… Culture of Inclusion — Inclusion is a company value at BMS and our goal is to ensure we are taking an Inclusion lens to our systems, policies, practices and procedures. BMS has a rich history in addressing healthcare disparities and a longstanding commitment to global health equity, inclusion and diversity. Self-care is an important part of being at our best so that we can show up strong for each other and fulfil our Company mission.

The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Ann Powell, Chief Human Resources Officer at Bristol Myers Squibb. Ann is deeply committed to driving the company’s global capabilities in talent management, culture and organizational effectiveness while enabling an empowered workforce. She also currently serves as the executive sponsor of the BMS “Living Life Better” company wellness program. Ann partners across the company to foster an energized workforce and radically inclusive culture, where individuals are encouraged to exceed their potential and make innovative contributions for our patients and the global communities in which they live and work.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.

The pandemic helped me understand how important it is to establish personal guardrails to help me integrate heavy meeting schedules and workloads as well as personal needs. I needed to find balance with work while taking care of myself, finding time to recharge and keep connected with my family and friends. You cannot pour from an empty cup, and I am intentional in finding time to relax, restore and commit to myself so that I can be at my best for others. This was an experience that we all went through collectively, and it was important to model the right behaviors, so our BMS workforce knew that their wellbeing was vital to helping our patients prevail over serious diseases.

Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?

BMS takes a holistic approach to wellness, meaning that it looks beyond a focus just on health. We work to create a culture and provide resources that supports overall wellbeing, which is intersectional and includes four elements of physical, emotional, financial and life & work. We call it “Living Life Better” to emphasize how small incremental changes can lead to sustained improvement. The focus on wellbeing encourages our workforce to personalize the opportunities and resources they need and helps us to meet each person where they are. It also encourages our workforce to be accountable for their wellbeing. Our approach is inclusive, customizable and easy to navigate. We measure wellbeing through a quarterly engagement survey with questions focused on seven drivers that impact happiness and belonging.

Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?

The US Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being published in 2022 states that when people thrive at work, they are more likely to feel both physically and mentally healthy, which enables them to be a positive force in their workplace. Wellbeing can affect productivity and organizational performance. Mental health specifically has become an even more critical focus; the World Health Organization’s recent release of guidelines for mental health at work emphasized this. Work tends to decline when people feel anxious or depressed. When our workforce feels supported and have the resources and inclusive culture that they need to positively manage their wellbeing, they are more productive, which positively impacts our ability to get more medicines to more patients faster.

Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?

There are several ways to demonstrate value, which is an important metric to ensure resources and efforts are distributed efficiently. At BMS, we look at both qualitative and quantitative data points; often piloting a program and then scaling if it demonstrates positive results. Getting insights and determining success isn’t only achieved through surveys, it can also be gained through usage of internal resources and programs, participation in wellbeing events, present & absenteeism rates, and attrition. Not funding wellness programs also comes at a cost to the business such as disengagement, health and safety risks, turnover costs, health claims, and absenteeism of an increasingly unhealthy population. By knowing your workforce’s needs you can invest strategically in programs that are evidence-based for making an impact where it matters and where our workforce perceives the value. There are also several low or no-cost actions that build a supportive inclusive culture and model healthy work behaviors, like creating inclusive work environments, taking vacation days, finding time for exercise, including wellbeing activities as part of meetings and other energizing site activities to promote overall wellbeing globally.

Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank well-being as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?

BMS offers exceptionally interesting and meaningful careers for inspired, collaborative thinkers who share a passion for transforming patients’ lives through science. We are a company that cares as much about our workforce as we do the patients whose lives they transform. We want everyone to bring their authentic selves to work and understand that by cultivating a culture of belonging through inclusion, we are positvely impacting the wellbeing of our workforce. Our Talent Acquisiton teams partner with our People Business and Resource Group (PBRG) leads to create innovative initiatives that help increase a sense of community and belonging. For example the Disability Advancement Workplace Network (DAWN) PBRG focuses on lifting the stigma around disabilites, including non-visible disabilites and mental health. Additionally, we have a blog on our career site to give more insight to what it is like to work at BMS where we have previously shared about our global, holistic and comprehensive wellbeing strategy. Our TA teams emphasize the importance of purpose in our lives and careers. The overall BMS culture is powerfully tied to the work we do for our patients, and this is key throughout talent recruitment. A career with BMS offers an opportunity to build on our purpose and work towards developing and delivering medicines for our patients.

We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on-demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.

  • Mental Wellness: We have a Mental Health Ally program that trains volunteers in Mental Health First Aid. We now have hundreds of trained volunteers around the world and have seen exciting results in how it improves comfort in speaking about mental health at work and accessing resources.
  • Emotional Wellness: There is exciting research around mindfulness-based interventions and the impact they have on improving symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and more. To help increase mindfulness at BMS, we have the Grassroots Mindfulness in Action community where anyone passionate about mindfulness and meditation can connect and practice mindfulness each week. It has built a network of over 1400 participants across 24 countries.
  • Social Wellness: Our PBRGs are critical to helping establish a sense of belonging and a culture of inclusion. They host various events highlighting social justice, including hosting crucial conversations for inclusive discussions and ableism training. We also have a robust employee giving program, which allows us to use our resources to support efforts to combat social injustice and improve our communities. The social unrest in the US inspired our PBRGs to identify social justice organizations fighting disparities and discrimination for a 2-to-1 match through the BMS Foundation.
  • Physical Wellness: BMS offers a variety of fitness support so that there is something for everyone. This includes onsite gyms at no cost to employees, free and discounted access to gyms around the world, and on-demand/virtual options to maximize flexibility and inclusivity.
  • Financial Wellness: BMS provides financial education to our global workforce so they can achieve their financial goals at any stage of life. There are strong partnerships with PBRGs to deliver inclusive workshops that are specific and relevant to our diverse populations and their needs.

Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas above to improve employee wellness?

Leading with Inclusion and ensuring our workforce feels they belong and can contribute to our company purpose helps to improve overall wellbeing. At BMS we strive to create an inclusive and diverse environment, ensuring everyone can bring their authentic selves to work. Our commitment to discover, develop, and deliver innovative medicines to transform patients’ lives through our science is critically important. Focusing on ensuring our workforce is supported physically, emotionally, and financially with flexible work life integration helps to improve overall wellbeing, which ultimately helps to best serve our patients.

How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?

To support a “Work Well” culture, today’s leaders need to lead inclusively and lead by example. Our manager forums provide the tools our leaders need to help support our workforce through change, identify opportunities for development and share benefits and programs that can help their team’s wellbeing. . . We also encourage leaders to block time for focused work and ask them to share that expectation with their team. In addition to focused work, time blocks can be used for exercise, breathing, reflection, or other mindfulness practices.

Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team, or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?

One small step includes time blocking — setting aside time for lunch each day. Another small step includes booking meetings in 25- or 50-min increments to allow time for a small break between meetings. During team meetings, taking a few minutes at the top of the meeting to check-in (how are you feeling today) is also quite effective and can cultivate a sense of belonging and team connection.

What are your “Top Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”

  1. Courageous & Authentic Leadership — Being a leader includes sharing my story, my learnings, and my setbacks. Leadership authenticity is important to demonstrate and encourage empathy and to build trust and connection.
  2. Socially connecting with my team on their wellbeing — Being intentional to have mental health check-ins during team & individual meetings.
  3. Flexible Work Arrangements — I encourage face to face collaboration with my team when we are physically in the office together. I also appreciate and take advantage of our flexible hybrid schedule.
  4. Culture of Inclusion — Inclusion is a company value at BMS and our goal is to ensure we are taking an Inclusion lens to our systems, policies, practices and procedures. BMS has a rich history in addressing healthcare disparities and a longstanding commitment to global health equity, inclusion and diversity. Self-care is an important part of being at our best so that we can show up strong for each other and fulfil our Company mission.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?

I am excited to see that workplace wellness is being more broadly recognized as important. It is critical for sustained workforce engagement and performance. At BMS, we view inclusion and wellbeing as a business imperative to live our vision of transforming patients’ lives through science.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.