Gilead Sciences is a research-based biopharmaceutical company that discovers and develops innovative medicines in areas of unmet medical need.

Its aim is to transform and simplify care for people with life-threatening illnesses – such as HIV/Aids, liver disease and cancer – around the world. Founded in California in 1987, Gilead floated on the US Nasdaq stock market in 2002, and it now employs more than 7,000 people worldwide. Around 110 of these employees are based in the UK, divided between the international head office in West London and a sales and marketing team in Cambridge.


As you would expect from a company whose business is healthcare, Gilead takes the wellbeing of its employees very seriously, and recognises that a healthy workforce is a key component of its business success. In the UK, Gilead has been working alongside Vitality since 2009, and Vitality’s incentives to get active – combined with rewards for choosing a healthier lifestyle – remain core to the company’s wellness programme.

These sterling efforts haven’t gone unnoticed: last year, Gilead became the first overall winner of the Britain’s Healthiest Company award in the small-sized company category. It also received the Healthiest Workplace award in the same category.

So how exactly has Vitality helped encourage and ensure this success? Put simply, Vitality offers incentives for employees to engage with the company’s wellness initiatives and focus on their own personal health goals. It rewards people for understanding their current health, then taking steps to improve it by getting active, eating well and giving up smoking. Vitality offers a range of exciting from discounted gym membership, fitness equipment and health checks, to weekly cinema tickets and cashback on holidays – all of which have proven popular with Gilead’s staff.


One of the key success factors for driving wellness in any organisation is ensuring employees are committed to the cause,” says Lesley Taylor, HR associate at Gilead . “A big part of that is communication. You have to think about your audience and engage those employees to be part of this initiative. But for a wellness programme to work well, you don’t just need the buy-in of your senior managers; it’s also a good idea to identify some workforce champions who can encourage engagement. Working with people like Vitality, as we have, helps bring these initiatives together and turn them into a success.

One way in which the company is getting the message across is by holding regular Wellness Days. These give employees the chance to learn about different ways to improve their health and fitness, share new ideas and get tested for key indicators such as blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol levels. Students from Cambridge Cookery School have also been invited to encourage good nutrition by creating and serving a healthy lunch. Perhaps most crucially, these Wellness Days feature a question and answer session that provides the opportunity to identify what – if anything – is missing from the programme and which aspects could be communicated more effectively.


Engagement with a wellness scheme is an ongoing process, and this is something that Gilead clearly recognises and addresses effectively. So what has been the overall impact of this award-winning programme on productivity and performance? “It has definitely had a positive impact,” says Lesley. “It has made our employees feel more engaged because they feel better. There’s less absenteeism, so we are definitely a more productive workforce.”

Ultimately, winning the Britain’s Healthiest Company awards is a testament to the efforts of everyone involved. However, Gilead’s success also highlights the business case for investing in employee health and wellbeing. Absenteeism alone costs the UK economy more than £15 billion each year, according to an independent 2011 review. Anything employers can do to invest in the health of their workforce is guaranteed to pay dividends in the long term.

Advisers: see how Britain’s Healthiest Company can boost your business:

Britain’s Healthiest Company is an annual award scheme that recognises businesses that are doing more to support staff wellbeing. In the process, it aims to reduce absence rates, increase employee engagement and boost company profits. The initiative provides ample chances to build more success stories among your clients, so make sure you seize the opportunity.

  • It’s a conversation opener. Britain’s Healthiest Company – and Vitality’s key role in last year’s success story – provides a useful talking point with clients and potential clients alike.
  • It shows how Vitality works. You can highlight the Gilead story as a clear illustration of how Vitality can be core to a company’s wellness scheme, incentivise the workforce and reap real rewards for both employees and employers.
  • It can boost your profile. Nominate your clients for this year’s Britain’s Healthiest Company to increase engagement and build a strong working relationship. Nominations and awards can act as invaluable testimonials when seeking new business.
  • Get involved now. Find out more about this year’s awards and register to participate at www.britainshealthiestcompany.co.uk
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