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How Horizon Therapeutics’ CHRO is putting employee caregivers first

August 19, 2022, 12:58 PM UTC
Horizon Therapeutics CHRO Irina Konstantinovsky
Horizon Therapeutics' CHRO Irina Konstantinovsky is doubling down on wellness benefits and support for employee caregivers.
Courtesy of Horizon Therapeutics

Good morning!

For today’s Friday spotlight, meet Irina Konstantinovsky, executive vice president and chief human resources and chief diversity officer at Horizon Therapeutics, who shares how she infuses the company’s culture of understanding and listening into her role leading HR. Known for researching and developing medicines for people with rare diseases, leaders at the company have doubled down on benefits for caregivers and are experimenting with an innovative array of perks to support employee wellness. 

Konstantinovsky joined the biopharmaceutical company in 2017 following stints as the vice president of global talent at Baxter International and senior partner and director roles at human resources consulting firm Towers Watson. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

How has Horizon’s culture of understanding and listening influenced how you think about leading wellness for employees at the company?

Making employees a priority—and wellness programs are a big component of that—creates trust and loyalty. For years companies claimed employees were the biggest asset but didn’t really invest in them. I don’t believe employees are “assets.” They have choices, especially in this labor market. We commit significant time and resources to ensuring we are making it easy for our workforce to have access to options they need to be well. 

Wellness needs are very personal, so we offer a wide variety of programs to meet those needs via three pillars: mental, physical, and financial [health]. Programs include an onsite fitness center and virtual exercise classes, wellness reimbursement accounts, mental health resources, an employee assistance program, resources and seminars on time and energy management… Our benefits and wellness team monitors what employees are asking for through post-program surveys and wellness focus groups and stays apprised of what new offerings we can provide.

It sounds like Horizon does a lot for employees who are caretakers. Why is this so important? 

Technology and the pandemic have increased the demand on an employee’s personal and professional time. And our workforce is multi-generational, meaning we have colleagues at Horizon in all facets of their career. Additionally, our employees are patients or caregivers to family members living with health conditions. As a result, we are very proactive in searching for benefits that support a variety of caregiving scenarios: equal parental leave benefits, caregiver leave, onsite daycare, support for senior care planning, backup care for children and seniors, tuition assistance, and even pet care. Employees can access 24/7 support. Our goal is to demonstrate that we hear and understand their unique needs. 

You mentioned Horizon offers onsite daycare. Can you share why the company has chosen to invest in this and how it contributes to employee wellness?

Investing in onsite daycare is an extension of our commitment to our employees. “Little Horizons” is provided in partnership with Bright Horizons. And parents have the peace of mind that their child is close, safe and taken care of. Since opening in January 2021, all the feedback has been positive. We currently have around 40 children enrolled in classes ranging from infant to pre-kindergarten. 

Horizon is also notably making a change next year to its time off policy—employees now have a week in which everyone is off at the same time. Why is this possibly better than offering unlimited vacation days?

Because we really value employee wellbeing, we are trying something new related to time off in 2023. Employees told us that the days we all have off together are the days that help them recharge the most, whereas when taking time off separately, some feel they need to check email or end up having an increased amount of work to catch up on when they return to work. In other words, it’s challenging to be “off” when the rest of the business is still operating and in need of support. 

So next year we will have a total of 37 days off for anyone with less than five years of service at the company including PTO, company holidays, a summer break, an end of the year shutdown, several company-wide wellness days, and one personal day for each employee. We increased the number of company days off by seven days.

We looked at unlimited vacations policies and learned that they often result in employees taking less time off because the rules are not as clear. People don’t feel they own this time and it’s harder to ask for time-off. The overall goal is for the employee to truly be able to disconnect in a significant way that allows them to rest and recharge. 

Last, but not least, what does wellness mean to you as a CHRO? How has the culture at Horizon shaped your own personal relationship to wellness? 

For me, wellness is really focusing and being attentive to the three pillars I mentioned—mental, physical and financial [health]. I take advantage of the different programs we offer depending on my own personal needs. As a company we cannot function optimally if our employees are struggling, and we want to help employees focus on their wellness in meaningful ways.

I want to hear from you! What are the biggest HR challenges and priorities today? Reach out to me at I’m hosting 15-minute desksides with HR and DEI executives. You could see your response in a future newsletter.

Amber Burton

Reporter's Notebook

The most compelling data, quotes and insights from the field.

There’s been a lot of news this week about the return to the office… or the lack thereof. And if you’re anything like me, you’re suffering from a bit of whiplash on the subject. But one insightful conversation I stumbled upon prior to heading into the weekend was an interview on The Ezra Klein Show podcast with writers Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel about their research on the merits of remote and hybrid work. Their 2021 book, Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home, chronicles the still very much broken nature of work. 

It’s a long listen—about an hour and 30 minutes in length. But what stood out was Warzel’s belief that we’ve carried all the worst cultural traits of in-office work into our new hybrid spaces: 

“There’s this idea that our workdays are actually just getting longer because we are porting that office mentality into the rest of our lives. And so I think that’s the danger here, which is that we fall into this situation… because of the fact that we’re running this controlled experiment in real time, to continue the metaphor, we don’t have the ability to take stock of what we’re doing to ourselves.”

Around the Table

- Following the overturn of Roe v. Wade, companies like Disney, Apple, and Netflix announced policies to cover employee travel expenses for out of state for reproductive care. But some say tying abortion access to employers could be a “shaky safety net” leaving women far too dependent on their jobs’ willingness to provide care. The Atlantic

- Google’s salaried employees are pushing the company to extend its abortion access policies to contract and temporary workers, as well. The tech giant’s current policy for eligible employees pays for care-related travel, as well as relocation, no questions asked. CNBC

- Increasingly hybrid office settings are breeding a new kind of workplace anxiety, leaving some to stress over the question: “Am I the only one not going in?” NPR

- Booz Allen Hamilton is being sued by a former employee who alleges she faced retaliation after seeking accommodations to work remotely several days a month due to severe migraines. Her lawyers argue that the company breached the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Washington Post


Everything you need to know from Fortune. 

The risks of long COVID. Wondering how long COVID could affect workers? The risk of cognitive disorders increases for as long as two years after a COVID diagnosis, according to a new study in the medical journal The Lancet Psychiatry. The study found that patients were 36 times more likely to be diagnosed with brain fog and 33 times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than patients of other respiratory illnesses. —Nicholas Gordon

Employee satisfaction. What are the top two most satisfying jobs according to Gen Z? Corporate recruiting and marketing, according to a survey from Glassdoor. Though in the early stages of their careers, the generation appears to prefer shaping the workforce and brands of the companies in which they work. —Tristan Bove

Securing the bag. Apple settled a $30.5 million lawsuit for unpaid hours in which it subjected store employees to mandatory bag checks. In the lawsuit, originally filed in 2013, two employees alleged the time spent on bag checks at the end of their shifts was compensable under state law. —Alice Hearing

Work-from-home parenting. Almost 30% of parents with children under the age of five reported taking unpaid leave to handle childcare, and nearly 40% reported using paid leave, according to a survey by the Census Bureau. Fortune’s Megan Leonhardt explains that the root cause of the issue is understaffed daycares, which still haven’t rebounded from pre-pandemic job losses. —Megan Leonhardt

This is the web version of CHRO Daily, a newsletter focusing on helping HR executives navigate the needs of the workplace. Today’s edition was curated by Paolo Confino. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.