Many companies are utilizing digital tools to improve employee well-being. For example, there are now applications that employees can use to connect with fellow co-workers they may have never met before. At UCB, we utilize the UCB Well platform which allows employees to track their physical activity and compete with coworkers across the nation in health challenges. Digital tools like this also serve as a great way for colleagues to stay connected — including local colleagues who may be seeing each other in person less frequently.

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 Patty Fritz. Patty is the Vice President of U.S. Corporate Affairs for UCB, a global biopharmaceutical company focusing on creating value for people living with severe diseases. In her role, Patty leads efforts to create value for patients and their families through strategic engagement and positively influencing the healthcare ecosystem and policy landscape. Patty is a sustainability champion for UCB in the U.S. and is committed to ensuring UCB is creating a sustainable future, starting with UCB employees. Outside of UCB, she serves on the board of directors for the Center for Global Health Innovation, the Innovation and Value Initiative (IVI), National Pharmaceutical Council and is a member of The Carter Center Board of Councilors.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. 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?

At UCB, we know our ability to deliver innovative solutions for patients depends on supporting the physical, mental, and social well-being of our teams and their families. We define wellness as a person’s overall physical, mental, emotional, and social wellbeing. In 2021, UCB established a model for delivering and tracking progress of all health, safety, and well-being initiatives, allowing us to be intentional, supporting employees in a holistic way. Referred to as the “UCB Well-Being Index,” this tool provides an overarching view of our performance and impact of our approach and programs designed for our employees.

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?

I have found that by focusing on employee wellness, we are investing enhance employee engagement and ultimately amplifying the impact of our organization and the patients we serve. At UCB, we believe that employees who are feeling ‘well’, are engaged employees and this translates to greater collaboration, better performance, and importantly, better experiences for patients and our stakeholder partners. We go as far as to include “Health of our Employees” as one of our four global sustainability pillars and have focused implementation and metrics to measure how we are progressing as part of our longer-term strategy to create a sustainable future. In the U.S., we continued the employee hardship fund and UCBWell provided a wide variety of wellness resources, as well as being nationally recognized as a recipient of the 2021 Cigna Well-Being Award.

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?

People are at the heart of everything we do, and that includes our employees. I believe that employee health and well-being is one of the most important aspects of a business and is something businesses should continue to make a priority. UCB has developed several programs with our employees in mind and we ensure we leverage their feedback and input to inform programs and policies that reflect their needs. For example, we have redesigned our benefits to include free access to the Peloton app and several additional days off throughout the year to avoid burnout, which we know can be an issue particularly in a hybrid work environment.

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

One way we are incorporating wellness programs into our talent and recruitment hiring process is by emphasizing the impact these programs have on the overall culture of the company. UCB is its people — and we are made stronger because of our culture of collaboration and curiosity. Without our wellness programs, our people and our culture would not be the same and that is a driving force in our recruitment process. During the hiring process, the range of health and wellness benefits are shared with candidates, and we also communicate about our employee wellness benefits periodically on our external channels so when potential employees research about UCB they are exposed to that information.

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 and Emotional Wellness:
  • Through our Employee Assistance Program, we cover counseling for UCB employees as well as their spouses and dependents and connect them to resources.
  • Wellness challenges and incentives devoted to mental health activities.
  • Provide company-wide mental health “recharge” days periodically.
  • Offering company-sponsored meditation and mindfulness training to interested employees.
  • Host wellness webcasts and regular virtual yoga and meditation/mindfulness sessions.
  • Social Wellness:
  • Created UCB Well which is a program designed to virtually connect colleagues across the U.S. through setting goals and competing in challenges based on different aspects of health and well-being. The online and app-based platform presents resources and challenges to employees to help them achieve goals, receive points, and eventually earn rewards.
  • Physical Wellness:
  • Created trails at the Atlanta campus for employees to not only get exercise outdoors, but to socialize and connect with each other.
  • There is an expansive fitness facility in our Atlanta headquarters where group fitness classes are offered four times a week including yoga, Pilates, and strength training.
  • Offering weekly on-line yoga classes free of charge for interested employees.
  • Financial Wellness:
  • Created the Employee Hardship Fund that confidentially provides financial assistance to UCB employees experiencing severe and unusual financial hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis, knowing that each of our employees have unique situations they may be facing.
  • Launched the share buy-back program which allows the repurchase of UCB shares to cover current and future obligations under UCB’s Long Term Incentive Plans for employees.
  • Offer regular sessions with financial planners who can assist employees in planning for retirement.

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?

Workplaces would benefit from investing in programs like the ones listed above in several ways. When we invest in employee’s overall well-being through diverse programs for mental, emotional, social, physical, and financial wellness, we see improvement in their impact and overall performance because they feel supported in these important aspects of their life. Having employees that feel supported and fulfilled leads to an improved company culture and increased retention rates which are not only imperative for the recruitment process but also for a company’s long-term sustainability performance.

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

One way we are supporting a “Work Well” culture at UCB is by implementing the inspace model. This model offers our leaders and employees four main work environments with unique design elements and functions. From quiet workspaces that promote individual tasks and confidential discussions, to open workspaces that foster connectivity, the four distinctly designed areas within inspace allow employees to tailor their environment to best suit their work activities and goals. Our inspace model is not only beneficial for our employees but also the environment. The inspace project achieved LEED Gold certification for implementing practical and measurable strategies and solutions in areas including sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

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 step individuals and teams can take to improve their overall well-being is to invest time every day in their mental health. To best serve patients, we need to best serve ourselves and make sure that we are not pouring from an empty cup. Intentionally setting aside time each day to be the best version of yourself is essential and should be encouraged in all organizations.

What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”

  1. Digital tools.
  • Many companies are utilizing digital tools to improve employee well-being. For example, there are now applications that employees can use to connect with fellow co-workers they may have never met before. At UCB, we utilize the UCB Well platform which allows employees to track their physical activity and compete with coworkers across the nation in health challenges. Digital tools like this also serve as a great way for colleagues to stay connected — including local colleagues who may be seeing each other in person less frequently.

2. Workplace wellness.

  • We are seeing a trend in companies adjusting the benefits they offer to make them more holistic. This ensures that employees have the resources to take care of themselves not only physically but also mentally. We have expanded our benefits and offer our employees benefits beyond the usual doctor, dental and vision package. For example, we now give employees free access to the Peloton app and several additional days off throughout the year to avoid burnout.

3. Flexible work.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to change our ways of working. I think having the flexibility to work a hybrid schedule is here to stay for many industries. Numerous companies have given up their office spaces and allow their employees to work completely remote. At UCB, we give eligible employees the option to work from home or come into the office. We recently opened our new Atlanta Warehouse for those that wish to come into the office. The Warehouse is designed in the inspace model which allows our employees to work in a dynamic work environment that stimulates innovation through enhanced collaboration and co-creation opportunities.

4. Diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  • Companies across all different industries are developing DE&I programs that are representative of all employees. Creating these programs allows employees to connect with others in their company that have the same background. They also allow co-workers from different backgrounds to learn about the different cultures and groups represented at their company. At UCB, we have several Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) including ACES (Asians Committed to Excellence and Success), Avid (UCB colleagues living with a health condition, a disability, or who are a caregiver), B.E.I.N.G (Black Employee Interconnecting Network Group), EMERGE (Generational ERG), RAÍZ (Hispanic and Latinx colleagues), UCB+ (LGBTQ+ colleagues), United For Veterans (Veterans and Veteran Champions) and WiL (Women in Leadership). All these groups play an important role in creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

5. Sustainability

  • Many employees expect employers to prioritize sustainability. At UCB, sustainability is an integral part of our business approach. Employee health, safety, and well-being health of the planet are but two of the pillars included in UCB’s sustainability commitment. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is also a critical enabler of our overall commitment. Each of these are integrated into how we operate and how we show up for our employees, our community, patients, and society. For me personally — this is a passion as I know this is how we create a better future for all. There is one area, health of the planet, we have not touched on and I am very proud of the measurable impact achieved, For example, we are dedicated to improving technology and energy efficiency in our facilities. At our newly renovated Atlanta headquarters, the Warehouse features a large sustainable kitchen focused on decreasing paper and plastic consumption by incorporating reusable/washable plates, silverware and glasses and promoting a farm-to-table approach to in-office dining allowing for a greater variety of fresh foods. The Warehouse also has two 8,000-gallon cisterns that have been installed to capture rainwater for landscape irrigation serving both the Warehouse project site and elsewhere on campus. This is sufficient to serve 100% of the annual irrigation needs for the landscape served by this system. In this example, we are investing in our employee’s health, safety, and wellness and the health of our planet (and community).

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

While COVID-19 had a profound impact on everyone, I think that one resulting silver lining is the greater emphasis now put on workplace wellness and employee health and well-being. During the height of the COVD-19 pandemic, we were forced to adapt to a new normal, including how and where we work. It’s been a catalyst to recalibrate and reimagine work/life balance and redefine the “office.” During this time, we were able to innovate new ways of ensuring our employees had the tools they needed to be healthy both physically and mentally from wherever they worked.

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?

Readers can connect with me on LinkedIn to stay current on what I’m discovering.

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