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Employee Well-Being

Employee well-being is integrated into every aspect of IBM’s global business. It underpins our total health management system, and demonstrates a commitment to employee health and safety that values the whole person, while at work, home or as a member of a larger community.

It is a total health management system that transcends traditional employee well-being programs by recognizing the importance of promoting physical and psychological health. This framework, known as IBM’s Well-Being Management System, provides for a coordinated and consistent approach across all geographies and time zones. And it facilitates proactive planning, execution excellence, measurement and continuous improvement in areas of employee health and well-being. It also supports IBM’s business goals by improving productivity, managing costs and eliminating unnecessary expenses.

Well-Being Management System

First implemented in 1999, IBM’s Well-Being Management System (WBMS) is framed around IBM’s corporate policy: Responsibility for Employee Well-Being and Product Safety. This cornerstone of IBM’s WBMS follows the “plan-do-check-act” principles that are common in International Organization for Standardization (ISO) consensus standards. System components include proactive planning, execution excellence, measurement and continuous improvement in areas of employee health and well-being.

Each year we engage in a strategic planning process to consider new WBMS global objectives that align with evolving business priorities. These objectives are translated into relevant initiatives with the flexibility to accommodate unique well-being and safety requirements at a local level. WBMS outcomes that support IBM’s business goals are improved productivity, managed costs and elimination of unnecessary expenses.

System efficacy, efficiency and consistency are regularly reviewed with input from management, employees and other external reviewers. A systemic approach that monitors and audits well-being requirements and improvement objectives as well as provides a process for corrective or preventive health and safety actions is truly a smarter way to optimize a company’s most important asset—its employees. This system considers all aspects of employee well-being, at the workplace, in their community and at home.

The Employee

Success in Health Promotion

IBM’s diverse workforce spans 170 countries, each with unique employee characteristics, languages, cultures and health needs. To meet this challenge, IBM established a Global Wellness and Health Promotion Framework that pairs a centralized strategy with flexible program prioritization and implementation at the regional and local levels.

The framework focuses on four areas:

  1. Monitoring population health status and risk through strategic data collection and analytics
  2. Creating healthy workplaces that drive healthy behaviors through smoke-free policies, healthy food selections at the worksite and options for physical activity
  3. Designing comprehensive healthcare plan support
  4. Implementing strategic behavior change programs based on local health priorities, ranging from weight management to HIV prevention

The framework outlines key program elements for all geographies, although these elements are prioritized and implemented based on local needs. The following are some examples of country leadership in each area:

  1. Monitoring population health status and risk through strategic data collection and analytics:

    Data from the World Health Organization and the Indian Medical Association revealed alarming cardiac and diabetes rates across the general population in India, which provided the catalyst for IBM’s Cardio-vascular and Diabetes screening camps. The camps were organized at all major IBM locations in March 2011 and provided clinical and laboratory screening, as well as individual counseling by physicians and dieticians followed up by a team-based fitness competition. To address the needs of IBM India’s female workforce, free health guidance and cervical cancer vaccinations were offered to employees at a discounted rate.

  2. Creating healthy workplaces that drive healthy behaviors through smoke-free policies, healthy food selections at the worksite and options for physical activity:

    Initiatives aimed at improving employee nutrition have been supported by collaboration with the company’s on-site food vendors, Sodexo and Eurest. IBM’s primary cafeteria supplier, Eurest, monitors healthy food selections and criteria, appropriate labeling and marketing, and associated education and training for employees on a monthly basis.

    Over the years IBM has made a significant investment in supporting its employees in becoming or staying smoke-free through various programs. Globally, all IBM work locations are smoke-free.

  3. Designing comprehensive healthcare plan support:

    IBM has long recognized the need to support employees in addressing more than just physical risks. For example, rising rates of chronic diseases are associated with unhealthy lifestyle behaviors like smoking, inactivity and poor diet. IBM China collaborated with its insurance provider to fund health promotion and health incentives with a focus on mental health, stress and resilience, inactivity, smoking, unhealthy diet, cancer and common infectious diseases such as hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS. From 2011, IBM in China partners with its insurance provider to include hepatitis B in supplemental insurance and to extend the coverage to spouses and children to strengthen the immunization and supplement the national planned immunization.

    Likewise, the economic and social costs of mental health issues are significant all over the world. For example, in the United States alone, mental health is estimated to cost around 2.5 percent of the gross national product. To address this very important health issue, IBM China added medical insurance coverage for all mental disorders in 2008.

  4. Implementing strategic behavior change programs based on local health priorities, ranging from weight management to HIV prevention:

    In several geographies, IBM has been among the first employers to offer health screening services for employees to understand their health risks and identify potential health issues early. IBM Egypt began with general employee awareness and education, and is now implementing a health screening called “Know Your Numbers” in collaboration with a local hospital. A similar approach was taken in Russia to build awareness among employees and offer access to health screenings at the worksite.

    In 2011, a Manager Education module on stress called “Stress Resilient Workforce: Just a Click Away” and an employee awareness module called “Discover a Stress-free Life” were released and received positive feedback.

Healthcare System Delivery Reform

IBM Integrated Health Services (IHS) continues to take a leadership position by driving the advancement of health promotion and prevention within healthcare systems around the world. Whether expanding coverage for key preventive services in developing healthcare systems or pressing for the promotion of medical homes in more established systems, IBM strives to take a leadership role for the benefit of the company and its employees, their families and the communities in which they live.

100% of primary healthcare is covered for United States employees enrolled in IBM’s self-insured health plans.

Primary Care

IBM has understood the benefits for driving patient-centric primary care for some time. In 2010, IBM took an extraordinary step by providing 100 percent coverage for primary healthcare for IBMers in the United States who are enrolled in IBM’s self-insured health plans. There is no longer a co-pay or deductible for in-network primary care with an internist, family practitioner, pediatrician, general practitioner or primary care osteopath.

Health Information Technology and Analytics

IBM continues to actively promote its vision of smarter healthcare, in which information technology is used to help increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve outcomes. We believe modernization of this kind is a critical step toward better healthcare. IBM leverages sophisticated healthcare analytics to inform its investments and health-benefits design, and promotes the use of technology in employee health management, such as offering online Personal Health Records (PHRs). IHS also supports a variety of special projects to advance health information technology (HIT) and health analytics.

In the United States, IBM employees are provided access to the Employee Health Management Center, which is a single locus of technology for focusing on personal health management and providing comprehensive healthcare information. This innovative tool allows individuals on a voluntary basis to:

  • Securely store and access medical information in their Personal Health Record;
  • Assess and understand their personal health risks;
  • Understand their medical conditions and treatment options through clinical advisor tools; and
  • Receive targeted health information and news tailored to their needs and interests.

Medical Homes

IBM has led the private sector in the United States, shifting toward a coordinated and comprehensive primary care model for Medical Homes by founding the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative (PCPCC). Centered on strong patient-physician relationships and comprehensive primary care, the goal of PCPCC is the establishment of a Medical Home for every patient. IBM’s initiative has brought together more than seven hundred major stakeholders to develop and advance primary care transformation and to test the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model of delivery. It is our belief that, where implemented, the Medical Home will improve health as well as healthcare delivery and result in lower overall expenditures.

United States Rebate Programs

IBM continues to find value in offering rebates for targeted health promotions. The following chart outlines the evolution of this approach to stimulate participation in healthy living choices.

Hepatitis B Intervention and Treatment

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver and is the leading cause of liver cancer. About two billion people worldwide have been infected with the virus and about 350 million live with chronic infection. An estimated 600,000 persons die each year due to the acute or chronic consequences of hepatitis B such as chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, hepatic cancer, etc. In 1999, IBM introduced a hepatitis B vaccination program for its employees in China that, by 2009, resulted in a 50% reduction of unprotected employees. IBM was the first company in China to provide a company-paid hepatitis B immunization program for primary prevention to all employees. In 2011, IBM China partnered with its insurance provider to include hepatitis B in supplemental insurance. We went a step further to extend the coverage to spouses and children to strengthen the immunization program and supplement the national immunization plan.

At Work

Nanotechnology and Engineered Nanomaterials

IBM has been a pioneer in nanotechnology and our innovations have contributed to unparalleled advances in miniaturization, performance and functionality in the field of information technology. IBM is one of the first companies to create safe work practices and health and safety training for its employees who work with engineered nanomaterials. IBM has also partnered with governmental agencies and other organizations to engage in and support the development of the necessary environmental, health and safety information for greater human health and environmental protection, and responsible, sustainable nanomaterials development. A representative of IHS is on the executive board of the nanotechnology working group for the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

Recognition of Excellence: OHSAS 18001 Certification

External certification of IBM’s WBMS has been beneficial in improving the quality and consistency of global implementation. It has also enabled IBM to fulfill marketplace demands and foster business opportunity, because the company is more readily able to demonstrate its standardized approach to managing employee well-being to clients and potential clients.

Bureau Veritas Certification North America, Inc. (BVC) audited IBM’s Well-Being Management System (WBMS) in 2007 and certified in 2008 that it conforms with the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS)—Standard 18001:2007. This international standard defines requirements for health and safety management systems. IBM is one of the largest organizations to have obtained OHSAS 18001 certification. In 2010, BVC conducted an extensive recertification audit of the IBM WBMS, resulting in continued global certification to the OHSAS 18001:2007 standard. In 2011, a successful surveillance audit was conducted.

The Community

Community Health Leadership


In the 1980s, HIV/AIDS first emerged as a world health threat. Early in the epidemic, IBM demonstrated leadership as it often has over the past one hundred years in employee well-being by providing clinical services and education for South African employees. As the disease took hold, IBM deployed new strategies. In the space of a year, missed work due to HIV dropped from 25 days a year to just three. After a successful pilot program that began in 1999, management approved IBM South Africa’s first HIV/AIDS policy in October 2001.

IBM expanded global leadership programs in countries such as South Africa, Russia, Brazil, India and the United States. For example, in 2005, IBM engaged in a dialogue on HIV/AIDS in the workforce with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a coalition of nearly 300 faith-based institutional investors that seek a global community built on justice and sustainability through transformation of the corporate world. Over the years, IBM has maintained a diligent focus on HIV/AIDS, highlighted by the following achievements:

  • Founding member of the first corporate leadership coalition on AIDS
  • 1997 United States Dept. of Health and Human Services National Business and Labor Award for Leadership on HIV/AIDS
  • 2008 National AIDS Fund Edward N. Brandt Award for Business Leadership (for support of key initiatives since the 1990s)
  • IBM China introduced HIV/AIDS coverage in corporate medical insurance in 2007, a time when HIV/AIDS coverage was excluded by all commercial medical insurance products in the country.

IBM China went a step further by providing equal rights and opportunities of employment to all people living with HIV/AIDS, and promoting information and awareness campaigns to reduce ignorance about the disease and tackle fear and prejudice. Influenced by IBM’s leading initiative, dozens of companies have since included HIV/AIDS coverage in their corporate medical insurance plans, and many more companies are considering covering HIV/AIDS. In the future, HIV/AIDS coverage could be a component of a commercial medical insurance product in China.

Hepatitis B

IBM is among the first multinational companies in China to have a nondiscriminatory employment policy for persons with hepatitis B and we do not require a hepatitis B test for employment. We are making available professionally delivered education programs on the prevention and management of hepatitis B to employees, and offering voluntary hepatitis B testing through annual health checkups. We also support an employee’s healthcare costs through the health benefits insurance program. Supportive psychological counseling is available throughout China.

Due to its contributions to hepatitis B prevention and anti-discrimination, IBM China was recognized by the Chinese Foundation for Hepatitis B Prevention and Control and was featured on its website as a model for a company that eliminated hepatitis discrimination and constructed an effective workplace-based hepatitis B prevention program in 2008.

Global Healthcare Transformation

IBM remains actively involved as a founding member of the Global Business Group on Health, an organization comprising more than 35 global corporations and dedicated to advancing the health of the workforce and transforming the healthcare systems of growth countries. This organization’s mission is to provide affordable business solutions that improve the health and productivity of employees outside the United States.

Its key objectives and strategies include:

  • Creating health value (i.e., effectiveness and efficiency) and improving productivity by promoting innovative, practical and evidence-based health benefit solutions
  • Demonstrating that technology-enabled health improvement programs enhance a company’s competitive advantage as an employer of choice in the recruitment and retention of talent
  • Developing a business case for corporate leadership to invest in health and productivity programs
  • Providing a unique source of information on demographics, health and disability trends and benefits, and comparative information on top-tier providers and vendors
  • Providing a forum where members share best practices and insights, benchmark programs, and create tool kits to develop practical solutions to global health issues
  • Establishing vendor expectations for excellence, including innovation, transparency, efficiency and continuous improvement, which support high-performing healthcare systems

Child Health Initiative (Rebate)

Today’s children constitute the work force of tomorrow. Diagnoses of illnesses attributable to obesity (e.g., hypertension, diabetes and depression) are no longer confined to adults. And these illnesses are taking a heavy toll on healthcare services.

In 2010, Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, published an article entitled “An Observational Study of an Employer Intervention for Children’s Healthy Weight Behaviors,” co-authored by Dr. Martin Sepúlveda, IBM Fellow & former vice president, Integrated Health Services and colleagues. The article evaluated IBM’s leadership in improved healthy lifestyles through our IBM Children’s Health Rebate program.

The Children’s Health Rebate is one of four cash-incentive Healthy Living Rebates in the United States. It was designed to reward good nutrition and physical activity for the entire family, which is key to helping children develop healthy habits for a lifetime. The Children’s Health Rebate aims to help parents and families aid children in the maintenance of healthy weight. IBM created this unique, action-oriented program by combining recommendations from leading experts with simple activities in which the whole family can participate.