Pioneering Employer 2023: Well-being on three fronts

Health and well-being are at the core of the pharmaceutical research company Galapagos. Not only through developing pioneering research into new drugs but at the same time there is equal focus on the importance of the well-being of its own employees and the health of the planet.

A recent survey to explore sustainability at Galapagos showed that employees, management and external partners including patient organisations and research organisations, believed themes such as ‘health’ and ‘innovation’ were widely associated with Galapagos.

“It is striking how closely the vision of our people matched that of our external partners,” says Marc Van Meldert, Head of Environment, Health and Safety. “Our commitment to health is in the broadest sense of the word: health of patients and employees, the company and the planet.”

“In doing so, we especially want to inspire, and encourage our employees to take action. That is the common thread in everything we do,” says Annelies Missotten, Senior Vice President Human Resources. 

Annelies Missotten (Senior VP, Human Resources) and Marc Van Meldert (Head of Environment, Health and Safety): “We want to inspire and encourage our employees to take action.”

Sustainable mobility
For a pioneering employer, sustainability and mobility go hand in hand. At Galapagos, encouraging exercise such as cycling is an important part of that, with a bike leasing program, more bike parking and charging stations for electric bikes. Marc Van Meldert: “Our employees are clearly open to this, because it’s good for their health as well as their carbon footprint.” 

Make it happiness
The renewed global policy on well-being at work was given the slogan ‘Make it happiness’, a nod to Galapagos’ baseline: ‘Make it happen’. “We want to actively involve our employees in our initiatives around well-being. Healthy employees who feel good about themselves work better together and can push boundaries together,” says Annelies Missotten.

The actions focus on three fronts: physical, mental and social well-being, with each domain clearly linked to the others. “Cycling or walking together is both good for yourself and for the group feeling,” says Missotten. Galapagos wants to inspire employees as much as possible, for example through the Headspace app. “That gives tips and exercises around exercise, sleep and concentration, and is therefore much more than just a meditation app. At our company, the app has enabled the growth of a real community.”

Five minutes
Well-being is sometimes in small things. In Mechelen, for example, the spontaneous idea arose to shorten every scheduled meeting by five minutes. “That seems like a small action, but the effect is very big: employees no longer rush from one meeting to the next but can relax in between.” And so there are numerous other small, local initiatives in which employees help shape welfare policy.

For more information on the ‘Pioneering Employer’ initiative, consult (Dutch and French). You can find the interview with Annelies and Marc in Dutch and French here: