On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “not close” and 10 being “we’re all the way there,” rank how close to normal your day-to-day operations were as of mid-May.

A 10. We’ve always encouraged people to work when and where they want. I would say that COVID made us even better at our daily operations. — Ouyoumjian

The medical communications sector is transforming and so must we. We score a 10, as we have totally embraced the transformation. — D’Auria

We have always believed in a culture of fully remote offices with flexible hours, so the pandemic did not disrupt our work routines, the way we connect with colleagues or how we collaborate. It was second nature for us to communicate virtually and conduct business, although we did miss the in-person meetings that are now mostly back in place. So we would be a 9. — Hammer

We’re a 10. Communities made up of individuals united in purpose can withstand most storms. It’s shared values and a clear mission that unite people. — Bashe

What has been the most surprising aspect of your company’s return to “normal”?

Realizing that “normal” will not be a static state but rather a constant state of change. Over the past two years, we changed our working models and the technologies that underpin agency operations. We also changed how we approach the workday, how we show greater empathy through our communications and how we value the opportunity to be in health marketing. — Brown

It was inspiring to see our employees open to new ways of working — not looking to drag historic working practices to the present, but to embrace flexible working models, which enhance employee engagement and help attract talent. — D’Auria

Instead of occasional meet-ups when client work necessitated it, we have set aside fun time just to be together and enjoy each other’s company. That’s something that we maybe took for granted before COVID. — Ouyoumjian

After two years of COVID-fueled disruption, what were some of the steps you took to reinforce your agency culture?

YuzuYello was launched during the pandemic, so creating a culture was vital. We live by the mantra, “We make patient experiences brighter,” which naturally bleeds into our daily interactions with one another. What can we do to brighten up each other’s day? Our first event was a cookie-decorating class led by a celebrity baker from The Food Network. Then we shipped Tarot Cards that featured inspiring prophecies to our teammates. 

Much of our external success comes from listening to patients. It’s a simple approach that works internally as well. Let your colleagues guide you toward what works and away from what doesn’t. — Quinn

We were practical. A two-day virtual global summit brought people closer together. The Finn social media team shared news about hires and breaking events around-the-clock so that every one of our 1,200 employees in our 29 offices could see and share information. — Bashe

Daily status updates work great. The good, the bad, the ugly … it’s out there for everyone to see. As for what didn’t work, we bought into a project management system that took a lot of time and money to start up. We never used it. Turns out the system we already had in place was fine. — Ouyoumjian

We have a mix of in-person events for local employees, such as a Boston Ghost Tour, as well as virtual. We also plan regular volunteer activities mainly through our work with Life Science Cares, a consortium of life science companies in Boston working together to reduce poverty. — Tosatti

Our pre- and post-pandemic culture remains essentially unchanged, even though we predicated our culture on face-to-face collaboration and informal interactions and gatherings. In a remote-work environment we had to learn new ways to intentionally continue our culture through online interfaces. Daily stand-up meetings capitalized on connecting us remotely and provided a way for us to review the day’s tasks and socialize at the same time. — Kane

Was the Great Resignation an actual thing at your agency? If so, what did you do to counteract
its effects?

We had one resignation, so I wouldn’t say it was a thing. That said, we are in the process of evaluating how we articulate our culture, which we do every year. One of our cultural pillars is that we don’t work with assholes. I can tell you, that pillar will stay. — Ouyoumjian

We experienced the opposite, likely because we seized the opportunity to recognize contributions and promote people from within. Our culture and the integration of cross-functional teams also helps us identify new leaders internally and develop their confidence in their own management and leadership skills — which is great for retention. — Hammer  

Like other agencies, we were vulnerable to industry-wide trends in turnover. But full-remote work created more opportunities than challenges. Whereas our corporate office in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, occasionally presented geographic challenges, remote work expanded the talent pool to bring in people we could never have reached before. — Kane

 In what ways, did the pandemic affect your client relationships?

During the height of the lockdown, more casual work attire exposed opportunities to make light of an otherwise tough situation. Many of these moments allowed our clients to see us in more human ways. When we all showed up to a client meeting in appropriate attire and the clients were all in baseball caps and sweatshirts, we took the cue and came to the next one in our own lockdown gear. Favorite sports teams, all-time movie favorites, best concert T-shirts — they all provided an immediate “know ya” moment that our clients really loved, and we did, too. It makes the hard work we do all the more worth it when you know someone out there writing, reviewing and strategizing is wearing a Batman T-shirt, no? — Wishnow-Per

We had few changes in our client relationships. If anything, we found our expertise in digital and non-personal promotions in higher demand than ever. We had plenty of experience with remote engagement since we were piloting remote work before the pandemic. — Kane

Integrated marketing services were a strong cement to client relationships. We have been investing for years in information research services, creative strategy, digital marketing, web design and social media expertise — and it paid off. — Bashe

We took steps to provide solutions that enabled our clients to produce and maintain new quality content, especially photo and video shoots, via a remote content production process. We created a virtual content capture kit that included hardware and software to capture patient storytelling or other video, which helped us retain authenticity and not have to rely on stock photos and video. — Hammer

Who were your pandemic superheroes?

Patients, who have overcome so much. And DoorDash. — Quinn

Our staff, all 800-plus of them around the globe. Their resilience, positivity, collaboration and camaraderie inspired and empowered their clients. — D’Auria

Our agile and responsive IT team members. They transitioned our staff to full-time remote work and implemented the new security features and widespread use of VPN we needed in spring 2020. They never missed a beat. — Kane

Do you have an action plan in place if another Delta- or Omicron-like wave sweeps over the country? 

We are confident in our ability to continue our work seamlessly. Key components of this are not just IT and digital capabilities to support our clients, but the flexibility, adaptability and innovation of our staff to seek, find and deliver on the solutions for clients and colleagues. — D’Auria

We’ll do the same thing we’ve always done: keep working from where we want while managing stress and working with empathy for our clients and each other. — Ouyoumjian