GSK reimagines WFH

03 November, 2021

In this interview with Euroview, Mick Stanley, General Manager of GlaxoSmithKline Taiwan, spoke about how his company is reimaging the best remote and hybrid working model for the post-pandemic new normal

Courtesy of GSK

What do you think are the most significant impacts of the pandemic on the way we work?
Specific to Taiwan’s situation is that there was very little disruption to day-to-day life and business operations compared to the rest of the world up until mid-May 2021. When the level 3 alert was implemented, it was a challenge to adjust because face-to-face interaction is really important to doing business in Taiwan.

What have been the most difficult challenges to overcome?
The two biggest challenges were 1) to ensure that employees were kept safe and able to remain resilient and really engaged on a day-to-day basis and 2) how to maintain relationships with customers virtually (without face-to-face exchanges). Making the pivot quickly to maintain meaningful and effective engagement with customers was difficult, although it helped that Taiwan is a global leader in the technology space and all the digital tools are readily available.

What actions did you take to adapt to the new situation?
Two or three days after the start of alert level 3, we set up three work streams around: 1) the safety and resilience of employees to make sure that the company was doing everything to make sure they employees and their families were safe: 2) how to effectively work from home (WFH) and 3) how to pivot from meeting with customers in person to doing so on virtual platforms.

A lot of our company’s functions are office-based. We assisted our colleagues to set up home offices and to make sure the technology worked properly so that they could perform their tasks effectively.

Tell us about GSK’s WFH support measures?
We gave employees subsidies to buy furniture and equipment for their home offices as well as to upgrade internet plans and the necessary software. In addition, we offered training courses to teach staff how to use all the tools. We also offered health and hygiene subsidies and additional paid leave to staff who needed to take care of their families. All of these plans are still in effect.

What is your Partnership For Prevention programme?
GSK fully subsidises any vaccine that is recommended by the WHO both for staff and their family members, including 13 types of vaccines that prevent Rotavirus, Seasonal Flu, MMR, Typhoid Fever, Chickenpox, Herpes Zoster, Polio, Japanese Encephalitis, Pneumococcal, Hepatitis A/B, HPV, Tetanus, Pertussis and Diphtheria. This will also apply to future vaccine needs, for example if annual Covid-19 booster shots will be need in the future.

How has your company’s internal culture helped to adapt to the new normal?
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, we had already been focused on step-changing our culture and this continued after the pandemic struck. I spent a lot of time talking with employees (meeting with every employee) after which we set up a team of change agents tasked with evaluating what we are doing to see what is working and what is not and making the necessary adjustments. This helped to increase the level of trust.

Tell us about your counselling, daily mindfulness sessions and exercise classes?
We offer 24-hour online counselling to employees arranged by our above country team (serving multiple countries in Asia) to allow them to talk about personal psychological, financial, or legal issues. In addition, we have set up regular 15-minute mindfulness sessions led by a professional mindfulness coach to help employees take time out from their busy schedules, relax, and reduce stress. To maintain the physical health of our team, we also schedule regular yoga exercise sessions towards the end of the workday.

GSK Taiwan sets up regular 15-minute mindfulness sessions led by a professional mindfulness coach to help employees take time out from their busy schedules

What are your “feel good online talks”
These talks are arranged both by our team in Taiwan and in conjunction with colleagues around the world. For example, we tapped into countries that had had lockdowns, such as our team in Australia, to share information and experience with the team in Taiwan in regular online sessions as well as experts in various fields. For example, we asked colleagues how they dealt with taking care of young children while working from home. Other sessions featured experts, such as a professional nutritionist, who gave advice on how to maintain a healthy diet when working from home. These sessions have been especially important for some new colleagues who were hired during lockdowns and may not even have met their colleagues in person.

Feel Good Online Talks give GSK Taiwan employees the chance to exchange tips on how to juggle all kinds of responsibilities during WFH periods


How have employees responded to these programmes?
The response has been very positive and has helped staff to unwind, focus, increase their energy levels and overall resilience, which is essential for them to be able to do their jobs really well. Even family members take part in the yoga classes.

The other proof point of engagement is how employees have responded to having to cancel our annual “Orange Day”. Usually held over the summer, this gives our team a chance to volunteer and give back to the community. Although the live event was cancelled due to the pandemic this year, the team came up with an innovative way to do this virtually. That is testament to our success in overcoming the challenges of the pandemic and keeping our team engaged in the new normal.

Virtual volunteering has enabled GSK Orange Day to continue giving support to good causes that staff of GSK Taiwan are passionate about during the pandemics, when most corporate volunteering programmes were suspended due to lockdown or restrictive measures.

How have you managed communications and relations with your customers during the pandemic? What are some of the lessons you have learned on how to maintain these relationships?
First, since most of our customers are healthcare professionals (HCPs), it was paramount that we adopted a mindset of empathy. A lot of our customers have been actively involved in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, including treating infected patients. Realising that they must be under tremendous stress, we had to be especially empathetic in our exchanges with them.

Next, we had to understand the specific needs of every HCP, at every level as to exactly what information they need, when they need it and what channels we should use that are appropriate for them. For example, do they prefer virtual webinars, virtual calls on an iPad, messaging apps like LINE, or email? Also, what time is suitable and convenient for them? GSK Taiwan was a pioneer in setting its own LINE channel of restricted access for communicating with customers, which has been well received by our customers.

There are still a lot of international online medical conferences going on since it is difficult for HCPs to travel. We need to help to provide them with the latest data and in their preferred method. The next step after activating channels is to see which ones are effective and to remain agile based on data so that we can continue to evolve.

Looking ahead, many are saying that the hybrid working model is here to stay. Based on your experience so far, what are some of the ways to make this model successful?
While some want to scrap WFH and go back to the way things were pre-pandemic, many HCPs are open to keeping a hybrid approach. For this reason, we need to make sure that we remain flexible and are able to function both live and well as virtually. I don’t think we will ever go back to 100% live.

However, whatever we decide to do needs to be based on data. If hybrid is what customers want and data backs it up, then that is what we need to offer them. If we learn that face-to-face works better, we need to go back to that.

What do you need to do to attract and maintain talent in the hybrid working world?
GSK is an example of how to take care of employees and engage with HCPs effectively. This shows that we are a caring company that keeps its employees safe and engaged, which I think will be attractive to new talent. We also need to maintain the ability to be agile and innovative, acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers but are able to adapt as the situation evolves.

Any final thoughts?
Our new mission is to unite our people, unite our science and unite our technology to get ahead of disease. If we do this effectively, we can wage war on infectious diseases and quickly respond with effective medicines and treatments. If all employees embrace this mindset, we will get ahead of disease.


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