How can the Pharmaceutical Sector lead the way in making workplace wellbeing a driver of growth and innovation?

Consulting, Mental Fitness, Wellbeing Strategy

The pharmaceutical sector has always been characterised by resilience and innovation. Covid-19 demanded both in unprecedented amounts and the sector’s response was remarkable.

As the medical professions were working out ways to treat the virus, the pharmaceutical sector began investigating the relevance and efficacy of existing drugs, rapidly researched and developed potential new medicines to treat symptoms and mitigate against long Covid, developed a safe and effective vaccine and continued to ensure the ongoing production and distribution of existing medicines and treatments. All of this occurred in the pressure cooker setting of global public expectation and Governments around the world looking to the sector to come up with rapid solutions within tight regulatory frameworks. . 

These achievements demonstrate the sector’s extraordinary capability for innovation, resilience and agility. And are testimony to the resilience and creativity of the individuals who work in the sector. 

The pharmaceutical sector drives and sustains our economy

The pandemic placed unprecedented strain on global public health services as they kept pace with the demands of Covid-19 on their service delivery. These public health services were, arguably, reliant on the global pharma sector to deliver a vaccine solution to the pandemic to avoid unmanageable demand continuing beyond their capability. This symbiotic relationship between the health sector and the pharma sector further emphasises the vital role played by both of the past years of the pandemic in sustaining global economies.  In the words of Professor John Powell, Professor of Digital Health Care in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, “there is this argument, do we save public health or do we save the economy, but actually it’s a compromise between the two. If you get the public health right, you support the economy.”

So how can the sector move on from this time of unprecedented demand, continue to mobilise its talent, resilience and innovation to shape the future and continue to support our public health services and sustain our economic growth as a society?

Pharma sector demands have always been unique

Even prior to the pandemic teams and employees in the sector face unique challenges around wellbeing and resilience and the relative stability of the sector isn’t always reflected in the experience of individuals working within it. 

“For many employees, the nature of working for a pharmaceutical company can mean a heavy workload and, often, even heavier subject matter – spending your days working with adverse-event and mortality rates, for example, can take its toll.”

(Findings from the Business in the Community Mental Health at Work Report 2017 quoted by SpongeLearning)

Additionally the tendency towards scale in the sector as large scale mergers have led to larger and more and more complex organisations where sustaining organisational culture can be hard. 

Covid has amplified these trends and strained resilience

Traditional working cultures have been disrupted – Pharma companies have traditionally been tight, team orientated organisations, with leaders working closely with wider teams to innovate and develop solutions quickly. With lockdown and home working this has become impossible. A loss of a shared sense of purpose has been noticed during this time and is hard to redevelop, with lots of staff turnover in the sector as strain has an impact and organisations find it harder to enrich individuals working lives with a positive work culture remotely.

Sales relationships have become strained – During a time of high demand on the pharma sector, standard sales relationship processes have been unavailable. What usually consisted of GP and high street pharmacy visits were restricted online conversations. Leaving relationships strained and requiring a lot of pivoting to adapt.

Signs of burnout are present – There’s signs of burnout emerging both at leadership level, as leaders look to manage rapid innovation drives during the pandemic alongside hybrid working and among teams throughout organisations. Dealing with a customer base in the frontline pharmacy sector where up to 89% of pharmacists report feeling close to post pandemic burnout adds to the sense of stress and challenge. 

The pharma sector can lead the way in making wellbeing and Mental Fitness a driver of innovation, creativity and growth

As the pandemic has shown us, challenge is a catalyst for innovation. The huge successes of the Pharmaceutical sector in supporting public health through the pandemic at a global scale represents strong foundations upon which to further strengthen the sector by ensuring that employee wellbeing and resilience is integral to shaping the future of the sector. If public health is at the heart of our economy then the health of employees supporting public health delivery is essential.

So what can the sector do to ensure its unique resilience and innovation helps support and grow Mental Fitness? Here’s some ideas from us to contribute to that conversation:   

Align individuals and teams around social purpose as well as corporate purpose

The pandemic brought home and made visible the immense potential of the pharmaceutical sector to support global health and wellbeing. One of the key drivers of resilience and Mental Fitness among employees is being able to align around a clear sense of purpose. Clearly defining and communicating and sharing organisational purpose where goals are broader than simply organisational growth and aligned with the wider social objectives of creating healthy, wellbeing led economies, helps strengthen resilience and individual effectiveness and productivity. 

Put wellbeing and Mental Fitness at the heart of corporate strategy

If wellbeing and resilience need to be at the heart of our future economies then the Pharmaceutical sector has the opportunity to lead the way in modelling this. Proactively making Mental Fitness not just a “support” for employees but a core part of corporate strategy and aligned with organisational objectives and KPIs. Leading the way in showing that we all have a duty of care to each other as individuals, whether in our teams, departments, organisations or across wider society in making strengthening Mental Fitness part of everyday life. 

Create leadership organisations

Professor Richard Hobbs, Head of the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences reflects how the pandemic has highlighted ”that the modern healthcare leader needs an advanced skill set in many areas that traditionally we wouldn’t have thought were necessary.” 

In the words of Shire/Takeda CEO, Flemming Ørnskov,

“I still need to think two or three steps ahead. I need to build an organization that is open to change and can adapt accordingly. If it can adapt, it can contribute to change in the industry. Today’s young people want … variety, dynamism, and challenges. If you want to keep your employees, you need an environment that can offer them ten different roles. They don’t work in just marketing or sales but in an ever-changing organization.”

Modelling resilience and Mental Fitness starts with leadership and using Transformational Coaching to develop and support resilient, change capable leaders helps equip organisations for innovation and change as they face uncertain futures. However we think “Leadership” can go beyond a narrow, hierarchical model of “training the top individuals to lead” into a broader, empowering approach supporting individuals throughout the organisation with Transformational Coaching to create agile and innovative ‘Leadership cultures’ rather than simply Leaders. 

Build data driven, personalised support for Mental Fitness

The Pharma sector leads the world in providing rigorous, data led, regulatory compliant solutions to healthcare problems. The next wave of innovation in the sector will in part be driven by the capabilities of big data to personalise and tailor solutions to individuals. The sector can lead the way in modelling this approach in the delivery of personalised Mental Fitness solutions to employees by putting data and insight at the heart of wellbeing delivery. 

These are some of our ideas. What are your views? Which organisations are leading the way in shaping the future of healthy workplaces. We’d love to hear what you think. 

Want to take this further?

Are you trying to develop resilient solutions to wellbeing and strengthening Mental Fitness in your organisation?

If you’d like help to take this further, we’d love to talk and we’d love to hear your ideas about how the Pharmaceutical sector can be in the vanguard of developing the next generation of Mental Fitness support. 

by | 24 May 2022

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