Coronavirus: Five Ways to Optimize Remote Working

CSL leaders share tips to help employees stay connected while working apart.

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CSL CFO David Lamont and team meet on a video call
Chief Financial Officer David Lamont, pictured lower left, on a recent Microsoft Teams video conferencing call with members of his team.

Avoiding the daily commute and perhaps even staying in your pajamas all day are among the typical perks long associated with working from home. But for many professionals who now find themselves in remote working arrangements because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the transition from office to home office can actually be an adjustment.

“Think working from home sounds great?” Deirdre BeVard, Senior Vice President of R&D Operations asks jokingly. “Actually not to everyone. It’s a very different and disciplined way of working.”

CSL remains open for business, including its network of CSL Plasma centers and manufacturing sites, to ensure the continued delivery of life-saving therapies to patients with serious and rare diseases, as well as Seqirus sites, which are on the front line of protecting public health around the world. Yet many CSL employees whose roles allow it have begun working at home during a time when governments around the world are issuing stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Thanks to the latest technology and effective digital tools - including the company’s recent global launch of Microsoft Teams throughout the organization - it’s never been easier to work remotely.

‘Hard To Let Go’

While most employees are following the company’s guidance to work remotely, others may still find it hard to let go.

“It is an adjustment, particularly for our company, which counts collaboration as one of our core Values,” says Karen Etchberger, Global Head of CSL’s Digital Technology and the site lead of the company’s U.S. Operational Headquarters in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. “But we all need to remember staying home is for the health and safety of each of us, and the health and safety of our families and loved ones.”

To ease the transition and to highlight how collaboration can still thrive, leaders from throughout CSL have been providing their teams with tips and best practices for working virtually. Here’s what they’ve shared:

1. Stay Connected and Camera Ready

Social distancing shouldn’t mean disconnecting with one another, leaders caution. “We need to be distanced from each other physically,” BeVard says. “But social distancing -- that’s the last thing we want to do. We are by nature social beings who thrive through connections.”

To help stay connected with her team and co-workers, BeVard has scheduled virtual coffee breaks and “dropped in” on colleagues via Microsoft Teams, which the company introduced across most of its sites last month. The timing couldn’t have been better, leaders agree.  

Earlier this month, members of CSL’s Finance Leadership Team met remotely for a planning session that was originally scheduled as an in-person meeting, but needed to be held as a virtual meeting because of international travel restrictions the company issued in response to COVID-19. Rather than participating by audio, team members made an intentional effort to use video conferencing from the comfort of their homes.

“If you can’t meet face-to-face in person, the next best thing is meeting face-to-face by video,” says Chief Financial Officer David Lamont, who is based at CSL’s headquarters in Parkville, Australia. “For most meetings, audio conferencing makes sense. But for bigger meetings, the video option keeps things more personal as we collaborate and discuss priorities for the team.”

2. Stick to a Routine

Gyuri Endes, Vice President of Human Resources for Seqirus, CSL’s influenza vaccines business, has been regularly sharing tips to help newly dispersed teams stick together as they work apart. He recommends regularly communicating with team members, adhering to meeting effectiveness guidelines and establishing a personal routine for working outside of the office.

“We recognize that the global pandemic is an unprecedented event that presents new opportunities to adapt the way we work,” says Endes, based in Basel, Switzerland. “Our connections to each other are part of what makes CSL great, and maintaining them and avoiding feeling isolated is critical.”

3. Establish Boundaries

If you have space in your home to dedicate to working, many leaders say this is the best way to create some distance between work life and home life. Linda Hagerty-Dotterer, Executive Director, Change Management & Culture, says working from home takes communication, not only with your team but also the people you live with. She lets her family know ahead of time when she has calls and when she’s available throughout the day if they need her.

“When my door is closed, my husband and son know I’m either on a call or heads down and not to be interrupted,” Hagerty-Dotterer says. “I’m fortunate that my son is a senior in high school and is able to be self-directed with his school work. This is a greater challenge for colleagues with younger children.”

4. Don’t Worry About the Dog

As employees adjust to working from home, leaders advise they mustn’t sweat the small stuff if during a conference call a child interrupts or the dog starts barking at the front door. School closures and the remote working arrangements of partners may mean a full house and further challenges.

Jacqui Lomas, who works in Finance at CSL Behring’s Broadmeadows manufacturing site in Australia, says she and her husband have been balancing both their jobs from home in addition to juggling their daughter’s online learning.

“As a family, we are pulling all those requirements together to work out how we can support each other through this period,” Lomas says. “I am sure we will need to adjust some things as we go. Flexibility and communication is key.”

BeVard added that under typical work-from-home situations, people tend to be more formal and concerned about interruptions.

“We are all in this situation together and it is a great equalizer and people are actually more relaxed,” she says. “I have met people’s families and their dogs on video calls.  I have seen where my team members work in pictures or on video and it’s creating a new community dynamic.”

5. Remember Those on the Front Lines

Of course, not all CSL employees are able to work from home. Chief Operating Officer Paul McKenzie, who leads the company’s end-to-end operations, including CSL Plasma centers and manufacturing sites, recently gave a special shout out to those teams on the front lines working to ensure the needs of patients aren’t disrupted.

“For some of our employees ensuring business continuity means staying at home and working, and for others, it’s critical that they report to our physical sites,” McKenzie says. “During these trying times, our patients and the public are relying on us to deliver our life-saving medicines, no matter where we work. Their needs don’t go away just because these types of crises occur and I’m really proud to see our teams working in new ways together to ensure we deliver.”