We’re Back! Reflections on Returning to the Office

Author: Teresa Bitetti, President, Global Oncology Business Unit | Published: Nov 29 2021

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn on November 29, 2021

After over a year and a half of working from home, I looked forward to returning to the office as part of our new hybrid working environment. I’m a people person, and I really missed the energy that comes when working with colleagues face to face.

Since the return to the workplace this month, it’s been great to see familiar folks—and meet new ones—in person after such a long time apart. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting in the halls, brainstorming over coffee and being able to “read the room” in a way that has sometimes been lost over video. While I’m incredibly impressed by what we’ve been able to accomplish virtually—something we will undoubtedly continue to do—there really is no substitution for face-to-face communication. 

That said, not everything has been as I expected coming back to the office. Traffic seems worse than I remember. Figuring out when best to transition from home to office and vice versa has been tricky at times. And then there’s also been the uncertainty of how best to greet people you’ve not seen in person in over a year or meeting face to face for the first time—everyone has a different comfort level. If you have recently returned or are returning soon to the workplace, I encourage you to give yourself grace. There will be some trial and error along the way in transitioning back to the office.

Importantly, the past year and a half has also provided an opportunity to think differently and challenge the way things “have always been done,” giving us liberty and license to collaborate in new ways. As a result, we’ve taken the following steps as part of our new working model—steps that I believe will result in an even stronger organization:

  • We have prioritized meaningful collaboration. In bringing teams back to the office, our aim is to maximize meaningful in-person interactions, while maintaining the benefits of more flexible options by blending in-person and virtual work. For instance, brainstorms may be better suited for in-office days, where more independent work may be reserved for home.
  • We have transformed our physical workspaces to accelerate innovation. Our new workspace was specifically designed to improve the ways we interact with each other, including co-locating our global oncology business unit with our oncology R&D colleagues. We can now more seamlessly navigate the symbiotic processes that are essential to the development and delivery of medicines to patients around the globe.

As a leadership team, we know the shift back to the workplace will be another adjustment. In order to drive excitement and create ease for employees, we’ve hosted events and activities to celebrate being together again. In our first few days back, we greeted employees with items to help ease their transition back into the office, hosted “We Missed You a Latte” coffee events and enjoyed lunch from a favorite local food truck—and there’s more to come. We’re continuing to look for new opportunities to bring employees together in safe and meaningful ways to rebuild connections and reacclimate to our new environment.

It’s been an exciting and energizing few weeks being back in the office. We’re starting a new chapter as an organization—one which provides us with the opportunity to rethink how we work together to best serve patients in our aspiration to cure cancer.