Welcome to Novo Nordisk in the United States

Late to the party or just in time?

By Maryellen McQuade

Recently we launched a campaign on creating flexible work options here at Novo Nordisk. And we’re really proud of that fact. But when I tell HR colleagues from other companies about this, they look at me a bit perplexed. It's true that this approach isn’t "new" and was a very "hot" trend in the early 2000s. Now we’ve seen companies like Yahoo, Best Buy, IBM, Reddit and others pull back from offering work flexibility to their employees. Does that mean we’re at the wrong end of this trend? More importantly, why do we think we need to focus on this?


To answer that, let me quickly define flexible work options for employees at our U.S. headquarters. For Novo Nordisk, these include:

  • Flextime, in which the beginning and end times of the workday can be altered to be mutually beneficial to the employee and the business
  • Remote work, giving employees the ability to do work at an alternative location to the home office
  • A Compressed Workweek, which is a formal plan to work longer hours per day in order to work less days during the week
  • Job-Sharing, where employees can share the responsibilities of one full-time position, working fewer than five standard days per person within a week

The rationale and benefits of this are obvious. We’re seeing the growth of the remote worker – this work force grew by nearly 80 percent between 2005 and 2012. Commutes are getting longer, and we’ve seen technology enable us to collaborate effectively even when we’re not in the same space.

And, business has taken a different view on flexible work options. When I look back at the flexible work options that rolled out in the early 2000s, it’s clear that organizations were using them as a lever to save space, and ultimately money. This was at a time when companies were looking at low-hanging fruit to get at the cost savings shareholders were putting so much pressure on. I think where a lot of these companies may have missed the mark is their focus on creating the infrastructure to support flexibility but not so much the processes that sustain productivity and engagement.

We believe such workforce efforts must be based on an organizational need that goes beyond a short-term desire to cut costs. As a result, we’ve enhanced our flexible work options as part of a comprehensive workforce plan that considers the longer term.

So why now? It’s simple:

  • Work isn’t always 9-to-5 anymore: We have a growing number, 24 percent of employees (including me), working global projects that require conference calls or work at “off hours”
  • Age shapes attitude: As our employees get older, their family requirements change and they need the room to “be there” so they can “be here,” either because of child care or taking care of other family members
  • Meet employees where they are: Our best talent might not always be able to work out of our Plainsboro office, and if we’re committed to leveraging their skill, we need to be flexible

Most importantly, we found that it’s happening anyway: I would be hard pressed to find anyone here who doesn’t use some sort of flexibility in their work, whether it’s a compressed week, remote work, or flexing their start/end times. For example, we have someone in one of our non-commercial functions who prefers to work in the office because he feels more productive here. However, he’s often flexing his hours as it allows him to accomplish more work in the evening hours when it tends to be quiet around the building.

As the person accountable for attracting and retaining top talent, I don’t want a barrier to be location or office hours, both of which are increasingly irrelevant in a digital world. So, yes, we might be late to the party for flexible work options... but we are just in time for what our people and our company need moving forward.

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Thank you for being cognizant of the work-life balance for today's professionals. Too many companies are missing the mark in this area. It is very encouraging to read behind an HR director for a company who sees and is working towards taking care of their employees first, which better enables the employee to take care of their business for the company. Excellent!
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Kudos on your refreshingly pragmatic and transparent outlook on achieving success by productively nurturing talent and creating harmony through flexible work/life balance and a healthier work environment.
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Great efforts to attract, retain and meet needs of talent and the company. thanks for sharing. hope all is well :)
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i am a director of nursing at Vanderbilt University hospital in Nashville with over 20+ years nursing and leadership experience. I love sales and am exploring leaving my nursing career for a sales career but would love to only do it part-time. I think this is a fantastic program.
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