We Are DIA
Work/Life Balance, Co-Worker Connections, and Good Decision-Making in Age of COVID-19
Alex Huelsman
Rutgers Postdoctoral Fellow

ow does one find work-life balance, connect with co-workers, and make good judgement calls and decisions when faced with the grueling limitations placed on us by a pandemic?

After graduating from pharmacy school, I relocated to begin a fellowship program in the pharmaceutical industry. This can be intimidating enough even without the start of a pandemic that confined me to my apartment.

Driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are now more home-based jobs in the world than ever before. And, despite the rollout of vaccinations, many industry professionals feel that a hybrid work model will be the new normal, so we need to continue to learn how to adapt.

I interviewed three co-workers in medical affairs (Chris, Saaj, and Tara) to learn about different skills they utilized to successfully transition into a new role remotely in the pharmaceutical industry.

Chris, Saaj, and Tara shared strategies that helped them successfully transition during these unprecedented times. Leveraging technology to increase visibility, boosting scientific acumen, and finding balance are three core skills that can make your experience positive and increase your chances for success.

Leveraging Technology to Increase Visibility

  • Utilizing technology is a great way to optimize communication in a virtual environment. When you’re first starting in a position, it’s nice to have a professional portrait connected to your communication platforms, whether its Microsoft Teams, Outlook, or any other program; it helps to tie a face to a name.
  • Ask for a list of individuals you will be working closely with and set up one-on-one meetings within the first few weeks. In those meetings, turn on your camera when introducing yourself and ask specific questions to learn how that person’s role ties into yours.
  • Without seeing colleagues daily as you would in an office environment, it can be difficult to remember their names and responsibilities. It may be helpful to keep quick notes that you can refer to easily, in order to better remember topics of discussions as well as personal details you pick up. You may find virtual interactions more comfortable with the list on hand for easy reference.

Boosting Scientific Acumen

  • Developing scientific acumen can be tough when starting out in a new environment, especially if you’re new to the therapeutic area. From a medical affairs perspective, it is important to learn the data as well as understand the therapeutic landscape.
  • Take on early opportunities for conference coverage and add yourself to relevant therapeutic area listservs from related medical and guideline organizations – this allows you to hear the data directly from the key thought leaders.
  • It is critical to take advantage of available training and self-learn as much as possible. Available training varies by company, but most have scientific communication plans, storyboards, and field training available for all new employees. It is also important to review guidelines, understand competitor information, and read available medical response documents to build a strong foundational understanding.

Finding Balance

  • When work and home become the same place, it’s hard to set a boundary for when the workday ends. Including simple things in your schedule such as time for lunch or a walk can be helpful. A set schedule of breaks in your day can improve workload management and make it easier to walk away from the computer when the workday is over.
  • It is common to feel isolated when you are not accustomed to working remotely. Be sure to reach out to your manager and colleagues for advice and to discuss ways to feel more connected to your team.
  • Good communication is probably the most important skill in the workplace. Proactively ask team members what their preferred method of communication is. Do they prefer email, instant messages, or phone calls? Consider setting up recurring meetings to catch up with those with whom you work most closely and regularly. However, it is easy to get overwhelmed with multiple standing meetings, so be mindful with how many recurring meetings you schedule.
Meet the Panel

Chris earned his Doctor of Pharmacy and Master of Business Administration degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He then completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in US Medical Affairs before transitioning into his current role as a Manager on the Medical Research and Strategy team.

Saaj earned his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Northeastern University. He then worked in various medical information, scientific communication, and publication positions before transitioning into his current role as a Manager on the Medical Information and Education team.

Tara earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics from the University of Colorado. She then completed a two-year postdoctoral research fellowship and became a full-time research investigator before transitioning into her current role as a Medical Science Liaison.