Staff in the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector who are working from home may be damaging their pay and career prospects.

That’s according to a spotlight on the industry A Reluctant Workforce: What impact are ‘Reluctant Returners’ having on the Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences sector?

In its report – which included the results of an in-depth survey across nine European countries of 3000 employees and 2750 employers in leadership roles – Unispace found that a staggering 75% of employers believed that working from home would limit the career prospects of staff in some way.

Forty-two per cent indicate that promotion opportunities will be negatively impacted and 35% say bonuses will be hit. This data suggests that while employees may feel they can work effectively remotely, on a longer-term basis, staff are needed in the workplace for their own development as much as the company’s prospects.

Desire for greater career progression

When asked what they thought would encourage employees back to ‘in-office working’, 33% of employers in the sector said flexing start times, 29% stated paying for employees’ travel and 24% said having separate spaces for collaborative and quieter work would entice people back.

When employees were asked the same question, however, there was a greater appetite for incentives to return to the office, with 71% interested in flexi starting times, 77% saying free drinks and snacks would entice them to return, and 78% stating they were interested in access to training and development programmes. Based on these figures, it seems that employers may have misjudged the wants and needs of their workforces, particularly when it comes to the training and development aspirations.

Claire Shepherd, of Unispace, says: “As a sector that often requires more complex workspaces than any other, including laboratories and research and development centres, it’s perhaps little surprise that employers would need many of their employees to be present in the workplace for a significant amount of their working week.

“There would also be a need to create a sense of equity and collaboration, between those who have to be in the office working in laboratories and those who do not. This difference could drive a sense of presenteeism, limiting the career prospects of those who are reluctant to return.

“While the world of work as we know it has changed for good, our research does strongly indicate that the office itself is by no means redundant, particularly for a sector that cannot make a complete shift to remote working.

“But employees need to be shown that there are clear opportunities for career progression and in-office training programmes if employers hope to encourage staff back to the office to enable cross-discipline collaboration and drive impactful engagement.”