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TecHRseries Interview with Nikhil Nayak, COO at Confirm BioSciences

As businesses and economies try to bring back momentum and pick up the pace of operations and business activities now that lockdowns have eased, there’s a lot more that companies will need to do to ensure employee wellness and safety at the workplace besides making masks and gloves mandatory attire.  Nikhil Nayak, COO at Confirm BioSciences joins us in this interview to share a few thoughts.

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Tell us a little about yourself Nikhil…we’d love to hear about some of your biggest career highlights (and learnings!) so far!

 My wife, three children and I live in San Diego, having moved here from New York six years ago.  My career started in the pharmaceutical industry in various functions across early drug development through global business development.  Working in the health and wellness space for my entire career, I have had the great opportunity to lead several major product launches that helped doctors treat the patients that we all ultimately serve. I learned early on what servant leadership means as I participated in several focus groups of patients that suffered from major depressive disorder, caregivers of those with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type and various other diseases.  There was so much stigma and a lack of understanding by the general public on the pain and suffering of these patients so I quickly realized that what I do every day helps patients and it’s not about “the product” and instead “the person” that we are focused on.

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That same concept has carried forward to my current role at Confirm BioSciences as we live by the mantra of “People over Profit™”.  As the landscape has evolved over time, with more people taking their health and wellness into their own hands, we have put the consumer first and created offerings that are geared to their lifestyle and needs.  Obviously, today, there is a dire need for reliable testing for COVID-19 so we have been working tirelessly to bring accurate, authorized testing solutions forward for medical providers so we can help them curb this pandemic.

 Given the current ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global workforce, we’d love your thoughts on the biggest workforce-specific health and wellness pain points global companies are dealing with.

The most obvious pain point would be having workers infected with the virus. As more information is released by survivors, we are getting a clearer picture of just how serious and draining COVID-19 really is. Even people who recover may have to deal with long-term effects that could impact their ability to work in the future.

Another health and wellness pain point is the mental toll it takes on the workforce. Many people have a loved one who has been touched by COVID and almost everyone is worried about catching it. This can take a toll on workers’ mental health, especially ones who have to deal with the public.  In addition, socioeconomic and sociopolitical environments during the pandemic add additional pressure, making this one of the most stressful times we have seen in decades.

 Could you share your thoughts on how companies can capitalize on employee benefits and wellness platforms better to help tide through the challenges being faced when it comes to employee management, motivation (and health) during this downtime.

There is no doubt that employers and employees will face a challenging road ahead both during this downtime and as we slowly begin to start returning to the workplace in some form. During the downtime, companies can promote the mental health aspect of their employee benefits package. If they do not currently have any mental health related benefits for employees, they should consider adding some. The mental strain of living through a pandemic is going to prove to be as challenging as living through it physically.

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Aside from providing specific employee benefits, companies can really take advantage of the teambuilding and community aspects of wellness platforms. With so many employees working remotely, there’s never been a more important time to encourage employees to interact with one another socially and keep up the same camaraderie that they had in-office.

As businesses start thinking about their reopening strategies and back-to-office policies, what are some of the top thoughts you’d share with them when it comes to employee safety and preventive health measures?

Like any other public establishment with multiple people, companies should implement mandatory masks and physical distancing for employees in shared spaces with strict guidelines on limiting in-person meetings above a certain number of people. There should also be a focus on continued cleaning and disinfecting in terms of handwashing, sanitizing procedures, ensuring high-touch areas are cleaned often, and other preventative measures.

Employers should encourage employees to get their information about the pandemic from reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization and follow protocols recommended by experts.  From these sources, employers can implement best practices for symptom checkers and perhaps even incorporate self-assessments for employees each day that ask about the possible symptoms.

Antibody testing for employees can also be helpful, as it is minimally invasive and can help determine who has antibodies built up and who may be in the early stages of infection. Using an app so employees can perform contact tracing may also be helpful in stopping the spread of the disease.

Can you share your thoughts on how teams can use data driven tools and insights to identify and curtail problems related to employee management and wellness during this time?

The contact tracing apps can be helpful for keeping employees healthy. Testing, along with a database to keep track of that testing, can also be helpful, as long as you are adhering to privacy protocols.

When it comes to ongoing wellness management, some platforms provide detailed, privacy-secure reports on employee health and wellness.  Those reports provide in-depth insights that allow company decision makers to not only identify the wellness hotspots, but to then take action on them through targeted, blind communications or wellness programming. Whether we’re in a pandemic or not, we see a lot of companies moving to this type of program management because it’s simply a more effective and efficient way of administering employee wellness.

How would you advise businesses, especially HR to stay a step ahead of the game as the global economy tides through these uncertain times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic?

Continuous testing and following physical distancing, hand washing and mask wearing protocols are the best ways to stay ahead of the pandemic. Listen to experts and heed what they say. There is no secret to it.  We are fortunate enough to have medical experts on staff at Confirm BioSciences, so we receive firsthand guidance about how to handle the ongoing situation, as well as insights into the most effective testing protocols. But, the recommendations we get from them are the same as any medical expert would be providing to the general public.

Beyond the virus, it’s important to not let wellness programs fall to the wayside, even though they may not seem like a natural priority. The public and remote workforce is feeling more stressed and disconnected than ever, so while it’s easy to set wellness initiatives aside, they should only be second to COVID-19 preventative measures. As far as specific programming goes, addressing stress levels during this time is going to be paramount.

A few general thoughts / tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic?

Provide your employees with mental health benefits, encourage remote-team-building activities, consider antibody testing as part of the return to work protocol and follow the advice of medical experts. Your employees are your business and it behoves you to care for them and make their working environment as safe as possible.

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BioSciences

Confirm BioSciences is a leading provider of high-quality, comprehensive screening tools and solutions across the full spectrum of health and wellness. With core competencies in testing drugs of abuse and broader health metrics, Confirm is dedicated to providing its customers with meaningful, actionable information. The company’s product portfolio ranges from instant and lab-based testing solutions for drugs of abuse, including HairConfirm® and DrugConfirm®, to HealthConfirm® and HealthState®, a line of testing solutions for health and wellness, with results delivered in insightful user-friendly reports. As an industry authority, Confirm educates and empowers its customers, and supports initiatives that create drug-free and healthy homes, workplaces and communities. The company is headquartered in San Diego, California.

Nikhil Nayak has over two decades of relevant healthcare experience in all aspects of global commercialization, including corporate strategy, life cycle product management, business development, global marketing & sales, finance & digital strategies.

Over the course of his career at Forest Laboratories Inc. (now Allergan), Nikhil held a variety of positions of increasing responsibility in sales, marketing, and business development. In his final role at Forest, Nikhil served as Executive Director of Global Marketing & Commercialization, where he steered the successful approvals and launches of several products in Canada, Europe, and Latin America. He was the head of the Namenda franchise, accelerating growth to “Blockbuster Status” for this Alzheimer’s drug while overseeing future development programs. He was also instrumental in the successful launches of Bystolic, and blockbuster antidepressants Celexa and Lexapro, for which he was recognized as part of Medical Marketing & Media’s 2003 “Brand Team of the Year“.

Nikhil received his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Washington University in St. Louis, and his Master’s in Business Administration from New York University, Stern School of Business.