Employee well-being

At IBM, we realize there is no greater resource than our people. That’s why employee well-being is integrated into every aspect of our 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 and as a member of a larger community.

IBM’s culture of health must evolve as our employees do, and so it is essential that we listen for need, envision the future and transform accordingly. Our culture must offer broad access to resources, be supported by trusted advisors, and deliver demonstrable value to our employees’ lives. With this in mind we consider 2014 a landmark year, thanks to our expanded delivery of options for employees and their families, enabling them to make well-being decisions that are transformative for themselves and for IBM.

A new perspective on health promotion

In 2014 IBM viewed health promotion in a new way — by considering both individuals and the world around them. Individuals make personal health decisions, but they live in families and communities made up of populations that share common elements. Some elements are healthy and support the opportunity to thrive, while others do not.

“Population health is no longer a strategy; it is a mandate that has the potential to trigger an epidemic of health and wellness.”

David B. Nash, MD, MBA, founding dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health at Thomas Jefferson University and coauthor of the book Population Health: Creating a Culture of Wellness.

The result of this new perspective on health is a shift in our health-promotion framework that calls for global direction, measurement and process, with flexibility for local innovation and prioritization. IBM integrates individuals and populations into the design plan for health promotion and benefits, medical resources and safety considerations in order to yield greater value and improved impact.


One example of our focus on population health came with the Ebola outbreak in 2014. The unprecedented nature of the Ebola crisis created many challenges at the population and individual levels, both globally and locally in West Africa. Fortunately, IBM was able to quickly capitalize on its pandemic planning strategy and implemented a social media platform for centralizing global workforce communications, workplace infection control management, travel guidance and hardship considerations for employees in affected communities.

Social tools support US health benefits

In 2014 IBM’s US employees had the opportunity to become fully informed consumers of their health care benefits through social tools. IBM's new approach was managed through an IBM Connections community with access to several resources including a video presentation (at right).

Also included in the community are access to:

  • A virtual benefits tool called Alex that provides guidance on the right health plan for employees and covered dependents
  • A gateway to telemedicine services that provide a virtual visit with a physician or other medical professional via phone or computer
  • A continuation of our incentive strategy that offers rebates for healthy behaviors like physical activity and nutrition education
  • Tools such as Castlight, WellMatch and Optum that empower employees with information and transparency to drive greater consumerism
  • A platform called CaféWell designed to drive comprehensive health integration and engagement


Dr. Rhee talks about IBM’s Commit to Health strategy and the value of the tools promoted in 2014.

Wellness Advisor proves successful

In 2013 IBM launched its Wellness Advisor program to help employees overcome challenges in receiving high-quality mental health services, including treatment-decision support and condition management, and to create a less-stigmatized entry point. With the success of the pilot, four additional countries adopted this program in 2014: Austria, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt. The complete program includes the following services, delivered by telephone:

  • Employee assistance program counseling (telephone and face-to-face)
  • Nurse hotline
  • Condition management
  • Treatment-decision support
  • Pregnancy and children’s health support
  • Wellness coaching
  • Legal and financial counseling

Virtual learning in the new classroom

Engaging employees where they work through social options is essential in creating a culture of health at IBM. Following the success of the 2013 Virtual Health Fair, a new option for on-demand and live interactive learning about health and safety topics was created in 2014. This Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) provides employees with round-the-clock access to health and safety webcasts in nine different languages. The inaugural offering on the new platform was a live webcast called “Know Your Numbers,” produced by IBM medical staff. Physicians, nurses and health promotion and safety professionals interacted with employees via chat in multiple languages and offered recommendations for healthy lifestyle choices, methods to assess personal health metrics, and user-centered information on essential lab tests and screenings. By year-end, the VLE had more than 2,700 visitors.

German health vouchers extend access

In 2014 IBM launched a health-voucher program in Germany, funded by budget from a labor agreement. After a co-payment of €30, employees receive an additional health budget of €120 from IBM. A total of 2,110 employees signed up for vouchers that can be used at 14 IBM sites. Employees can also choose from a nationwide network of health-promotion providers and work with those most conveniently located.

Support for Union for International Cancer Control

IBM is working to be a strong voice among large employers in disease prevention, early detection and treatment of chronic diseases like cancer, and we endeavor to advance these standards globally. As part of these efforts we proudly support the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), a global organization representing the international community of cancer care and research focused on prevention and access to care globally. IBM's membership to UICC provides us with access to learning and advocacy for best practices in healthcare approaches and policies established at the most senior levels of the global cancer community. In addition to promoting better disease prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer in IBMers and their families, membership in the UICC also promotes IBM's business and research goals in healthcare and life sciences, areas in which we have deep existing relationships with leading organizations such as MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the New York Genome Center.

Innovations in global support for workplace safety

In order to help address gaps in building safety in the United Kingdom, we initiated in 2014 cross-geography collaboration between India and the United Kingdom via an international assignment. A member of IBM India’s safety team joined the UK team for a three-month assignment to help address these gaps. Ten safety reviews were undertaken, with additional support provided for other safety projects.

Well-Being Management System

IBM’s Well-Being Management System (WBMS) is the foundational architecture that provides our 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. In 2014 objectives were implemented in various areas, including building design and operations, acquisitions and outsourcing, mental and emotional well-being, learning and clinical services. The desired outcomes are to improve productivity, better manage costs and eliminate unnecessary expenses.

Continued external certification of IBM's WBMS 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.

Additionally, all of IBM’s hardware research, development and manufacturing operations in the United States were recognized as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Programs Star sites. This is OSHA's highest honor, given only to those that are proactive and exhibit exemplary safety and health programs and results.



  • Singapore's Workplace Safety and Health Council named IBM among its Performance Awards 2014 winners at the silver level.
  • IBM was recognized by Austria's National Health Insurance for sustainable health promotion activities.
  • The Association of Occupational Health Karnataka, in India, recognized IBM for the best scientific presentation.