Three months. Three months that changed the world, our lives, our equilibrium. In positive and negative ways. Those who, during the lockdown, were hoping for a new normal devoted to sustainability and universal harmony may have been disappointed, but the fact is that – because of the pandemic – something has changed in profound and radical ways.
We are living through an economic crisis of global proportions, but at the same time we have experienced a sudden acceleration in the world of work, in the ways we manage our time and use technology to face a global threat and preserve our work and our very lives.
We put into practice the oldest and most valuable human resource: we adapted to change.
At Sanofi, we have been working for some time towards a new culture capable of drawing energy from diversity, to value the strength of inclusion, to grow through the richness that only a diverse community can guarantee, in order to develop innovative and successful ideas.
And at the same time we have been promoting, for several years now, a new way of managing the balance between personal and professional lives, work and family commitments, through smart working and the opportunity to have more flexible and human lives.
People, technology and resilience
‘At the very beginning of the pandemic, at Sanofi we set up a crisis committee,’ remembers Laura Bruno, HR Director at Sanofi Italia. ‘Our priorities were to guarantee our employees’ safety and to ensure therapeutic continuity to patients through the production of our drugs. That we were able to do both is thanks to the great spirit of collaboration, professionalism and integrity of everyone involved, but also to the digital support and technological equipment we were able to rely on.’
At Sanofi, smart working has been an option since 2014 but today, thanks to a trade union agreement, Sanofi has extended smart working to five days a week and has supplied each employee with the equipment needed to work from home while maintaining high levels of attention to the safety, wellbeing and personal-professional balance of its employees. Six hundred employees working at Sanofi will be able to avail themselves, even after the pandemic, of IT equipment, ergonomic workstations and a fast internet connection at their own homes, thanks also the specific contributions that the company has made available.
‘We harvested a lot of what he had sown in terms of managing people and the work culture,’ continues Laura Bruno, ‘since we already had six years of smart working experience. To offer additional support, at this difficult time, together with a psychologist and a coach, we provided a series of training meetings online on resilience and managing family balance, a series of virtual meetings on work-life balance and time management that will continue over the next few months, as well as an online campus for employees’ children and an online exercise course.
A business tsunami. All of Sanofi’s business functions were strongly impacted by the pandemic, because the lockdown suddenly prevented people from maintaining their professional face-to-face relationships with doctors, specialists and stakeholders, as well as pharmacists and points of contact in healthcare and institutions.
However, corrective measures were immediately taken to guarantee, where possible, that all activities would continue, thanks to digital tools.
‘In three months, we saw activity that would normally happen over ten years,’ commented Gianluca Ferri, Country Head of Business Operations & Support at Sanofi.
‘The traditional relationship between scientific informants and doctors, which until a year earlier had accounted for 90% of interactions, fell to 4% in May of 2020. We had to adapt quickly to a new reality, first by availing ourselves of technology, replacing visits with phone calls, virtual meetings and newsletters. And then by taking advantage of digital resources that until a month earlier had still been in the design stage and which had suddenly become essential and urgent. In the future, it is likely that a ‘hybrid’ model will have to be adopted, in which in-person and virtual contact will alternate and be balanced, in order to ‘personalise’ the approach as much as possible and make sure that information is diversified as much as possible based on the interlocutors’ needs.’
Far away, and yet close
During the pandemic there were countless opportunities to challenge the capacity for change and adaptability of the people and systems at Sanofi, to invent new ways of being close to patients and healthcare workers.
While, on the one hand, most communication with doctors and pharmacists was from a distance until the end of the lockdown, on the other hand, teams and systems were restructured in a matter of days, such as for example the pharmacy customer service, which in the middle of the pandemic was forced to respond to a number of requests that rose from 500 (a month) to 1000 (a day).
The Consumer Healthcare division developed a training programme for managing sales to help pharmacists who during the pandemic found themselves on the front lines, without clear information on how to guarantee their customers’ and employees’ safety.
Their main needs were identified in order to be able to provide, through digital tools, the materials which they needed most.
Furthermore, on the Uwell digital platform, which integrates services, applications and editorial content on health and wellbeing for citizens, a video consultation service – in collaboration with Pazienti.it – was made available for free for a month.
This was further concrete support for people who needed a quick consultation while having to stay at home.
The Sanofi initiatives dedicated to health, information and prevention for patients and citizens did not stop either. This is how the Ricomincio da te live broadcasts were born, an online forum for sharing the stories of people who have diabetes to share and exchange information thanks to the authoritative support of a diabetologist and a psychologist.
In addition, there were also live broadcasts of Life, a project that came from Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of the group, in collaboration with Startupitalia to talk about healthcare to come.
And we mustn’t forget about the numerous initiatives in our specialist area, such as the Connessi e vicino event, which was dedicated to managing multiple sclerosis during this difficult time, OmWork, an online yoga course, and SHOPE, which uses of an e-commerce platform that symbolically sells the stories of healthcare workers, who were the first to deal with the pandemic in Italy, in order to raise funds for local associations.