Even with the pandemic easing in the U.S., Amgen will let most employees keep working from home

More than a year after the coronavirus pandemic forced many to start working from home, businesses have adapted and some have even found remote work to be quite effective. With COVID-19 subsiding in the U.S., some companies are reopening offices and phasing-in employees in an attempt to get back to normal.

But maybe there’s a new normal on the horizon in the post-pandemic world.

That seems to be the case at Amgen. The California-based pharma giant will continue to allow many of its more than 24,000 employees to work remotely in the foreseeable future. 

“Our intent is to create a new, more flexible work environment that intentionally combines the benefits of remote and in-person working,” the company told the Camarillo Acorn. 

Other firms in the industry, such as Pfizer, Novartis and Bayer, are also weighing changes as they determine how to best conduct operations going forward after the pandemic.

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At Amgen's headquarters in Thousand Oaks, California, roughly 2,000 employees report for their duties on a daily basis. Most are R&D and manufacturing specialists. Meanwhile, most of the other 3,000 Amgen employees in Ventura County can do their jobs remotely.

An Amgen employee told the Acorn that lots of workers at the company recognized early in the pandemic that their jobs would never be the same. 

“Multiple people I work with have already permanently moved out of state,” the employee said. 

In February, Amgen’s human resources director of manufacturing in Singapore told HumanResourcesOnline.net that the pandemic allowed the company to experiment with new ways of working.

“We have made huge strides into an area of work flexibility that we never thought was possible in our bio-manufacturing industry,” Jessica Simpson told the publication. “Embedding this as part of our new normal will require flexibility. We can envision manufacturing processes to be further automated such that workers can control the systems from remote locations, providing opportunities for even further flexibility.”

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Other companies in the industry are considering permanent changes as well.

“One thing is clear to us: We will not return to the old ways of working after the corona pandemic,” Bayer spokesman Markus Sibenmorgen told Fierce Pharma in December.  

Meanwhile, Pfizer is mulling the sale of a large Philadelphia-area campus as it considers the future of work.

“The decision to do so is primarily being driven by the company’s evolving flexible working model, providing employees with greater flexibility to work remotely while still maintaining the ability to connect and collaborate regularly on-site,” once pandemic restrictions are lifted, Pfizer told Fierce Pharma.

Novartis' CEO Vas Narasimhan recently told Bloomberg that a combination of remote work and in-office work will "always be a combination going forward."

Large companies in other industries are taking a variety of approaches. At one extreme is Goldman Sachs, which has told its 40,000 employees to return to their offices by the end of the year. 

Just a few months into the pandemic, Twitter told its employees to stay home forever if they want. And Ford has told its 30,000 white-collar workers that they can stay at home with their managers’ approval. 

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last 12 months, it is that a lot of our assumptions about work and what employees need has shifted,” Ford’s chief people officer Kiersten Robinson told CNBC.