Clinical Trial Practitioners Begin Cautious Return to Work Sites

Leigh Burgess, MHA, MEd, MA, Vice President for Research Operations, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health

Leigh Burgess, MHA, MEd, MA, vice president of research operations for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, couldn’t wait to get back to her office after COVID-19 safety precautions forced her and most of her team to work remotely back in March.

Burgess has been able to work full-time onsite since mid-May, and says her facility has done a tremendous job of making everyone feel safe. Employees are screened before entering the office with a temperature check, there are sanitizing stations in place, all common areas are wiped down every two hours, and meetings are limited to 10 people with adequate social distancing.

“I feel safer here than I do at the grocery store,” Burgess says. That’s key, because “you want folks to feel comfortable,” she adds.

However, as a leader and manager, Burgess realizes her enthusiasm about returning to the office might not be universal. “Be a good listener and be open to adjusting” to each team member’s unique perspective, she advises.

For example, older personnel may understandably feel more vulnerable to getting COVID-19, or other personnel may have daycare issues or any number of challenging, extenuating circumstances to juggle if they can’t work from home. Don’t forget, some employees may be performing even better by working remotely.

While she was already a fan of telecommuting, Burgess sees “a new openness” to the concept. She’s also been encouraged by how her team members and others have leveraged technology during this upheaval.

For those still mulling when and how to return to the office, Burgess stresses it’s never a one-size-fits-all solution, in part because of regional differences in the coronavirus’s impact. She also advises developing a three-month plan to reopen the office, rather than trying to focus efforts on a month-by-month basis.

Author: Michael Causey