Magazine Article | June 1, 2020

Pandemic Provides Perspective On "Virtual" Not Being Reality

Source: Life Science Leader

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @RfwrightLSL

Despite nearing a decade of service as chief editor of Life Science Leader, the majority of my 31-year professional career has involved working as a pharmaceutical sales rep. As such, the bulk of my work was conducted out of a company car, a concept my youngest found confounding. When she was about 6, Abby had already seen “Mommy’s work,” and I remember her asking me one day, “Where’s your work?” I pointed to the car in the driveway. “No. Your woorrrkkk!” she said in a voice rising in exasperation, as if I were having trouble hearing.

My responses never satisfied, so I decided to have my own take-your-daughter-to-work day. That way, she could see what I did and where I worked. But I didn’t want her getting bored, or else we’d both be miserable. So I scheduled it for the last Friday before Halloween, and Abby, dressed as the Blue Power Ranger, accompanied me to all of my biggest offices. She handed out candy while I conducted concise product details and took care of drug samples. We lunched at McDonald’s, and toward the end, I had to carry her into offices. On our drive home, I remember looking in the rearview mirror and seeing her sound asleep.

Working in the field (back then) provided an incredible amount of autonomy. With the exception of an occasional district manager ride along, my days in biopharma also facilitated a great deal of solitude. Though I enjoyed working alone and determining my own schedule, I will admit to always looking forward to those in-person district and national meetings. There, I rubbed elbows with superstars, shared best practices, and borrowed the best ideas I’d heard. It was energizing, and nothing seemed capable of supplanting the power that came from connecting with colleagues in person. Perhaps this is why I still get so charged up to go to events like the annual BIO Conference, which was slated to take place this month in San Diego. But like so many in-person gatherings that have been kiboshed by COVID-19, this year’s BIO has been forced to go virtual.

Platforms like Zoom seemed a fine fit in helping us stay connected during such turbulent times. However, we’ve come to learn that video calls can be quite taxing, with more than one expert touting “Zoom Fatigue” as a real thing. Turns out, video chats require more focus than those conducted face-to-face. People must work harder to process nonverbal cues, voice tone, and pitch, making it difficult — if not impossible — to naturally relax into a conversation. I applaud all the hard work put in by everyone who has had to make the best out of a bad situation. But let’s be honest: Neither Abby nor I would have gotten nearly as much out of taking part in a virtual take-your-daughter-to-work day. So while we can appreciate the opportunity to virtually attend college graduations, BIO, weddings, and whatever else of significance that would normally take place in person, it isn’t (and won’t ever be) the same. We don’t have to be happy about it. We just have to deal with it — for now anyway.