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IBM: Well-Being Management System

Updated on December 13, 2017

by Amber Maccione

Stress happens to us in every aspect of our lives, whether in our personal life or our work life. In our work life, stress can come from organizational stress – stress that results from “factors in an organization that cause stress for the individual employee and in turn, have negative organizational consequences” (Manning & Preston, 2003). Some of these factors are changes in workloads, changes in management, changes in the structure of the company, changes in roles and tasks, and quality of communication (Manning & Preston, 2003). The consequences of such factors are employee absenteeism, employee burnout, company turnover, strained interpersonal relationships, poor job performance, and unraveling of positive communication (Manning & Preston, 2003). The power of a company starts with first understanding what causes stress and the results that stress can bring (Smith & Segal, 2014). IBM is a company that does understand the causes and results. Therefore, they officially developed a formal policy that addressed employee health, well-being, and workplace safety in 1967 although they had been practicing this long before Thomas J. Watson, Jr. created the formal policy (IBM).

Two Plans

IBM has a passion for well-being and incorporates it into every aspect of their company (IBM). IBM is a global company. Therefore, making sure that every aspect of their company is covered in this area is challenging because they have to think about things globally. Global economic, demographic, and healthcare causes challenges for them to ensure health, safety, and well-being (IBM). Hence, they need to have a total healthcare management framework that implements programs that promote physical and psychological health and provide coordinated and consistent approaches in all areas of the globe that their company touches (IBM).

IBM has two plans to ensure well-being for their employees. The plans are implemented globally, but differentiate themselves locally to ensure that all aspects of well-being are addressed according to that geographic location (IBM). IBM has the Integrated Health Services Organization and the Well-Being Management System (WBMS). The Integrated Health Services Organization provides information on occupational medicine, industrial hygiene, and safety; offers health benefits and wellness professional; and implements employee well-being programs (IBM).


The Well-Being Management System (WBMS) is ever changing because it was created to always have proactive planning, executive excellence, measurement, and continuous improvement (IBM). IBM understands that in order for their well-being programs to work, they need to keep the organizational culture vital and relevant to the people who need it (Woodbury, 2006). When a company sees that the organization isn’t doing that, they must transform the organization so that it does (Woodbury, 2006). Therefore, they created a system that will meet the well-being needs of the company’s employees and also change as time and geographic demand. WBMS follows a plan-do-check-act system where it plans, implements, evaluates, and reviews all programs to ensure that it is up to date with the location and employee needs (IBM). It is being monitored and audited to provide for corrective and preventative health and safety actions (IBM). Each year, strategic planning is done to discuss new global objectives that can be translated locally (IBM).

IBM has a corporate policy that states that it is responsible for the employee’s well-being and product safety. This policy is the foundation for the WBMS (IBM). WBMS was started in 1999 as a global centralized system that connects occupational medicine, industrial hygiene, safety, wellness and health benefits, and strategic initiatives and programs to IBM’s strategies of manufacturing, research and development, and sales and services (IBM). The system is tiered with the first tiers focusing on global and the second tier focusing on the geographic (IBM). It is regularly reviewed for efficacy, efficiency, and consistency by collecting input from management, staff, and external reviews (IBM).


Why WBMS is successful

IBM’s WBMS is so successful not only because it is continuously being evaluated and restructured to meet the needs of the employees, but also because it is easily accessible to the employee with “on-demand access to health risk assessment tools and professional guidance to assist them in developing personal health improvement plans”, “strategic use of technology and creative approaches”, and “engagement in health improvement [that provides] on-demand access to flexible behavior-based programming” (IBM). These behavior-based programs help the employee see their readiness for changes they can make with their lifestyles, provides resources so they can take action toward their health goals, and makes accessible online communities and teams to give social support to the employee (IBM).


Another aspect of the WBMS is that IBM provides a section that is responsible for encouraging that employees take part in the programs with their Global Wellness Initiatives (IBM). There are four care elements: investing in prevention and primary care, supporting health system reform, developing programs for healthy lifestyles among employees and their families, and scaling programs and services through web-based healthcare tools (IBM). The purpose is to “challenge employees to become active and informed participants in their own health” (IBM). This section of WBMS is keen on helping the employee receive clinical preventative services, become active in their lifestyles, reach a healthy weight and keep it, learn and establish a healthy diet, and become smoke-free individuals (IBM). One way U.S. locations are doing this is through IBM Healthy Living Rebate programs which offer financial incentives to the employees who strive to create a healthy lifestyle in all areas of their life (IBM).



IBM has been recognized globally for their efforts in the well-being health management that they offer their employees. In 2007, they were awarded the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series 18001 certification because of their excellence. This was reaffirmed again in 2008 and 2009 (IBM). IBM has also been recognized with the global OSHA Voluntary Protection Program’s Star Award Program, which recognizes corporations “that demonstrate leadership in workplace injury and illness prevention and who have been successful in reducing workplace hazards” (IBM). They have received several awards with the several U.S. locations receiving the highest recognition (IBM).

Would you want to work at IBM just because of their health plan/well-being management system?

See results

IBM should be the model to all over corporations on how to effectively implement and maintain a well-being system for their employees. Stress is an aspect of a business. For it to succeed, the employees need to be taken care off. Stress is a part of that. If employees have access to programs that help them manage their stress and health – their well being, the corporation will have taken care of a large part of their success. IBM has done this. They have taken the time to care for their employees so that their employees can do their jobs effectively and help the company complete its mission.


IBM. (n.d.). “Employee Well-Being.” IBM. Retrieved from

Manning, D. & Preston, A. (2003). “Organizational Stress: Focusing on Ways to Minimize Distress.” CUPA-HR Journal. Vol. 54, No. 2. Retrieved from (website no longer available)

Smith, M. & Segal, R. (January 2014). “Stress Management: How to reduce, Prevent, & Cope with Stress.” Retrieved from

Woodbury, T.J. (2006). “Building Organizational Culture – Word by Word.” Leader to Leader Journal. No. 39. Retrieved from

© 2014 Amber


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    • michaelrbasso profile image

      Michael R Basso, PhD, MBA, 3 years ago from USA Greater NYC area

      Nice article! Excessive maladaptive stress is the number one public health issue, with ramifications regarding mental, emotional, and physical wellness, productivity and the "human side of quality."