Mass General Brigham CFO: 5 insights on remote work & how to bring employees back onsite

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The biggest challenges to overcome for safely bringing employees back to the office will be making them feel safe and helping them balance the transition from working remotely, according to Boston-based Mass General Brigham CFO and treasurer Peter Markell.

During a fireside chat at the World Medical Innovation Forum on May 11, Mr. Markell and Thermo Fisher Scientific CEO Marc Casper discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the healthcare landscape, including the transition to working from home and the subsequent back-to-office transition.

Five quotes from Mr. Markell:

1. On employee work-life balance while remote: "There's the classic term 24/7 and many times executives say 'I'm working 24/7' and all that. But the reality of life is we all are human beings from the top to the bottom of any organization, and that ability to get personal time separate is really, really important. I think that's going to be an interesting thing we learn out of this."

2. On how to get back to a certain degree of normal: "That is going to be a challenge. Different portions of our population use mass transit more than others do, and we're going to have to figure that out. Parking is a huge issue in an urban environment so how do we work that? I think in different areas, hospitals are working two or three shifts a day of people coming in and out. How do we deal with that?"

3. On the top challenge returning to work: "I think the biggest issue we're going to face in general is how do we make people feel safe and how do we help people balance these working-from-home transitions they're going to have to go through? It's not just one spouse in many cases; it's two spouses dealing with this. It's how are kids going to react and develop?"

4. On Mass Brigham's focus: "There are two things we're very focused on. The first is this pure fear factor and how do we help employees overcome that, but the other is mental health – and you can argue the two are related – how do you deal with all the different things you have to adapt to? Some people do better with change than others; I think this is more change than people are used to dealing with."

5. On considerations for returning back to work places: "How do you get the workforce to lean on each other and work with each other, and how do we start to get people to feel comfortable that yes, there's a new disease we have to deal with. We're all working, and the frontline staff is exhausted for the most part right now, so as we go to re-deploy people and ramp back up, how do we deal with those issues? But they're really just basic human issues at the end of the day."

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