Case study: Astellas staff walk to improve health

Pharmaceutical firm Astellas offers its staff a long-term programme to improve their activity and stress levels, weight and motivation.

Since 2010, the organisation has taken part in the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) wellbeing initiative, which measures participants’ daily activity levels through the number of steps they take, promoting a goal of 10,000 steps a day.

From 2010 to 2013, the number of Astellas employees that took part in the GCC has risen from 245 to 1,365, almost a third of its 4,500 workforce across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Rachel Hollier, HR programme manager at Astellas, says: “Employee wellness is a key part of our strategy. This is one of our key initiatives for that. It’s quite fun and a nicely collaborative and competitive way of encouraging employee wellness. It fits in well with the other things we do.”

The organisation’s UK headquarters gives staff the opportunity to join a bikes-for-work scheme, walking and running clubs, and take part in netball, football and tennis using its onsite sports pitches.  

The statistics Astella receives from the GCC demonstrate the effect the programme has on employees’ health: pre-GCC, in 2012, 35% of its employees said they were inactive, taking fewer than 5,000 steps a day, but post-GCC, this figure went down to 9.4%. Highly active employees, who take more than 12,500 steps a day, made up only 7.1% of the workforce before the event, but afterwards they reached 50%.

Steve Hoblyn, senior director, employee engagement and HR effectiveness at Astellas, says: “Fundamentally, being a pharma company, our raison d’etre is to improve the lives of patients around the world, but from an HR perspective, we need to bring that internally and improve the lives of our employees. The health and wellness part of that is critical.”