;   Medical Translation Insight: Notes from Orlando: working in a brave new world - ForeignExchange Translations

Notes from Orlando: working in a brave new world
The Partnerships in Clinical Trials conference opened today in Orlando with a series of workshops. I attended a fascinating one this morning that discussed the impact of virtual workforces in our modern world.

According to a recent study, 75% of the workforce will be virtual by 2012, "virtual" referring to those who work remotely, relying predominantly on electronic communication technology. More and more companies, particularly pharma companies, are turning to outsourcing and dispersed workforces to maximize efficiency, coverage and cost-effectiveness. While the advantages of PDAs, Bluetooth, social media and VPNs are obvious, the irony is, the more connected we become, the more isolated we are. This is the connectivity paradox described by Karen Sobel Lojeski in this morning’s workshop, "Workforce Transformation: Leading Effective Cross-functional Teams in a Matrix Environment."

Trying to fit a 21st century style of working into a 20th century model creates what is called vertical distance, a perceived distance when electronic communications are relied on. Context is lost and a lack of "depth perception" can result in a decline in critical outcomes, job satisfaction, role clarity and a host of other areas. The three key factors that influence virtual distance are physical distance (geography, time zones), operational distance (technology, employee distribution) and affinity distance (culture, relationships and interdependence).

Mitigating as many of these factors can diminish the overall negative impact of virtual distance. This means knowing when to have face-to-face meetings, upgrading communications technology to accommodate video, phone and Web conferencing, flattening hierarchies and making sure values are aligned across all company cultures.

Sobel Lojeski's co-presenter, Solomon Babani, showed how his company, Celtic Pharma, has applied the lessons of virtual workforce so it works to their advantage. Rather than force a traditional business model to a virtual work environment, the company was built from the ground up on an outsourcing model. De-centralizing the planning and oversight and accountability and distributing it among a network of sub-suppliers, such as CROs, it effectively engages all parties and leverages their true core competencies.

As 21st business moves towards the inevitable – virtual workforces – an understanding of virtual distance factors and effective ways to mitigate them will be key to survival in this brave new world.

[ForeignExchange covers the Partnerships in Clinical Trials conference in detail. Check out our comprehensive coverage.]

ForeignExchange provides specialized medical translations for clinical trial applications, protocols, informed consents, patient diaries, INDs, patient recruitment, and health economic research. Contact us for more information about our clinical translation services.


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