Employee Well-Being

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—at work, at home, or as a member of a larger community.

“We optimize performance through healthy choices, people, workplaces, families, and communities.” Kyu Rhee, MD, vice president, IBM Integrated Health Services, in communicating his vision statement to more than 400,000 IBMers around the world

This vision is further expressed in our well-being mission statements:

IBM’s transformation to a culture of health is the result of relentless focus on our company’s vision and mission. Within a framework of well-established scientific evidence, IBM delivers on this vision through a set of global health priorities that encompasses significant aspects of the health, safety, health promotion, and health benefits experience at IBM.

More than 300 physicians, nurses, safety and health promotion professionals, industrial hygienists, and health-benefits experts support well-being at IBM through this interconnected set of global health priorities. These priorities drive the policies, programs, and processes that create the IBM culture of health.

Table of Priorities






Health promotion


Health benefits design

Valuing a culture of health

IBM has long known that a culture of health is good for people and business. Evidence that supports this perspective was published in 2013, following a landmark study in which the authors demonstrated that beyond having a positive impact on individuals, businesses with a strong culture of health are superior performers in the marketplace. This study examined the 10-year stock market performance of companies that won the Corporate Health Achievement Award (CHAA), which is given annually by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine to the healthiest and safest companies in North America, and which IBM has been awarded twice. Below is an excerpt from an article published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in September 2013:

“Tracking an initial theoretical investment of $10,000 in publicly traded CHAA recipients from the mid-1990s to 2012, researchers found that these award-winning CHAA companies outperformed the S&P 500. Four investment scenarios were created, using a combination of simulations and past-market performance to create investor portfolios for comparison. While the margin of return varied, CHAA recipients outperformed the market in each of the four scenarios. In the highest-performing scenario, CHAA companies had an annualized return of 5.23 percent vs. -0.06 percent for the S&P 500. In the lowest-performing scenario, CHAA companies had an annualized return of 6.03 percent vs. 2.92 percent for the S&P 500.”

Providing value through innovation

Constant transformation of traditional mechanisms for delivering health services is required to keep pace with the world we live in and the lives we lead. In 2013, IBM designed new options for employees and their families to obtain needed services around the clock, from home as well as from the workplace.

Wellness Advisor

Often, particularly in growth-market countries, mental health services offered through Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are limited by the stigma surrounding psychosocial health. In addition, medical services such as treatment-decision support and condition management are not always available or of high quality. The rapid increase in chronic disease risks highlights the opportunity for wellness coaching, which is a new concept in many regions of the world. Last year, IBM created a new program model called Wellness Advisor, which aims to bring together all of these services to improve access and support, and create a less-stigmatized entry point for EAP services.

IBM’s Wellness Advisor service is currently being piloted in Brazil and India, and has been well received by employees and their family members. The program includes the following services, delivered by telephone:

Wellness Checkpoint

To better standardize measurements of health, IBM implemented a global health risk assessment tool called Wellness Checkpoint. The tool has been acculturated and adapted for use in 130 countries and is available to employees in 26 languages. It provides a common platform for employees to identify health-improvement opportunities and be directed to relevant follow-up support services.

Virtual Health Fair

Engaging employees where they work through social options is essential to creating a culture of health at IBM. With its inaugural Virtual Health Fair, IBM broke new ground with a live, 24-hour opportunity for employees around the world to view health and safety webcasts and then chat with subject matter experts including physicians, safety professionals, and nutritionists.

In addition to webcasts on topics such as sleep health, stress, and active living, we established virtual information booths with additional resources such as Body Mass Index (BMI) charts, depression screening tools, and guidance on healthy eating. In support of IBM’s learning agenda, all materials were made available on demand and aligned with our THINK40 self-learning campaign.

Supporting the whole person

Through a holistic lens, IBM in 2013, expanded health benefits and health promotion programs and offerings that consider the physical, mental, and emotional needs of employees and their families.

Inclusive benefits design

In addition to designing benefits that cover primary and preventive care, IBM’s Healthcare Design Principles were updated, and now include:

  1. We believe pre-existing conditions and disease-specific limitations shouldn’t be barriers to receiving care.
  2. We believe in and support the power of affordable primary care, including annual wellness exams, clinical prevention that includes relevant, evidence-based screenings and vaccinations, acute and chronic disease management, laboratory and imaging services, and medication coverage.
  3. We believe in maternity care.
  4. We believe in newborn and pediatric care, including pediatric well-child visits, vaccinations, and relevant tests.
  5. We believe health is a shared responsibility where the employee and the employer both contribute to the increasing costs of healthcare.
  6. We believe in behavioral health.
  7. We believe we must comply with local legal and regulatory requirements.

Medical plans were aligned with IBM’s global health benefit design principles, while some changes to deductibles were necessary to manage an affordable and sustainable cost structure in view of rising global healthcare costs.

US healthy living rebates

Also in 2013, programs that promote health and well-being were introduced to employees in the United States during their annual benefits enrollment. Employees had the opportunity to participate in two healthy living rebate programs, totaling $300 annually, to support their wellness efforts. Topics of focus include children’s health, healthy pregnancy, physical activity, nutrition, weight management, and advanced vitality.

The following chart outlines the evolution of this approach to stimulate participation in healthy living choices:

US healthy living rebates

India fitness champions

To promote physical activity and healthy eating habits, IBM India employees were challenged either to maintain their existing BMI (body mass index) or lower a high BMI over a period of six weeks. Employees were given points for participating and awarded weekly prizes through a lottery drawing. The fitness champions program engaged nearly 15,000 employees in 2013, a 53 percent increase from 2012.

Latin America seven healthy habits

To support employees in achieving a well-balanced lifestyle, IBM Latin America focused on seven everyday habits aimed at improving employees’ mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Topics of focus included healthy eating, physical activity, addiction prevention, healthy sleep, emotional intelligence, healthy relationships, and preventive care services. Resources and activities were customized within each region to meet the needs of the participating employees.

Mental health awareness

Within IBM, focus continued on expanding mental health awareness through online training aimed at managing employees with mental health conditions. Managers in Australia and New Zealand were among the first to receive this opportunity.

Evolving approaches to safety

IBM continued to evolve its approach to assuring safe workplaces with a realigned service-delivery model and a focus on partnerships. Two IBM organizations, Real Estate Site Operations and Integrated Health Services, joined forces to collaborate on process improvements designed to reduce risk and optimize governance. Engagement by both teams has resulted in tightly monitored building safety at every level, from issue detection to full resolution.

Work at IBM, however, is not confined to office spaces. Employees work at client locations, their homes, and even hotels. Corporate events at external locations are part of IBM’s daily business. With hotels and convention centers serving as a new workplace, controlling hazards can be challenging. To meet this challenge, IBM Brazil’s health and safety team worked with procurement to think through the requirements that would maintain the well-being of our employees and other event attendees. A total of 25 external locations across Brazil were inspected to assess compliance with safety standards. Protecao Magazine recognized this team for excellence in the risk-management category. This recognition capped a five-year effort to establish health and safety standards that diminish risk at external locations where IBM hosts events.

Recognizing excellence

Continued external certification of IBM’s Well-Being Management System through the Occupational Health & Safety Advisory Services (OHSAS) 18001 certification process has helped improve the quality and consistency of our global implementation of well-being. It has also enabled IBM to fulfill marketplace demands and foster business opportunities because the company is better equipped to demonstrate its standardized approach to managing employee well-being to existing and potential clients. IBM's health and safety management system is certified by OHSAS 18001 globally.

Local recognition of excellence in 2013 included:

Well-Being Management System

IBM’s Well-Being Management System (WBMS) is the foundational architecture that provides this coordinated and consistent delivery of health and safety objectives across all geographies and time zones. First implemented in 1999, WBMS is framed around IBM’s corporate policy of 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 strategic planning 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. The desired outcomes are improved productivity, managed costs, and elimination of unnecessary expenses.