Oval Medical Technologies CEO: "It is important that executives ensure the wellbeing of all staff"
In an exclusive interview with The Parliamentary Review, Oval Medical Technologies CEO Barbara Lead explains the measures she and her firm are taking to support the business and its workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Oval Medical Technologies is a medical device company specialising in drug delivery devices. Our business involves the design and development of device platforms and modification of platforms for pharma companies, often for specific drug formulations.
We work on the delivery of new products to improve healthcare and we, our customers and our suppliers are endeavouring to keep projects on track.
We have some entirely office-based staff, but many members of the development, Industrialisation and QA departments do also undertake laboratory work.
In the current lockdown situation, all staff are working from home wherever possible and we are minimising the number of staff in any laboratory at one time to meet social distancing requirements. Furthermore, all non-essential laboratory work is on hold until the lockdown is eased. Within laboratories, strict cleaning protocols are in place for all hard surfaces. We have seen very little impact on the productivity of our high-priority projects and our staff continue to work hard.
Working from home has a number of challenges for many employees and their line managers; this is something that we at Oval have addressed in several ways.
We have ensured that all staff have computers and monitors at home, and we use video conferencing applications for regular team meetings and updates, internally and with customers and suppliers.
Some staff live in households where there are two or more adults working from home. Furthermore, some also have young children. This requires us to carefully plan daily activities and retain flexibility for working hours.
Our leadership team meets on a regular basis and approves who will be on site and which activities are taking place. These new ways of working have resulted in executives and company leaders working longer hours.
We contact staff on a regular basis, and in particular check with those who live alone to see how they are coping. Lunchtime chat sessions take place daily on Microsoft Teams, and quizzes and virtual "get-togethers" are organised from time to time.
As a CEO, I know that it is important that we ensure the wellbeing of all staff and it has become clear that some people are not suited to the isolated nature of home-working for extended periods of time. Regular communication is very important to minimise the impact on mental health of long-term home working. In some cases, counselling may be required. I communicate regularly with all staff at least once a week and we have implemented a Q and A application which can be anonymous.
For British industry more widely, it is the technology available that has made it possible to work effectively from home. I think a greater emphasis on home working will become the norm for many companies once social distancing measures are lifted. As leaders, we should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages that home working poses, and be sympathetic to the personal circumstances of staff and the impact that the situation may have on each individual. It will be some time before the impact of extended home working on employee wellbeing will be known.
As for the pharma sector, it remains resilient because of the essential nature of the work; job security is generally very positive. A consortium of companies is working extremely hard to develop vaccines for the virus, and many others in the sector are developing antigen and antibody tests to provide data on the progression of the pandemic. Medical device companies are increasing their output of essential equipment as are companies in the broader supply chain. Our parent company, SMC, is working to increase supply of medical equipment many of their team are working extended shifts and weekends to this end.