Experiments In Wellbeing

Leveraging scientific approaches and new technologies to enhance wellbeing in the workplace.

From bathtubs in ancient Greece to falling apples, the history of science is full of storied “Eureka” moments. Of course, the reality behind these big breakthroughs is rarely so instantaneous: The process of scientific discovery is more often long, intense and punctuated by failure. Scientists might go decades or even a lifetime without achieving their goals.

And yet in labs, offices and pretty much any other location you can imagine, people dedicate their careers to the pursuit of scientific progress. They work hard and persevere when they fail because they understand that they are part of a larger scientific community making progress towards solving the world’s most complex problems.

Our ability to bring transformative medicines to patients depends on the positive experience, engagement and resilience of everyone who works here.

I see it every day at Genentech: People in all kinds of different roles, driven by a common purpose and a sense of urgency to help those facing serious diseases. And I’m keenly aware that our ability to bring transformative medicines to patients depends on the positive experience, engagement and resilience of everyone who works here.

A Broader Perspective

Our company is dedicated to improving people’s health, but we can only succeed in that mission if our commitment to wellbeing starts right here in our own community. In 2014, we adopted a holistic approach to wellbeing by leveraging research from Gallup, which identified five essential elements of overall wellbeing: career, social, financial, community and physical/mental. The study concluded that challenges in any one of these could negatively affect a person’s wellbeing and significantly impact their daily life.

Though we were already providing a variety of solutions across these five elements — from career development programs to an onsite gym, dental clinic, and daycare — the research helped us realize that we needed to think about these benefits more holistically. And, by the same token, we knew we needed to create an environment that supported people while they are in the office as well as when they go home at the end of the day.

Meeting People Where They Are

Fast forward to today, we’ve built out a number of different offerings, resources and solutions within each of the pillars identified by Gallup, adding more and evolving them over time as we’ve learned what was and wasn’t useful from our employees’ perspective. And we’ve come to understand the importance of customization and that large, all-encompassing programs do not account for diverse needs or where people might be in their personal and professional lives at a particular moment in time.

A range of programs and services, provided in a variety formats - from in-person seminars and one-to-one interactions to videos and articles - allow people to pick, choose and personalize for their needs. And our approach to flexible working, for example, is not a rigid policy applied across the company but rather a philosophy that individual teams can use for guidance as they figure out what works best for them and their team members.

Digital Health

At Genentech and Roche we are leveraging new data insights and digital technologies to unlock the full potential of personalized healthcare and bring the right medicine to the right patient at the right time. We believe that customizing treatment plans for the individual patient presents a significant opportunity to improve health outcomes and positively disrupt the way people receive care.

We’re also applying this philosophy to our wellness programs, supporting our employees’ physical and mental health by offering new digital health tools that bring greater flexibility and customization for the individual. Three apps, in particular, have yielded significant results.

A group of employees in our product development group started using the meditation and mindfulness app Headspace® in 2015 and noticed that they felt more content and happier at home and work. After conducting experiments and reviewing the data, we were convinced. Today all 14,000 of our employees have free access to the app. Beyond learning the fundamentals of meditation, people are using Headspace to get better sleep, to help manage stress and anxiety, to relax and to be more mindful in their daily lives.

We must continue to experiment, broaden our horizons, and push beyond our corporate comfort zone if we are to help nurture the many complex components of wellbeing.

Doctor on Demand offers access to an urgent care doctor or psychologist through video visits on your phone or laptop. The results are significant: almost 20 percent of our employees have registered and since rolling out Doctor on Demand in 2015 we’ve seen a 13 percent drop in Emergency Room visits as more and more people are accessing care through this telemedicine solution.

Lastly, Sleepio is a sleep improvement app that uses cognitive behavioral therapy to alleviate insomnia. Too little or poor sleep has enormous health impacts: ten times greater risk of depression, 60 percent higher risk of obesity, and an average of 11 lost days of productivity.1,2,3 Genentech employees using Sleepio have reported impressive results: a 44 percent reduction in stress, 50 percent reduction in depression and anxiety, and 41 percent increase in productivity.

Experiment and Evolve

I’m excited by how far we’ve come and by the results we’ve seen but the journey is far from over. Through research, data and old school conversations we are learning every day. And we must continue to experiment, broaden our horizons, and push beyond our corporate comfort zone if we are to help nurture the many complex components of wellbeing.

For so many people work is such an integral part of their lives that I believe companies have both an opportunity and a responsibility to engage deeply on this topic. And, for Genentech in particular, I’m more convinced than ever of its importance: Fostering an environment where people feel valued, included and able to bring their best truly has the potential to fuel the future of scientific discovery and transform the lives of patients in need.

1 Cappuccio FP, Taggart FM, Kandala NB, Currie A, Peile E, Stranges S, Miller MA. Meta-analysis of short sleep duration and obesity in children and adults. Sleep. 2008 May;31(5):619-26.
2 Kessler RC, Berglund PA, Coulouvrat C, Hajak G, Roth T, Shahly V, Shillington AC, Stephenson JJ, Walsh JK. Insomnia and the performance of US workers: results from the America insomnia survey. Sleep. 2011 Sep 1;34(9):1161-71.
3 Ozminkowski RJ, Wang S, Walsh JK. The direct and indirect costs of untreated insomnia in adults in the United States. Sleep. 2007 Mar;30(3):263-73.