Whilst flexible working may not be a brand-new concept, it is plain to see that the pandemic has shown us many more possibilities than the standard office 9-5 working week. According to the Office of National Statistics Survey (BICS) in October 2021, 24% of businesses intend to keep homeworking as a permanent business model, with 85% of the currently remote workforce stating that they want a hybrid approach of home and office working moving forward.
This has also been reflected in online job adverts. Homeworking adverts in May 2021 grew three times above the average in February 2021. But how is this growing trend affecting Pharma and Healthcare recruitment?
Here at Carrot, our recruitment consultants can attest to this growing trend; the question they encounter most from candidates is “Do they offer flexible working?”
In this article, our consultants share the flexible working solutions offered by Pharmaceutical and Life Science industries and their impacts on the jobs market within this sector.
“I’ve had a candidate who relocated outside of London because she was only considering remote roles.” Alice Smith, our Recruitment Consultant for Healthcare Advertising & PR
Alice affirms how important remote working has become to her candidates. This new norm was brought about by the pandemic, and our experience shows that it might be here to stay.
Stewart Pearson, our Senior Consultant in the Quality Assurance sector, observes that employers who still expect their staff to be office-based 5 days a week are now at a disadvantage in terms of talent attraction. He is also finding that most of the candidates he approaches for fully office-based roles are not interested in learning more about the job.
We have also seen candidates pull out of the recruitment process right before entering the final stage when it became clear that the job was office-based, further affirming how influential flexible working has become.
“The majority of my candidates are doing hybrid working, and this is what most of them want.” Emily Shaw, our Senior Associate Consultant for Market Access
Emily has seen a huge rise in popularity for hybrid working among her candidates. This new form of working arrangement gives a balanced approach between working in an office environment and remotely, allowing employees to create a work schedule that suits their lifestyle. Remote/hybrid working is fast becoming a popular offering among Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences employers across all sectors to meet the demand from candidates looking for a better work/life balance.
And it’s not hard to see why: Remote working has a raft of benefits for both sides of the Pharma employment coin. Staff avoid the hassle of the rush-hour commute and transportation costs, whereas employers can save on overheads when they downsize the office due to remote working.
Flexible working benefits Pharmaceutical employers in a few ways: Increased efficiency, where meetings are more structured and work is completed at an improved speed; reduced cost and increased efficiency of clinical trials, and more development opportunities for employees due to the extra time they may gain from working from home (ONS).
“One of my clients found their employees get twice as much done at home, with there being less distractions and meetings.” Hayley Shayestehroo, our Senior Consultant for Regulatory Affairs
Many of the companies that work with Hayley now offer various flexible working options to their staff. Furthermore, many report that apart from increased production, they’ve also benefitted from an increased talent pool, as well as happier employees, since the change in work arrangements.
A significantly expanded talent pool is another benefit made possible when Pharmaceutical employers make their vacancies remote. This means their search for talent won’t be restricted to the geographic location of their office; anyone at a feasible location can be a potential new recruit.
“The core-hour work pattern is very popular among candidates, especially those with childcare needs.” Matt Goldrick, our Associate Director for Market Research
Flexible hour contracts can take many forms, allowing employees more autonomy as long as they are available during agreed core hours. This is especially welcomed when there’s a need to juggle work and life commitments.
We’ve seen some Medical Communications clients’ EVP (Employer Value Proposition) that are designed to offer that flexibility. Katie Goulbourn, our Consultant in this sector says: “Many of my clients are always looking at improving their flexible working offerings to attract more talent. It’s almost like a competition!” In Med Comms jobs, late evenings are sometimes inevitable to finish work for a project. And to address that, some of Katie’s clients let their staff finish early whenever they’ve had a late finish the day before.
Whichever way flexibility is offered within Pharmaceutical recruitment, it ensures a healthy work/life balance and higher satisfaction at work. This will in turn produce a better staff retention rate in a candidate-driven market.
What Are the Challenges of Flexible Working in Pharma?
When most of the teams are working from home most of the week, personal interaction is inevitably reduced. Although technology has ensured we will never really be isolated, many still consider it crucial to work in the office for face-to-face conversations with colleagues and human interaction. Hybrid working is highly sought after by candidates in this sector; they believe it provides the best of both worlds.
Other challenges come as a result of reduced office-based work hours. Employers must adapt to make sure communication, training, and mentoring among employees can still be carried out to the same standard to keep employees engaged and productive.
Some jobs within the Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences industries require onsite presence – such as lab work. When offering remote/ hybrid working to office workers, employers are challenged to consider other means of flexible options and practicalities for onsite staff. In some cases, this won’t always be possible.
In a candidate-driven market, talented job seekers take precedence in the recruitment dynamics. This means candidates now have more say in shaping work arrangements to suit their needs. This then sets the challenge for employers to keep reviewing and renewing the flexible working options they offer, to ensure their vacancies stay appealing to candidates.
What does the future hold for Pharma and Life Sciences Jobs Market?
As we look at the bigger picture, we expect to see more companies offering flexible working solutions, despite obvious challenges. However, candidates must understand the practical needs of a business as well as their own objectives in order to achieve a compromise that works for both employer and employee long term.
If you have any thoughts or questions regarding flexible working or want to speak to us about the current Pharma and Life Science jobs market, please get in touch:
+44 (0) 1625 541 030