Mental Health Benefits: As we previously talked about, mental health continues to be a top priority for our employees. I think as we progress in this new hybrid era of working, we as organizations needs to make sure that employee programs include better access to qualified mental health providers to help employees manage stress and better define work-life balance and reduce burnout.
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 Herson Quiñones.
Herson Quiñones is Vice President, US Medical Affairs, Specialty Therapy Area Head at GSK. He was previously the franchise head, US Medical Affairs in the immuno-inflammation team. Herson has worked at GSK since 2019.
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.
First of all, let me thank you and Authority Magazine for the opportunity to share a bit about myself, and more importantly how critical it is for organizations to be inclusive and have a culture for people to thrive. Thinking about a formative experience is rather hard, as I learn from every experience, so picking one is almost impossible. I first think about the work ethic my dad and grandfather instilled in me, while still being there for our family. However, the one that comes to mind was really life altering advice one of my college mentors, Dr. Marc Tischler, gave me when I went to get my PhD. As I graduated from the University of Arizona, Marc came up to me and said: “Remember, always have dinner with your family. You may not be able to do it every day if you’re traveling or have an emergency you can’t get out of, but you must always prioritize your dinner with your family…” That advice has always stayed with me.
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?
We want GSK to be a diverse, inclusive organization in all aspects of our business, whether that is done through our clinical trials or internally through creating an environment where everyone can feel a sense of belonging. We lead with the idea that everything we do is fit-for-purpose and that purpose is felt throughout the work we do in Specialty, today in areas like immunology, respiratory and renal — and how we support our teams. We are proud to have a passionate, performance-driven and diverse culture that relentlessly focuses on helping the patients who we serve. That level of passion carries over to our employees as we continue to refine and develop wellbeing programs that benefit everyone at GSK.
Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank wellbeing as one of their top three employer search criteria. Can you share some examples of your approach to ensuring your employees wellbeing?
Our culture is about giving everyone space and support to succeed, learn and grow so we can achieve our ambition. It’s about providing everything you need to be and perform at your best — both mentally and physically. A recent report from Mental Health America found that 80% of employees surveyed agree that stress from work affects their relationships with friends, family and coworkers so it is imperative that we help alleviate this stress wherever possible.
Whether in research facilities, manufacturing sites or offices, we make sure every space is a safe, inclusive and caring environment. By encouraging our colleagues to take personal responsibility to do the right thing, everyone in the room plays an active role in being inclusive.
Our range of health and wellbeing programs and support services helps our employees be healthier, inspired and energized both at work and at home. It’s important to us that each of our colleagues is truly well, happy and have the confidence to be themselves. As leaders, it is our role to feed a virtuous cycle, creating a trust environment and I try to do that with my team on a daily basis — even when we are facing challenging work situations — that is when the benefits of that previous work will show up.
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?
I came to GSK more than three years ago because this organization showed me time and time again that it had the best process when it came to analyzing and implementing the research being done in diseases like lupus and severe asthma. That level of excellence has been the same for their employee programs as well. The upfront investment into employee wellness has already showed tangible benefits for the business and me and my colleagues. For example, by having smoking cessation support included in wellness plans, we are cutting the risk of our employees contracting certain diseases, like COPD or even cancer. By having robust mental health services and fitness plans, employees are less likely to acquire health problems, thus contributing to their overall sense of wellness. As a result of these programs, we can continue to focus on building a robust scientific portfolio while retaining and attracting extremely talented people.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
I find that our leaders are some of the best in the industry at supporting and practicing a “work well” culture. Our senior leadership group encourages our team members to utilize the services that GSK provides without fear of being perceived as inefficient or unmotivated. As a result, we are allowed to focus on positively impacting people’s health through the next decade and beyond by focusing on building an incredibly robust scientific portfolio and pipeline focused on advancing treatment for people living with complex, lifelong diseases such as lupus or severe asthma or enter into new spaces like renal and hepatology.
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?
I think one thing everyone can do is respect your team members as individuals and understand that they have a life outside of work, just like you and I do. At GSK, we’re all working toward similar goals professionally whether it be on our specialty team or any other business unit within the US, but each person on the team may have different goals personally. We work hard to create a culture of boundaries, so our employees find a balance that works for them. I think it is important for us to respect that to help promote a culture of wellness. When the pandemic hit, we intensified our efforts to implement “performance with choice” a program that allows managers to discuss and agree with their teams a work pattern that will enable delivery of business objectives but with flexibility in terms of when to be in the office and work schedules (this is specific for those flexible roles).
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
- Workplace Flexibility: I cannot think of a bigger shift in the way we work than what has happened since March of 2020. The pandemic required us to shift where and how we work. Now that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, companies need to understand the benefits working from home provides their employees — eliminating cumbersome commutes, saving on gasoline, flexibility throughout the workday and employees having more opportunity to spend time with friends and family due to the saved time elsewhere.
- Mental Health Benefits: As we previously talked about, mental health continues to be a top priority for our employees. I think as we progress in this new hybrid era of working, we as organizations needs to make sure that employee programs include better access to qualified mental health providers to help employees manage stress and better define work-life balance and reduce burnout.
- Financial Workshops: It is extremely important to remember that despite working for the same company, your coworkers may not necessarily be in the same financial situation as you. Financial literacy must be a priority for all organizations to ensure their employees are set up for success. Companies need to offer workshops on retirement and investment options so employees feel empowered to plan for their future.
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Initiatives: A diverse team made up of people of different ages, genders, races and ethnicities helps our business tremendously because these different perspectives allow for varied options, recommendations, and decision-making skills. By having DEI programs integrated into our training programs, we can help codify a culture of DEI into our company.
- Employee Assistance Programs: In addition to the mental health programs, companies need to create assistance programs to aid in family planning, smoking cessation, fitness and caregiver services in addition to career development and training programs and employee resources groups. The possibilities are endless. By offering these programs, companies will see greater employee retention, decreased absenteeism and higher engagement.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
The participation I see in our wellness initiatives. I consistently see people taking advantage of our flexible work from home policy while still making an effort to come into the office when the need arises. I see people at GSK eagerly helping out their team members if life gets in the way of work. I am confident that GSK is a leader in workplace wellness and should be a model for all pharmaceutical companies who are looking to promote this type of culture.
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?
I encourage everyone to follow GSK on LinkedIn to learn more about GSK, our company culture, our company goals and our successes.
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.