Medical Writing Trends in the Era of COVID-19 and Remote Work: Enhancing Virtual Relationships and Emphasizing Emotional Intelligence

Being a medical writer entails creating well-structured scientific materials like clinical research papers, content for healthcare websites, periodicals, journals, and more. The medical sciences industry is growing, driving new demand for medical writers in the market.

COVID-19 has acted as a societal wake-up call, forcing us to rethink how we live, work, and play. A new post-pandemic world is emerging, but many questions still go unanswered many months later:

  • Will remote working continue for the near and long term?
  • How can companies encourage colleague relationships virtually?
  • What new skills are needed to navigate remote work, specifically in medical writing?

How has remote work affected medical writers?

Medical writers are expected to perform their jobs in an ever-changing environment- balancing new regulatory requirements with streamlining processes. However, due to COVID-19, remote work and outsourcing have accelerated for various health and safety benefits, though it has a few drawbacks.

In my opinion, remote work and outsourcing will continue, and here’s why:

  • Remote working has a lasting significance as a place where we’re empowered with networks and platforms to connect, create and accomplish. It’s a place where we can self-isolate while staying connected with the entire world.
  • Remote employment opens up a bigger pool of creative authors as potential colleagues and gives a calm environment where they can focus on their job while staying healthy.

That being said, remote work also has its own set of difficulties:

  • When you don’t work with people face to face, it might be tough to exert authority and build colleague relationships.
  • Organizations must learn to keep pace to reap the benefits of a more engaged and agile global workforce.

Companies are beginning to use technology to create relationships among distant team members, where possibilities for face-to-face encounters are limited due to health and safety concerns or physical distance.

Possessing soft skills and emotional intelligence can make you a better virtual colleague, and prioritizing these skills when hiring can ensure greater success for your team.

The importance of soft skills and emotional intelligence in medical writers

The post-COVID-19 world can be full of uncertainty and challenges. As a result, companies need emotionally intelligent workers with a range of soft skills to help them navigate these difficult times. Possessing technical skills and scientific knowledge is no longer sufficient to succeed as a medical writer. In this era of remote working, soft skills and emotional intelligence are necessary.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are personal characteristics that determine how well you can work or interact with others.

Some examples are:

  • communication
  • teamwork
  • problem-solving
  • time management
  • critical thinking
  • stress management

These abilities make it easier to form interpersonal relationships, build trust and reliability, and manage teams remotely.

What is emotional intelligence?

When dealing with other people’s emotions, there will be moments when a conversation with a customer or colleague may spiral out of control. Your ability to stay calm and recognize the other person’s emotions and behaviors will enable you to defuse the situation and turn it around.

People with great emotional intelligence can express their emotions and handle interpersonal relationships with empathy.

How do soft skills and emotional intelligence (EI) affect medical writers?

Writers with emotional intelligence understand what makes other people tick and respect them greatly. Studies have shown that people with high EI – who can identify, understand and assess their own and others’ emotions — have better mental health, increased happiness, and more powerful leadership skills. People who have more emotional intelligence are also better writers.

The most useful attributes that emotionally intelligent writers display are:

1. Fantastically, yet modestly, self-aware

Successful writers know what they are good at – whether it’s coming up with shockingly apt metaphors or finessing seamless transitions between sentences. But they also know what they need to improve. And they likely have a plan for developing that skill.

2. Ability to self-regulate

The clinical research industry has changed enormously in the last ten years. People who have mastered their emotions can roll with these sorts of changes better. Parts of writing can be uncomfortable, and writers with emotional maturity can sail smoothly through such details.

3. Highly motivated

Writers with emotional intelligence have a strong desire to achieve and, above all, a certain knowledge they will eventually finish successfully. More than that, they are willing to put in the work. They don’t need instant gratification.

4. Sense of autonomy and responsibility

Many writers report “hidden overtime” brought on by blurred lines between their work and personal lives. Emotionally intelligent writers, however, are able to limit this because of their ability to self-manage. They can draw boundaries, maximize their productivity within working hours, and take responsibility where relevant, while also taking their allocated breaks and personal time off to avoid burnout.  

5. Proactive communication and collaboration skills

Limited physical interactions within a shared workspace greatly reduces opportunities for traditional peer learning. To create minimal disruption and foster effective collaboration, emotionally intelligent workers are considerate of how their colleagues like to be contacted (detailed email, phone call, or video call) and develop a sense of “digital etiquette.”

Remote work also requires a new emphasis on “virtual body language.” To be effective when attending virtual meetings, writers are aware of how they present themselves, remaining professional and personable throughout. This includes maintaining eye contact through the camera, smiling, avoiding fidgeting, muting their microphone when appropriate, and sitting in an upright, engaged position.

6. Show great empathy

Writers with emotional intelligence can put themselves in the shoes of others, making them sensitive to the needs of their readers. They don’t focus so much on what they want to write. Instead, they try to figure out what their audience wants to read.

7. Superior social skills

Their ability to manage others also allows them to manage themselves. People with high emotional intelligence do a better job of managing with patience and good humor. As natural leaders, they have the smarts to take up any big projects.

Emphasizing emotional intelligence and developing colleagues’ soft skills

Managers respect and value writers who can lead, negotiate, and manage problems because they have the soft skills and emotional intelligence to do so.

Hence, the days of writing as a solitary worker are gone. Writers who can think critically, communicate well, solve issues, manage their time efficiently, and collaborate with other professionals are in high demand.

By: Ananya Bhowmick, Ph.D., Medical Writer

Learn more about working in medical writing here.


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