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Four ways a global healthcare firm improved the lives of its staff

Published: 18/01/2022

Danish company Novo Nordisk utilised the Vitality Programme to engage its employees in sustained behaviour change, improving their health, wellbeing and productivity as a result.

Vitality has supported the workplace wellbeing of global healthcare firm Novo Nordisk for longer than 10 years. A pharmaceutical firm which specialises in treating diabetes and other serious chronic diseases, it carries this powerful objective – to make people healthier - through to the way it cares for its staff.

Through this partnership, the organisation uses the Vitality Programme, the world’s largest health promotion programme linked to insurance, to engage its employees in healthier behaviour and to boost staff productivity.

According to data collected over a number of years as part of a recent case study, Novo Nordisk has observed four key improvements within its workforce.

1. Increased employee engagement

Engagement with health and wellbeing interventions is crucial to delivering positive behaviour change. Without it, any attempt to make any long-lasting impact on workplace wellbeing would be unsuccessful. Through offering incentives as part of a seamless, digital user journey, the Vitality Programme has been shown to boost participation in health and wellbeing initiatives. A key measure of this is whether employers are earning regular Vitality points by recording physical activity.

On average, over 50% of Novo Nordisk employees were earning activity points between 2015 and 2020, while 30% were highly engaged (earning 12 or more points per week). This is compared to the industry average engagement for digital health programmes, which is less than 10%1.

Between 2015 and 2020, the proportion of employees achieving Silver, Gold or Platinum status through Vitality almost doubled to 45% of all employees, indicating sustained engagement over time. As well as tracking physical activity, they achieved this through a combination of healthy behaviours such as taking an online Vitality Health Review and participating in Vitality Healthchecks.

2. Initiated behaviour change

With a highly engaged workforce, it much easier to positively change key employee lifestyle behaviours which impact on long-term health, life expectancy and workplace productivity. By benchmarking Novo Nordisk employee behaviours alongside workplace wellbeing study Britain’s Health Workplace (BHW) data, we assessed staff behaviours over time across four areas: physical activity, nutrition, body mass index (BMI) and mental health. For each one, employees’ health percentages either remained consistent or improved over time.

By 2019, as many as 87% of Novo Nordisk employees reported doing at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, compared to 69% in 2015. More than two thirds (67%) were eating healthily by 2019, compared to 46% in 2015.

Novo Nordisk employees fared better than the BHW industry average across three out of four healthy behaviours.

3. Enhanced productivity

Studies show employees who are more engaged with their health and wellbeing enjoy higher levels of productivity and better job satisfaction. More engaged employees have been shown to record 28% fewer sickness episodes and 46% shorter lengths of absences, as well as being 150% more likely to report high job satisfaction2.

Novo Nordisk employees benefit from 11 additional days of productive time per year3  due to positive changes to their lifestyle. This equates to 24.4 days lost to presenteeism and absenteeism in 2020 compared 35.6 in 2015 - a total saving of £1,300 per employee per year4.

As well as improved long-term health and wellbeing5  and higher levels of productivity, which is good for individual members of the workforce as well as employers, Novo Nordisk employees on average also benefited from £200 in additional value through Vitality rewards each year6.

4. Reduced healthcare costs

As a result of healthier lifestyle choices, an employee can reduce their long-term health risk, leading to less likelihood of health treatment being needed, as well as improved outcomes in the event that they do.

Vitality member data demonstrates that highly physically active members aged 60 and over are 51% less likely to be hospitalised each year7. Those in the age 20 to 40 bracket are 22% less likely and those between 40 and 60 are 30% less likely8.

A reduction in overall claims costs can drive greater sustainability in pricing for corporate clients. This was also the case for Novo Nordisk, which benefited from a 28% reduction in private medical insurance (PMI) premiums per year over a three-year period, without any reduction in benefit limits.

In addition to the Vitality Programme, Vitality offers a range of services which support employee health and wellbeing engagement for businesses of all sizes.
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1. As measured alongside Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey data
2. Vitality People Study, 2018
3. Structural equation modelling based on sample on a sample of 31,950 participants in the 2017 Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey and using Novo Nordisk employees’ reported health changes across a three-year period
4. Based on average UK income of £586 per week (ONS)
5. Engaged Vitality members benefit from 1.5 years improved life expectancy, Vitality member data 2019-2020
6. Vitality data: average annual value per employee 2015-2019
7. A Bayesian Network was used for causal inference and the expected impact of changes in lifestyle behaviours estimated using do-calculus. Models were built on Vitality Life and Health customer data between 2016 and 2020
8. Highly active classed as 5+ active days per week. Incremental benefits also seen at lower numbers of active days