Evolving ways of working

COVID-19 has reshaped the global working environment. In an internal survey, more than three-quarters of Novartis employees said they wanted to continue with a mix of office-based and remote working post-pandemic – consistent with external trends.

In this environment, we embarked on a multiyear program called Choice with Responsibility to explore new working models. The aim is to give employees greater flexibility in how they work to optimize their well-being and performance while maintaining a focus on productivity and innovation. As part of this program, we continued a policy introduced in 2020 for employees to choose how, when and where they work within their country (and in the US, within their state) of employment, in alignment with their teams to ensure a continued focus on collaboration and innovation.

Choice with Responsibility applies to all employees, but we recognize there is a wide diversity of roles within the organization. Some production work and laboratory research, for example, may not allow as much flexibility as other roles. The choices about how, when and where people work will therefore be different based on their role; the nature of the team; and health, safety and legal/regulatory requirements.

During 2021, we conducted around 70 local and global experiments involving a total of 25 000 employees, which are giving clarity on the path forward. The results will provide the basis for our ways of working in the future.

For example, 500 employees in 15 countries took part in a three-month experiment to understand and address the challenges of moving to a virtual environment. The results showed 70% of participants prefer a hybrid arrangement in which their time is divided between their home and workplace. Meanwhile, teams that determined their own solutions on how to work together felt more able to collaborate and manage their workload compared with teams that had not, leading to an overall feeling of Novartis having improved as a place to work.

In 2021, we continued expanding our global program to help employees manage their physical, mental and social well-being. All 20 000 Novartis leaders and 2 189 other employees took part in an e-learning program to enhance their well-being, while 57 001 people visited a “How are you feeling?” webpage with resources to help them manage stress and other topics. In addition, 14 257 employees attended workshops during a well-being month, with 96% of attendees saying they would apply learnings in their daily work. Meanwhile, two third-party smartphone apps provided by Novartis were used by 32 709 employees to increase self-awareness and develop positive habits in areas including movement, nutrition, recovery and mindset, which are important for holistic well-being.

In another important change, we transformed our approach to performance management and development by replacing annual performance ratings with a flexible, continuous system of coaching, feedback and recognition by managers and colleagues. Teams and individuals create objectives that include a focus on longer-term impact over several years. In addition, managers and employees have regular discussions on topics including progress toward goals, development, feedback and well-being.