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Technology and empathy help make remote working a success for Elsevier

Posted on July 29th, 2021 by in Pharma R&D

We at Elsevier were pleased to be one of five companies recognized for their ability to keep remote workers rooted in company culture in this recent Comparably article. Like many organizations during the pandemic, we had to quickly adapt to remote working on a large scale for our international workforce. As the article notes, “Elsevier took an empathetic and pragmatic approach in supporting its people and its customers and rapidly harnessed technology to work from home.”

That empathetic approach might come, for instance, in a moment when a meeting was interrupted by an unexpected appearance from someone’s toddler. For Elsevier, it was important that employees never feel worried or embarrassed by such moments, as we know everyone is doing their best to balance work and home life while working remotely.

As an information and analytics company, we are fortunate to already be an organization that embraces technology, but to continue collaborating on projects without interruption, team members had to employ a number of different strategies. Matt Clark, Senior Director of Scientific Solutions at Elsevier R&D Solutions, cites the instant messaging capability in Microsoft Teams as being an important remote working tool that is more interactive than email and allows for ad-hoc discussions. “That helps connect us with immediacy,” he says, also noting the value of video calls, as the visual element offers a little extra personal connection.

Elsevier employees have been provided with technical support and best practices to help facilitate secure, effective remote work. This includes resources like Q&As, informative webinars and a 24/7 TechDesk.

Technology can’t solve every problem by itself, though. Old-fashioned organizing has its role. Matt points out that having standing meetings with agenda items has been key for keeping teams on track even while working apart—as well as making time to discuss what’s on people’s minds (including a little time for the occasional rant to relieve stress, too, when needed!).

At the height of the pandemic, Elsevier employees also had the extra motivation of understanding they had an important part to play in helping develop solutions in the fight against COVID-19. Our work supporting life sciences researchers and scientists was more critical than ever, and Elsevier even launched a special coronavirus research hub to assist those who were working on treatments and vaccines.

When it came to delivering major projects, such as patent expansion in Reaxys, Rosalind Sankey, Lead Product Manager, made certain that her team continued to collaborate with customers every step of the way, ensuring competitive intelligence and novelty searching needs were met.

“We always involve customers to ensure that the solution we deliver meets their needs and expectations,” Rosalind says. “Online survey tools were used to help validate ideas and define priorities and video calls were set up to get more detailed feedback on aspects such as potential changes to the User Interface (UI) and in-depth testing and validation of the output from our data science tools used for extracting critical information e.g. targets (gene/protein).”

Although we are proud to be an organization that functions well remotely, Matt acknowledges that there are downsides. “Video helps, but doesn’t replace the interactions shared at lunch or outside the formal meetings,” he says.

That “human touch” element has been sorely missed. But we are hopeful that as more people get vaccinated, we will increasingly be enjoying more opportunities to meet with both customers and colleagues in person again.

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