Maintaining Both Your Business and Your Sanity During the Pandemic

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Just a little more than seven months ago, pharma, agencies, vendors, physicians, pharmacists, patients, and medical supply chains in the U.S. and across the world were caught in a whirlwind of groundlessness and anxiety as Covid -19’s spread quickly enveloped much of the planet. Such a shock to the system required a lot of intense, focused learning to keep the industry up and running, to keep all of healthcare’s stakeholders connected, to continue the mission to safeguard and preserve health.

As Howard Matalon, Partner, Employment Practices, OlenderFeldman wrote for PMN in September as a first in this short series about Covid -19’s up-close impact on pharma, the shock confusion, and anxiety compelled action, and pharma moved to preserve its life—and it’s mission to preserve life—like never before. And it quickly did! Today the industry is still learning to meet known as well as unforeseen challenges, and in the process, adapting and tweaking everything from workplace norms to business models to thrive in this new, continually unfolding environment.

PMN interviewed Kyle Shannon, Founder & CEO of Storyvine, for his take on what Covid has taught him, both professionally and personally.

Q. With the benefit of 7 months of hindsight into the COVID -19 pandemic, what have you found to be its most challenging aspect—personally, in working with your teams, or within the industry as a whole—and what types of solutions have you seen implemented? What do you believe will have real staying power after the pandemic?

Kyle Shannon: I found the most challenging aspect has been the “sameness” of everything. No matter what I am doing, professionally or personally, a lot of work is done sitting at the same desk in the same room using the same apps. An internal process meeting now feels essentially identical to the “trip to London” I took for a 3-day exchange program.

At the same time, although I haven’t experience it, I have heard about some of the event companies combining large online live events with hyper-local, small, in-person gatherings. That seems to be a very compelling solution right now. The advantage now is that anyone, anywhere is available to you today because we have changed how we connect—and not just through Zoom (which I never personally considered an option).

No matter the person’s role in the company—CEO or a director or manager—or their location, in the U.S. or the other side of the world, it’s not a huge commitment to hop on a quick video call to meet. That’s a benefit in that I’ve met some people I wouldn’t have otherwise. And I think some version of this will stay. We’ll see the lack of urgency to travel for even a small in-person meeting continue. Counter to that, when we can travel again, the pent up demand to get out of the house could result in a surge in meetings. However, I do think it will be years before that happens in earnest.

The biggest thing I think will stick long term is that the shift to digital communications accelerated by 10 years or so—overnight—and over the next year or so, we’ll get better and better at it, and I think most of that shift is here to stay.

Q. With many now working from home or in offices adapted to meet epidemic requirements, what have you found is the best approach to maintaining cohesion, morale, and productivity within your team?

A. I’d say to everyone, turn on your camera. I’ve noticed people get “Zoom Fatigue” and largely stop turning on their cameras for meetings. But seeing people—even though it’s not in person—has been a mental health sanity check for me. I miss seeing more people—and many of us do.

So I’ve also followed my instincts and do request an informal “happy hour” to just talk about life, how everyone is coping, ask about the kids, the pets… if I let that go for too long, I start to feel very disconnected from my company and the business.

Q. As a leader during a time of crisis, what have you found is the most important tool in your toolbox? Have you developed or discovered new skills that have delighted you or shifted your perspective in response to the crisis that have affected the way you approach leadership?

A. Be In Action. That’s the tool. It is all too easy to give in to fear, doubt, or procrastination, so taking even small actions makes a huge difference. We’ve also found ways to keep each other laughing by creating a virtual watercooler on Slack.

Even though we are a small, tech-enabled company, I personally had initial doubts about being effective as a virtual workforce. While I still believe (and miss) in-person working, I have less anxiety about how effective we can be as a company.