Wellbeing initiatives ‘reduce risk of chronic disease’ for Baxter’s employees - Building a friendly workplace

Author: Liana Cafolla | Date: 6 Jul 2016

The healthcare company’s HRD for Greater China explained its three steps to building a better workplace at the annual Classified Post HR Conference

Finding that employees were becoming harder to attract and retain in a fast-paced working environment, Baxter Healthcare has implemented a series of steps to improve employees’ wellbeing and productivity.
The measures were part of the organisation’s strategy to become recognised as the ‘best place to work’, and saw the HR department put in place a three-tier programme, explained Kitty Zhao, human resources director for Greater China.
The scheme, designed to meet employees’ needs and create a friendlier workplace, is focused on three distinct areas: ‘Be Well’, ‘mobile office’, and flexible working arrangements.
Be Well
Baxter launched its global Be Well programme in 2007 to promote work-related and personal health. It invested in workplace facilities including a small onsite gym, a breast-feeding room for new mothers and adjustable desks. Staff rooms were equipped with devices to measure employees’ body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, and weight, to help them to keep track of their health.
Baxter also arranges for a monthly delivery of fresh fruit juices, and runs a sports club, healthy eating activities, family days and regular health lectures. Other wellness services provided include a smoking cessation clinic and an annual physical examination and report, where any health concerns are flagged up. And the company reports the programme has achieved impressive results. “Last year, globally, we actually reduced the risks for our employees of chronic disease,” said Zhao.
Mobile office
Already operating in the company’s Shanghai office, the mobile office was designed to deal with the twin challenges of the company’s fast growth coupled with the rising cost of office space.
As many employees frequently worked outside the office, desks were left unused each day. Now, employees have no fixed desks. Instead they check in every day and are allocated a desk, often sitting with different colleagues or teams on any given day.
Personal belongings are stored in individual lockers, while the new office features fewer enclosed spaces and can accommodate more people – between 1.2 and three people – at each desk. The new mobile office has also improved cooperation across teams. “It encourages a lot of collaboration and inspiration,” said Zhao.
Flexible working arrangements
Work-life balance plays a critical role in employees’ engagement at Baxter, where many staff – particularly mothers – work at home, explained Zhao. This need to be flexible is facilitated by enabling employees to connect easily to the company’s computer network, she said.
The organisation administers its flexible working arrangements on an ad-hoc basis, with the only criteria being that line managers must be informed of any arrangements. The options available include working a four-day week of 10-hour days, opting to work half-days only, or to work one day a week from home.
Implementing the system has required some education of line managers, admits Zhao, as “some feel if they do not see their employees that they have no control”.