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The Virtualization of Biotech

Once upon a time, finding remote work in the biotech space was somewhat akin to spotting a unicorn. While there were some analyst and admin positions that allowed for greater flexibility in terms of where employees worked, the majority of jobs demanded a trek to the office.

As the events of 2020 forced a widespread reevaluation as to what really constituted necessity, it was surprising how many jobs that demanded in-person attendance suddenly… didn’t.

The collaborative atmosphere that defines biotech seems immune to virtualization, but the proof is in the videoconferencing.

By adjusting how they work as well as where they work, biotech teams and the recruitment agencies that support them can adapt to a more virtual world with very exciting results.

How are biotech jobs going remote?

While some jobs like data entry and graphic design have seamlessly shifted to 100% virtual operations, that’s not possible in biotech.

Remote biotech jobs can’t completely replace in-person collaboration — after all, there are labs to work in, research to conduct and experiments that must be run. In fact, the virtualization of biotech has itself been one large experiment.

One approach has been to bring teams into the lab in shifts.

  • A core team may take care of lab work for a two-week sprint, then make way for team B while the original group works remotely logging and analyzing results.
  • With time in short supply, lab work has to be more focused.
  • Goals must be decided on at a high-level and pursued to the letter to avoid running afoul of concrete timelines and disrupting the system.

This division of labor could also affect how biotech firms hire. Companies are able to revisit the job descriptions they’re giving to recruitment firms, widening once-narrow search parameters to include talented scientists who might be located elsewhere and therefore only available for remote work.

How can tech support the shift to remote work?

The growth of biotech virtualization brings several potential challenges:

  • Interrupted collaboration
  • Stifled creativity
  • Loss of connection/company culture
  • Decreased productivity
  • Concerns about isolation/mental health
  • Possible employee attrition

The majority of those challenges can be answered using technology that already exists.

  1. Video Conferencing platforms
  2. Performance and employee engagement software
  3. Project management apps
  4. Task tracking and even virtual happy hours can all help businesses and employees acclimatize to remote work and support each other through isolation.

As for employee attrition, some studies have found that staff working remotely can feel “unseen” and develop concerns about how to advance their careers. Regular employee evaluations and a comprehensive mentorship program could help alleviate those fears but be prepared to see some employees decide the new setup is just not for them.

Biotech recruitment experts can help you attract top talent that’s excited about your commitment to virtualization so you can build a better future together.

Security concerns for scientists working remotely

When biotech jobs go virtual, there’s an increased potential for breaches. It’s simple math — the more we rely on global connectivity, the more opportunities there are for issues to arise.

Part of your biotech staffing protocols and onboarding process should be educating all workers on common cybersecurity risks and what steps they can take to avoid exposure.

This includes multi-level security checks on all company systems as well as offering (or requiring) approved security software for employees to use in their home office.

Looking to the future: what’s in store for biotech and virtualization

When some of the biggest CFOs in biopharma were asked about biotech 2021 and the future of remote work, all four agreed that the ideal scenario included a balance between virtualization and in-person collaboration.

In an industry where breakthroughs can take years or even decades, company culture and a shared vision are important in terms of motivation.

Team members also thrive when they can bounce ideas off each other. Some companies have decided on a mix of remote work and in-office days. Others have decided to use all the tech tools at their disposal and come up with creative ways to encourage interaction to better support their workers’ desire for more flexibility while still marching toward organizational goals.

There are opportunities to tweak company culture and tailor the makeup of biotech teams to help create that balance too. When relying on a staffing agency to fill the inevitable company vacancies, biotech firms can offer roles that are mostly virtual, mostly on-site or a mixture of the two. It’s a way to engineer an effective team while allowing for a wide array of lifestyle requirements that we see in the modern workplace.

For more help switching your team to remote work and finding talent to fit your changing vision, look to the industry’s top recruitment firm.


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