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28 Mar 2023

3 reasons why Novo Nordisk came top in a healthy workplace poll

“The survey has given us so many insights into things we were only able to assume or guess before,” says senior people director Antonio Marin-Blazquez

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The UK division of global healthcare giant Novo Nordisk is one of the country’s healthiest workplaces, according to a survey carried out last year.

In December, Novo Nordisk won first place in the medium-sized firm category of Vitality’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (BHW) 2022 survey. And it’s an accolade it has not been taken lightly.

“Winning this award feels very special,” says Antonio Marin-Blazquez, senior director, people and organisation at Novo Nordisk (UK).

“Sometimes you lose sight of how you compare with other companies, so we wanted to benchmark ourselves. It has been a good sanity check to show we’re on the right track and I’m extremely grateful, pleased and proud – it has been a team effort.”

Here are three reasons why Novo Nordisk performed so well.

1. Ingrained wellness culture

Novo’s 450 UK employees have enjoyed the same approach to workplace wellness as their overseas colleagues.

The parent company is Danish and personal wellbeing is especially important in Danish culture. The company’s specialist fields of diabetes and obesity are also all about healthy habits, so those working in them are more likely to focus on their own health.   

As part of its hybrid working approach, employees are encouraged during working hours to take walks and pursue other healthy activities. For example, during the darkest months of the past winter, a company-wide steps challenge was launched to encourage employees to get out of the house during daylight.

The company’s 73 different wellness interventions – many of which are available via its Vitality private medical insurance scheme – span everything from workplace massages, a running club, gym access, an employee assistance programme, YouTube channel with yoga and meditation sessions, free healthy meals, a discount platform and menopause support.

But coordinating and managing such a broad range of benefits in a way that feels cohesive and has maximum impact has been challenging.

“It’s certainly not an easy task,” Marin-Blazquez says. “But we work as closely as we can with our internal comms team to make sure people are always aware of our offerings at all times, and we use every channel and opportunity that we have to promote them.

“Participating in BHW will definitely help us from this year, as now it’s not only about promoting what we have but about also being able to tailor offerings based on people’s preferences and needs.”    

2. Management buy-in

Sixty line-managers are playing a “massive role” in signposting their teams to resources and encouraging people to take those healthy breaks. The support they receive has increased markedly during recent months through the creation of a ‘Positive Wellbeing Pathway’, which directs managers to the different resources available for different stages of employee wellbeing.

Another recent addition to the resources are Wellness Action Plans. All employees and their managers use these to agree on a range of criteria to ensure they both stay healthy and know each other’s stress trigger points. These are helping to build on some of the already highly impressive BHW findings.

According to the survey, only 9% of Novo Nordisk employees are dissatisfied with their jobs, compared with an overall benchmark figure of 30%, and only 5% report signs of poor mental health (vs 10% overall benchmark).

A network of mental health champions, retrained annually and consulted two or three times a year for feedback, enables employees to unload their feelings in the right setting.         

3. Knowing its numbers

The BHW data has helped Novo Nordisk refine many of its offerings and it singles out in particular the value it attaches to information both about benchmarking and about employees’ intentions to improve their habits.

Up to 84% of those not getting enough sleep are motivated to sleep more and 70% of those not eating a good diet are motivated to change, the data shows. On the flipside, only 50% of those consuming more than 14 units of alcohol a week are motivated to drink less and only 48% of those at higher risk are motivated to increase their physical activity levels.

“The survey has given us so many insights into things we were only able to assume or guess before,” says Marin-Blazquez. “The results are very enlightening, so we now know what areas to tackle and the interventions to use. The biggest insight is that awareness of some of our offerings is not so high and it’s good to know what people are and aren’t willing to change.”

And there could be plenty of further developments to come because the BHW report has so far only been shared with HR employees. Its main findings will be communicated to the rest of the employees this month (March 2023). As having an engaged and healthy workforce is one of Novo Nordisk’s 10 essential values, you can be sure these findings will definitely be taken seriously.

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In partnership with Vitality

At Vitality, we take a unique approach to insurance. As well as providing high-quality comprehensive cover, we provide a complete wellness package that can help boost employee engagement and productivity.

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