We’ve encouraged our employees to “swarm towards” any pinch-points or any colleagues that might be unable to fulfill their usual commitments which are improving the quality of our connections across a wider employee base as well as allowing for personal development that might have taken a lot longer to generate before COVID-19. As we already had many processes in place for remote or field-based employees to set themselves up appropriately for home working we merely extended these to our entire workforce. And we’ve seen a massive uptake in our already established and well-structured employee well-being support programmes, such as mindfulness meditation and guided desk-based yoga. We’ve introduced a few others as well, nearly all of them employee-led, which has been another upside of a difficult and challenging situation.
wms: How are you supporting employees’ with mental health issues arising from the current situation?
AA: As well as the overall approach we’ve taken and the support structures mentioned above we have been extremely mindful of the mental health burden on our employees. We have a corporate licence with Headspace, an extensive confidential employee assistance helpline, have introduced children and family mindfulness sessions and have centralised a whole raft of useful links and resources for all employees to use free of charge. And, critically, we keep reinforcing and communicating that no judgement will be made if employees are finding it difficult to meet their previous work commitments due to the enforced changes of lockdown, which just encourage them to stay connected, keep talking things through and asking for help if they need it.
wms: Have you adapted your communications processes to support employees working remotely and, if so, how?
AA: As we work with a large team from across the UK anyway, our communications prior to COVID had to be inclusive of all colleagues. We have, however, adapted a few aspects of our regular communications to help us tackle some of the technological challenges that c.2000 remote colleagues bring.
Our internal emails and newsletter have been updated to support wider use and include more supportive information to help manage our teams’ wellbeing. Virtual events of all varieties, including mindfulness and HIIT [high-intensity interval training] classes through to Corporate Town Halls, have replaced the variety of events we would usually run in person. Our internal social media channels have more fun content with gamified challenges to help create a sense of community and connectivity.
wms: Have you furloughed any workers? If so, how easy has that process been and how are you continuing to keep in touch with them?
AA: We are in a fortunate position to not need to furlough any colleagues due to the workload and opportunities to support our local and global teams remain high.
wms: How are you preparing from the gradual transition out of lockdown and how will you support that?
AA: We are looking at a range of phased approaches focused heavily on the health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues. With many of our team being active in the health system, it is vital that our approach is incredibly responsive to the demands and requirements of the NHS. We will be approaching a return to the new normal with the learnings from our time in lockdown and will be increasing our flexible arrangements, opportunities for choice and focus on wellbeing as the paramount factors to working as an effective organisation.
wms: Have you had to rethink your office space due to safety issues?
AA: Our onsite site-service team have been working hard over the past few months to maintain access to the building for key members of staff. Our buildings will be introducing a range of social distancing measures and restrictions in order to protect our colleagues upon return.
wms: Are you likely to reduce office space in the future and use the office differently?
AA: We will be supporting colleagues to work differently, or rather more flexibly into the future. We have no plans to reduce our office sizes, but rather look forward to it being the central hub of community whereby our colleagues can have the choice to come and go as they please. This has highlighted the importance of the complete inclusion of individuals and the chance to change the ‘normal’ environment to support anyone and everyone.
wms: What do you envisage are the main changes that will come out of the pandemic in terms of how we work?
AA: It’s become apparent how quickly and well we can all adapt to change when faced with no alternatives. The resilience built up from this experience will lay the groundwork for the future of all businesses and their success. The freedom, empowerment and trust shown have opened the doors to more honesty and transparency between colleagues, removing the traditional ideals of personal vs professional life. Above all else, it has taught everyone how much social interaction is beneficial for your wellbeing and the importance of having a good work-life balance. We will take this into the future.