Return to the office pharma industry

Developing the workplace through a pandemic

Published on : 9/17/21
  • Over the last year, the role of facilities management providers has been pivotal in how organisations respond to the global pandemic. Having worked with AstraZeneca since 2018, Sodexo was well positioned to take the lead to identify and meet their changing needs.

    AstraZeneca’s 100-acre campus is the largest of its kind in the UK, home to over 4,000 workers daily. It needed to transform from a functional ‘factory’ into a vibrant and exciting place which attracts and retains the best talent. 


    Facing the Challenges of Covid-19

    With 73 million patients worldwide relying on AstraZeneca and 50% of those on campus performing a hands-on role, precise production of medicine was critical, so a covid-19 secure workplace was created quickly by Sodexo, long before it was thought of as a requirement.

    Within days, a raft of changes to the service were implemented. From mask wearing, temperature screening, extra cleaning, hand sanitisers, social distancing, a Covid-19 drive through testing facility, saliva based Covid-19 testing, home test kits, periodic antibody tests and flu jabs were implemented for all employees, including FM service partners.

    Another measure taken was to ‘lockdown’ teams into bubbles at a building or operational level to prevent workplace transmission. However, this new system of working tested Sodexo’s capability to quickly adapt and thrive as the new working model created some interesting logistics to provide food in a completely different way.

    For employees who were able to work from home, agile solutions were put in place, including virtual conferences, audits and lunches, as well as other innovative ways to maintain collaboration and social interaction whilst continuing to work remotely. 


    Sodexo’s Plan of Action

    With rules changing, research advancing and knowledge constantly evolving, this required Sodexo’s teams to respond quickly. Finding new ways on how to deliver the huge range of iFM services at the Macclesfield campus, as well mobilising the new services required to support a Covid-safe workplace.

    An immediate action taken by Sodexo was to deploy 60 members of the team from non-critical roles to provide key cleaning services that enabled a Covid-safe workspace for AstraZeneca’s teams in critical production facilities.

    Whilst the world was navigating it’s way through the Covid-19 global pandemic, food services underwent a momentous transformation. Shared spaces such as cafes and restaurants were closed due to social distancing. Using experience from other regions, the Sodexo catering team designed a new food delivery service that was implemented within only seven days for the 1,600 workers across the entire campus, which was a resounding success. 

    Prioritising the key manufacturing and R&D facilities, maintenance plans were reshaped to deliver all maintenance directly by onsite teams.

    Needing to ensure absences were managed efficiently and potential staff shortages were flagged. Sodexo’s global scale and resource meant the team at AstraZeneca were able to manage the large demand on the supply chain and were able to deploy the use of a HR app enabling the company to continue to have a consistent service to its clients. 


    Shaping the workplace of the future

    In allowing us to understand and digest the changes that the Covid-19 global pandemic has brought among us, AstraZeneca has now adopted a crowdsourcing approach driven by its internal social media channels to understand the following:


    • What your team want to see in the future
    • The attitudes to commuting, business travel and how these link to it’s sustainability approach
    • What services and spaces will help to attract your team back to the workplace and collaborate
    • What flexibility your team are looking for in terms of working times and location


    Faced with these challenges and similar challenges from many clients, Sodexo is rethinking the workplace environment and employee experience as our ‘new normal’ evolves. 

    Sodexo is under no illusion that the way we work has changed. Hybrid working models will be here to stay and as an industry, facilities management and workplace service providers, have a vital role to play in supporting the new style of workplace. Sodexo’s services are at the heart of employee experience and are critical to ensuring the workplace remains an attractive, fun and collaborative place to be.


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    Wanting to attract, retain and support world class workforces across the world, it is essential to “right size the estate” whilst delivering the latest hybrid working infrastructure.

    When reshaping the workplace we will not only help reduce costs but will help to increase engagement scores, productivity and in line with sustainability commitments - build a greener tomorrow.


    A People-Focused Approach

    Clients are looking for service providers who have the ability to be agile, innovate fast and be decisive across all services.

    Whilst traditional models of iFM and food services at work remain vital components, Sodexo understands clients are looking for a compelling mix of services based on people’s experiences within the workplace, so it’s our job to make it personal. 

    Consideration needs to be made on more optimised spending on spaces and more seamless consumer-like experiences whilst at work. More support for wellbeing which includes the full spectrum of physical and mental health. The pandemic has reframed the debate on the interdependency of people, places, and our planet - so, social value and sustainability are key and kept at the forefront of our minds.

    Sodexo is diving into and facing these new challenges head on through Vital Spaces, it’s new eco-system of services, offers and partnerships for adults at work. This draws on the breadth of Sodexo's expertise to support the overall employee experience through services such as consultancy, space design and planning, benefits and rewards and employee concierge services. All delivered through a data driven and people centric approach. 

    At AstraZeneca, Sodexo is transforming services it delivers through digital, with investment in both front-end and back-end technology. At Macclesfield, Sodexo’s digital food app Twelve Pay has been launched and now allows all employees to access food services at the tap of a button. Allowing them to pre-order, scan and go, book tables and give live feedback all via their mobile or web based devices. Alongside the app deployment, food lockers have been introduced to provide employees the convenience of a freshly prepared meal delivered for them to pick up and enjoy when it suits them. Delivering them what they want, how the want it and when the want it. 


    Paving the Path to a Brighter and Smarter Future

    AstraZeneca and Sodexo have a joint commitment to a strategic partnership; one which is rooted in working together to achieve AstraZeneca’s ‘Great Place to Work’ approach. The commitment to social value, sustainability and community at the campus is a great representation of Sodexo’s wider commitment to working hand in hand with its clients to deliver positive and rewarding outcomes.

    This approach shows the true power of partnerships. Post-covid, we’re all more aware of the collective changes we face in a rapidly changing world. With that in mind, we have a fantastic opportunity to reinvent our services, refocus our priorities and work together to make a positive difference.


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