Quintiles (NYSE: Q) is in the business of making the world a healthier place. After all, the Durham-based global giant proudly touts the fact that it has helped develop or commercialize all of the top-50 best-selling drugs on the market. And the company likes to practice what he helps product where the health of 27,000 employees is concerned, too.

The RX for a healthier bottom line at the world’s largest life science services firm simply includes better employee health. A new award in the U.K. honored Quintiles for its commitment to a healthy workplace. 

Quintiles is “Britain’s Healthiest Large Company” as determined by a new survey of corporate health and welness programs as conducted  by health insurer PruHealth, consulting firm Mercer, and the Sunday Telegraph newspaper. Special recognition was given Quintiles for most smoke-free and most active company. 

In an exclusive interview,  Ann Skye, Associate Director of Employee Health Management talks about Quintiles’ commitment to employee health around the world, not just the U.K.

What is the significance of this honor to Quintiles other than the good publicity? Does this help with recruiting? Does it enhance the corporate reputation?

Yes, Quintiles operates in the global marketplace and this award will resonate with prospective employees from all regions. It shows we have programs in place that support health and well being and that employees can and do participate in them.

Why is the health of employees important to employers – from the standpoint of the individual and from the standpoint of the company?

Our people are our business and their health is paramount to our success. Healthy employees are more productive; they have more energy to collaborate with colleagues, create solutions and meet deadlines. They are more resilient, take fewer sick days and are more satisfied with their jobs.

How does investing resources/money in employee health initiatives help with the bottom line? With morale?

Calculating true ROI in employee health is challenging, given the multi factorial impacts on health outcomes. We don’t spend too much time generating those details, but most every time we evaluate a program and an outcome, we are satisfied that it is making a difference. Initiating or changing a culture, doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, it takes intention, persistence and communication.

Health is personal and making a meaningful connection with employees at the right time is our goal.

Does Quintiles track health traits (sick leave, life expectancy, etc.) and has there been an improvement over the years that the company believes can be linked at least in part to hits internal health initiatives?

We do. We deliver an online health risk assessment in 35 countries, reaching over half of our employee. This aggregate data shows us our current risks by geography and year over year changes. This is not a cohort analysis, but does give us some indication that we have some slight improvements in cardiovascular risk (cholesterol and blood pressure) in some regions.

Again, this sort of analysis is challenging. In some cases, no change is positive, as age marches on. One of the most compelling results is that employees with 3 or more health risks take 6 times the amount of sick leave, giving us motivation to continue programming to help employees become aware of and address their health risks, before they become a health issue with impacts on health costs and productivity.

What are some of the ways Quintiles tries to promote better health in the U.S. similar to or beyond those in the U.K.? Does Quintiles seek to improve employee health on a global basis? Based on the many countries and cultures in which you operate as a company, what are some of the cultural habits, diet and other factors that Quintiles seeks to address?

Some aspects of our global health management program reach all employees, such as travel health consultations, accident prevention and reporting, ergonomic support and our integration with corporate sustainability efforts. Others are offered on a more regional basis, such as our wellness web portal, employee assistance programs, tobacco free workplace, online health assessment, and onsite screening and flu vaccination programs.

We address health habits such as physical activity, nutrition, sleep and stress through interactive challenges, newsletters, success stories and more.

We are currently providing wellness programming to 71% of our global employee population.

Although there are cultural differences in terms of foods, physical activity, the expected roles of an employer and national health care, etc, there are far more commonalities.

All people want to have energy, feel well, be successful at their job and be around to enjoy their family and friends.

[QUINTILES ARCHIVE: Check out more than a decade of Quintiles stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]