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Why a better work-life balance is better for patients

Why a better work-life balance is better for patients

Remote working has meant I have more time for myself and my family – now we need to find a balance that works for employees and the business

The thing I get asked the most after five years at Janssen, especially at the moment, is: ‘How do you juggle being a mum to two young kids with your job, in the middle of a pandemic?’ And it’s a good question.

I’m based at Janssen’s hub in Zug, Switzerland, and am the medical lead for all our disease areas, with a focus on evidence generation, innovation and innovative treatments. Before joining the pharmaceutical industry a decade ago, I worked as a radiation oncologist with the NHS in London for 10 years, which allowed me to work and hear from patients directly on a day-to-day basis. Now I’m in pharma, it’s a different side of the same coin; I’m still driven by what’s best for the patient.

Currently, I’m working in my office about once every 10 days, which means I have much more flexibility and can now have dinner with my two young kids and can take them to school in the mornings. I’m a tennis fanatic as well, and have a bit more time for that now too. And, as I’m no longer travelling abroad as much during the week, we made the most of late summer by going camping at the weekends in our new roof tent – previously, I’d have been too exhausted for that. Why am I mentioning all this? Because, while the pandemic continues to be unbelievably challenging, this recent change to how we work has been good for me. More working from home provides more flexibility for employees, which can be better for their families (just ask my kids), and better for the planet, too. Less travel means a smaller carbon footprint.

But that’s not the whole story. In-person communication is always going to work better for brainstorming, for bonding with colleagues, for conferences and for talking to external stakeholders; it’s always more impactful. Which means it’s crucial for business. So, while I think it’s sensible not going back to 100% face-to-face meetings, because for a quick catch-up, Zoom works just fine, what we need to find is a new hybrid-working medium that works for all employees and the company. That might mean taking the best bits of what we’ve learnt over the last couple of years and developing new working practices. For example, since returning to the office, as well as catching up with colleagues (I keep joking that seeing three dimensional humans is a restorative for the soul), I’ve also been doing some things differently. So now, instead of sitting in a room with masks on, sometimes I’ll do socially distanced walking meetings, strolling around beautiful Lake Zug.

A respect for our people and their life outside of the office has always been part of the company culture at Janssen. I think that’s why there are so many ‘lifers’ here; I've never worked anywhere with so many long-term employees – somewhere, where after five years, I’m still a relative newbie. I think much of this is down to Our Credo: our ethos as a business, which puts patients, doctors and our people first. And it’s more than just a slogan. I was at a leadership meeting last month where a couple of us stood up to say that there is no excuse for not putting your family first: if you need to go and pick up your child, or look after your loved ones, you don't even need to ask. I think that’s incredibly powerful. There’s an unspoken trust our people: everyone knows what's required of them; they just need a bit of latitude during hard times, like right now.