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Building Healthy Workplaces

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Awakening to the need for a healthy workforce to build successful businesses, pharma firms are introducing a slew of measures to ensure their employees’ fitness By Usha Sharma

A healthy employee is a more productive employee. Health thus plays a significant role in helping companies grow and remain competitive in the market. In the next two to three years’ many medicines are going off patent and there will be a huge business opportunity for Indian pharma companies, both in the domestic as well as global markets. MNC pharma firms are also poised to grow their footprint across India and other geographies. But in order to tap these opportunities, pharma companies must also invest in their employees’ and their family members’ well-being.

So, are pharma companies taking note of this fact and implementing steps towards ensuring their employees’ well being?

Dr Chandrasekhar Sripada

Dr Chandrasekhar Sripada, President and Global Head of HR, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories says that his company is completely aware of the need to ensure this and informs, “Investing in employee health is, for us, the first step towards gaining credibility around our philosophy of ‘Patients First’. Only with healthy employees can we serve patients better. Therefore, for Dr Reddy’s, employee well-being is business critical.”

Nilesh Kulkarni

Roche, a multinational pharma company, also holds a  vision of fostering a culture of health and well-being at work. Nilesh Kulkarni, Director – Human Resources, Roche Products informs, “We offers flexible working arrangements which helps our employees balance life and work and are, therefore, an important element in meeting the individual needs of our increasingly diverse workforce. Wherever possible, we meet employees’ requests for special working conditions, offering arrangements that include flexi-time, working from home and parental leave for men and women.”

Well, these efforts are laudable but a lot more steps are needed to ensure that the workforce in an organisation is fit and healthy.

K Hariram

K Hariram, Retired Managing Director – Galderma India  opines that pharma companies should consider providing health insurance policies to employees and their family members. He also raises some pertinent questions such as: What percentage of the turnover is set aside for employee health schemes? Does the company look at such initiatives as talent attraction/ retention strategies? If so, any indication of its impact on attrition rates? Does it impact any section of the company’s current/prospective employee demographic profile more than the others? A self-evaluation by the pharma firms on these areas might lead to improved implementation of schemes /plans to improve the health and well-being of employees.

Express Pharma also spoke to two well known pharma firms to know about their investments in this arena. While, none of the pharma companies shared their financial figures with us, they did share details about their various programmes and initiatives.

Roche’s route to good health

Roche informs that it offers a range of programmes to its employees, which include medical services (e.g., medical check-ups, screenings), workplace ergonomic evaluations, and counselling services. For instance, this year, employees at Roche Pharma India participated in the 100-day Global Corporate Challenge during which employees supported each other to boost their daily levels of physical activity and exercise to meet the 10,000 steps per day challenge. The GCC is an effective way to get employees more active by motivating them to walk over 10,000 steps per day – and ultimately makes them more productive and engaged. It also offers International SOS, a complimentary service, to all the  employees (and their dependents) to help keep them safe and healthy if an emergency situation arises when they are traveling or living outside their home country. Kulkarni also informs, “We organise ‘Live Well. Find your balance,’ a well-being week held across Roche sites once a year, to promote awareness of and education about healthy lifestyles, nutrition and emotional wellbeing.”

“We introduced a comprehensive mediclaim policy with enhanced benefits and additional flexibility as compared to current industry standards. Our policy includes a substantial family floater and also allows employees the additional benefit of enrolling either their parents or parents-in-law,” says Kulkarni. “As a leader in developing innovative solutions for cancer care globally, we recognise the multiple barriers that are associated with providing quality and affordable cancer care in India. Therefore, our employee policy exclusively covers all types of cancer for the enrolled members with an aim to reduce the burden on employees and their family,” adds Kulkarni.

DRL’s endeavours

DRL believes that its employees are the driving force of the organisation, therefore it endeavours to provide employees a safe, inclusive and empowering workplace with freedom to act, innovate and grow, not just as professionals but also as individuals.  Sripada says, “We believe that health and wellness form an important aspect of one’s life. We are focused on ensuring that employees are both healthy and satisfied at work and lead enriching lives where they can balance work with their personal/ family lives. Employees facing major health issues can opt for sabbaticals or opt for ‘exceptional leaves’ over and above their normal leave balance. Both these policies have been already explained above. As a preventive measure, we also educate our employees continuously on the importance of health and support them with free medical checkups. We also have a bouquet of other benefits like health insurance, gym at office, health talks by doctors, doctor at campus,  etc.”

They also provide certain benefits to the family members of the employees. Sripada elaborates, “Since health of the family members is a huge priority for the employees, we provide a number of benefits which takes care of the health and well-being of the whole family. We offer free-of-cost annual health check-up for our employees. Employees can pay a discounted price and avail the
benefits for their family members as well. Each employee has the option of covering his/her immediate family members and also his dependent parents/in-laws. We also have an additional buffer fund for funding the medical expenditures in case the overall cost exceeds the coverage. Employees also have an option of buying additional cover for their family members and pay extra premium for buying additional critical illness coverage.”

Impact on talent retention/attraction

Commenting on whether companies are looking at such initiatives as talent attraction/ retention strategies, Kulkarni emphasises, “We are a force of over 80,000 people working together across more than 150 countries. As a research-based company, Roche encourages each employee to always strive to improve the lives of those around us. Roche Pharma India’s mediclaim policy is a testimony of its commitment to addressing healthcare needs and employee welfare at large. The benefits offered by the policy are the same, irrespective of the tenure, age or management level within the organisation. We believe that if each company in India starts thinking collectively about the well-being of their employees by putting the right healthcare plan in place in the organisation, not only will employees feel valued and engaged, even the issue of access to healthcare could be addressed significantly.”

Most recently, DRL also launched a series of health and wellness programmes, across all its India locations where they have two weeks dedicated to Wellness. In the first week which commenced on January 4, 2016, it conducted various programmes such as health camps, health quiz, health tips, health talks and app launches. Subsequently, in the second week, which commenced on January 18, they had programmes organised by its Health Circle Volunteers in various domains like yoga, dance fitness, and cycling etc. Sripada informs, “We believe that this is just the beginning and the tip of the iceberg, in the future we plan to have various other initiatives aimed at the overall health and wellness of our employees and their families.”

Thus, these pharma companies have already adopted innovative health policies which have become an integral part of their organisation’s structure. It would be a good idea for the rest of the pharma firms to follow suit and adopt such steps to help their employees stay fit and healthy. Such measures would play a significant role in helping organisations achieve better outcomes and sustain their growth momentum in a world which is becoming increasingly competitive.

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