HOMECase Studies Sprint Corporation 2
U.S. Headquarters
Overland Park, KS
Number of Employees
31,000
Industry
Information

Sprint Corporation 2

Setting the Standard for Mental Health & Well-Being at Sprint

Sprint creates innovative ways for people to connect through various communication technologies and products. Sprint also emphasizes the importance of connecting within the organization through its support programs and among its employees. Sprint has incorporated a total well-being approach that weaves a holistic view of wellness through a wide range of benefits and programs available to Sprint employees and their families. This article highlights the various programs at Sprint that support mental and behavioral health more directly—as part of total well-being—recognizing that all of these components interact and reinforce one another.

Total Well-being

Under the leadership of Collier Case, director of health and productivity at Sprint, a total well-being approach was adopted to include the pillars of physical, career, financial, social, and community well-being. This approach was adopted in the fall of 2011 after Sprint team members were introduced to the concept through the book Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements written by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, PhD. This well-being approach resonated with Case and his team as a framework to break down silos and reinforce existing programs that Sprint offers employees and their families. Using this lens to view their programs, Case worked to increase collaboration among Sprint program managers, as well as among external vendors. Having oversight over multiple programs, including medical, life and disability benefits, the employee assistance program (EAP), leave programs, retirement and wealth, and Sprint Alive! (the condition assistance and wellness program), his team already worked within many of the well-being elements he calls pillars.

Collier W. Case is a member of the Partnership Advisory Council. He led a depression initiative at Sprint that was used as an example by the Mid-America Coalition on Health Care as a part of the Kansas City Community Initiative on Depression in 2005. Read more in Sprint Charts New Course in Healthcare; Launches Depression Initiative.

Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, PhD

Well-being Element

Element Description

CAREER well-being

How you occupy your time or simply liking what you do every day

SOCIAL well-being

Having strong relationships and love in your life

FINANCIAL well-being

Effectively managing your economic life

PHYSICAL well-being

Having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis

COMMUNITY well-being

The sense of engagement you have with the area where you live

Rath and Harter both work at Gallup, where research in the area of well-being has been measured in the United States since 2008 through the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®. Rath states that there is a cumulative advantage to programs that support multiple well-being elements to bring about overall health (Gallup, n.d.). Moreover, Rath indicates that when individuals have higher levels of overall well-being, there is a reduction in the number of sick days taken, which is an incentive to companies to invest in well-being (McCarthy, 2010). The State of american Well-Being: 2013 State, Community and Congressional District Analysis, which reports the most recent findings of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, suggests that employers are best served when there is an influencing leader who champions overall well-being efforts and that “successful programs are those that continually educate and motivate individuals to engage and make systematic changes in their lives that improve their well-being” (Gallup & Healthways, 2014). The analysis further indicates a strong connection between well-being, healthcare costs, and engagement in the workplace and that, “simply stated, people with higher well-being cost less and perform better” (Gallup & Healthways, 2014).

Sprint Alive

Begun in 2005, Sprint Alive! is an integrated approach to assist employees and family members on a path to the “right care,” linking aspects of wellness with the health plan facilitated by health advocates. This program is contracted through Optum, which provides Sprint with total health management solutions. “Right care” is defined as the most appropriate level of care according to the individual’s needs and the resources available. Sprint Alive! provides a health advocate to help employees and their families navigate the resources available to them; manage their conditions; evaluate treatment options; get health information; and improve their health status through smoking cessation, weight loss, and exercise. The Optum health advocates, who are all registered nurses (RNs), also find healthcare providers and schedule appointments. Stacey Nelson, SPHR, manager of health and welfare at Sprint, said, “Our vendor partners are fully integrated with our Sprint culture and programs.” This integration crosses all health conditions and ensures that employees receive referrals for the best overall care.

Behavioral health is also integrated into the Sprint Alive! program. The health advocates often refer cases to behavioral specialists through the EAP for active-case management. This is particularly important, because people with chronic medical conditions that are comorbid with behavioral conditions significantly increase the medical spend compared to people without behavioral conditions. Additional plans at Sprint include an upcoming review to understand comorbidity of mental disorders and other diseases, such as cardiac illness. This review aims to find where additional support to covered persons can be provided to help them return to full health. This “right-care” approach of addressing physical and behavioral aspects fits together with both the physical well-being pillar and the financial well-being pillar through cost savings to the individual and the organization. Through the health advocates’ work, coordinated care for employees and covered persons resulted in 262 members receiving a combined savings of nearly $74,600 between 2012 and 2013.

Table 1. Sprint Alive! Return on Investment (ROI)

Sprint Alive! ROI in Connection to Behavioral Health

2012

2013

Number of behavioral engagements

103

159

Combined savings for right-care support to members

$32,921

$41,670

Referrals to EAP behavioral health specialists

257

604

Short-term Disability and Health Plans: Sprint Alive! health advocates are also connected to other programs, further strengthening the total well-being approach. Disability management is an example. Sprint administers its own short-term disability claims and has identified that, among covered persons, 16.2% of non-maternity days paid were due to mental illness in 2014, down from 19.0% in 2013. The health advocates help Sprint employees and their families—who face these disorders or other reasons requiring a leave of absence—navigate the healthcare system and receive information about EAP services that provide additional support.

On-site Clinics: Sprint also operates on-site clinics at its two largest locations: the Overland Park, Kansas headquarters (approximately 6,700 employees) and its operations in Reston, Virginia (approximately 1,600 employees). These clinics are care facilities that provide annual health exams, well-women and -children exams, screenings, physical therapy, and behavioral health referrals. The services are available to employees and their families. The clinicians actively promote and refer patients to the EAP or Sprint Alive! as appropriate. In 2013, clinicians made over 1,800 such referrals.

Employee Assistance Program: Nelson, the manager of health and welfare, mentioned that having a strong EAP partner vendor can be a low-cost, convenient option for employers to encourage early intervention and avoid or reduce behavioral healthcare claims. Sprint partners with EAP vendor ComPsych through a program called Guidance Resources. Counseling services related to behavioral health include unlimited telephonic counseling and three face-to-face sessions. The following table shows the top presenting issues within the EAP service for behavioral health and reported outcomes for the past few years. Users of the EAP services report positive outcomes within the three face-to-face sessions for behavioral challenges. The early intervention and resolution of issues with EAP counselors potentially leads to less time away from work at no additional cost to the employee. In March 2014, the Overland Park location added on-site EAP counselor services, provided by ComPsych, for 2 days per week. A total of 87 individuals took advantage of this on-site service through November 2014, with an average of 1.5 sessions with the counselor per person.

Often, employees will access work–life services through the EAP that cover other components of total well-being, such as legal and financial services. Many companies find that employees are more comfortable using work–life EAP services. They provide an accessible entryway to engage with the EAP and build a level of trust that can be helpful if the need for behavioral health counseling later arises. Other EAP services include manager and human resources consultation, which can facilitate discussions with employees who may be having performance challenges. In addition, critical incident support following traumatic employee events or losses helps employees return to work with a sense of security and comfort.

The Sprint EAP benefit is provided at no cost to the employee and families. The confidential nature of the EAP services is also seen as a benefit to employees who are managing sensitive issues. Sprint’s EAP annual utilization rate for all services (including behavioral, legal, financial, work–life, and online tools/resources) in 2013 was 23.7%. This is above the average of 15.1% for combined counseling (4.5%), organizational, and work–life services for external EAPs (Attridge, Cahill, Granberry, & Herlihy, 2013).

Table 2. Sprint EAP Behavioral Health Trends

Measure

2012

2013

2014 YTD
(Third Quarter)

Covered population

40,000

39,698

35,477

Behavioral EAP cases

1,837

1,650

1,027

Behavioral EAP utilization rate

5%

4%

3%

Top presenting behavioral health issues

1.Psychological
2. Relationship
3. Family
4. Depression
5. Stress

1.Psychological
2. Relationship
3. Family
4. Depression
5.Bereavement

1.Psychological
2. Relationship
3. Family/child
4. Depression

Total closed cases

1,829

1,642

503

Cases closed within EAP

1,596

1,451

393

Closure rate within EAP (of all closed cases)

87%

88%

78%

Communication and Well-being Champions: The nature of work at Sprint creates various subpopulations that include call centers, retail locations, and the administrative and corporate offices. Different approaches of interacting with these groups are often needed, and Sprint’s well-being champions are an important part of this communication. The well-being champion program is a volunteer opportunity that began in 2009 in several Sprint call centers, where an early focus was on sustaining physical activity, given the sedentary nature of the role. With the incorporation of the total well-being focus at Sprint, additional messaging has included a greater focus on the range of EAP offerings, such as information about building relationships, greater engagement at work, and work–life resources. This additional communication adds the financial, social, and career pillars to the original focus on the physical well-being pillar. Today, well-being champion support is available to all Sprint call centers nationwide and at the Overland Park headquarters. The champions serve as the point of contact with the well-being leadership and have proved successful in distributing and promoting well-being messages across Sprint, including monthly health and well-being messages.

Nationally, a monthly email newsletter, called Stay Healthy, covers a variety of topics across the spectrum of well-being, including mental health issues. Recent communications have covered recommended mental health screenings, suicide, therapy, stress reduction around the holidays, depression, seasonal affective disorder, substance abuse, cancer and related emotional strain, and support groups. The messaging each year is adjusted to keep the information fresh and interesting, and it is partly determined through feedback from employees and trends seen in healthcare for the Sprint population. Sprint also reviews disability claims trends to determine whether there are conditions and opportunities for prevention and education messages to address the various challenges that Sprint employees are facing. In addition, local well-being champions share feedback about the challenges that employees at their locations face.

Another area of focus for Sprint is reaching out to the employees in its retail locations. Due to the retail locations being in so many geographic areas and the nature of the positions held by employees at those locations, communication can be challenging. Recently, Sprint highlighted the value of the EAP services so the employees understood the breadth of the work–life services, such as finding pet care and or researching vacations. Magnets with the numbers for the EAP services were sent to each retail store nationwide to keep the various services readily accessible. Special messaging was created for store managers so they could share the importance of the EAP along with the magnet.

Connecting Sprint Alive! programs, health advocates, ComPsych’s EAP services, wellbeing champions, and benefit providers helps clear obstacles to care and brings about the total well-being that Sprint wants to shape among employees and their families. Thanks to these strong programs and comprehensive communications, Sprint is a seven-time recipient of the Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles® Platinum Award and has been recognized at the highest level, Platinum, by the National Business Group on Health in 2013 and 2014.

Tactical Employer Takeaways

Sprint’s approach to total well-being showcases many potential programs that other organizations can incorporate in their own support programs.

Build a strong corporate culture at all levels of the organization to create a strong foundation for the total well-being approach, understanding how the different elements or pillars work together to support improvement of health.

If you are an employer that is starting from the ground up in workplace assistance programs, seek a strong EAP partner–vendor and encourage early intervention.

If you do have an EAP, you might also get traction with your employees through work–life services, which can remove barriers if and when behavioral resources become needed.

Integration of programs and having advocates in place to help employees navigate all the support programs available can facilitate right care and provide potential cost savings. From the Sprint model, you can see that RN-trained health advocates as well as volunteer on-site well-being champions can play an effective part in the important role of supporting employees.

About Sprint

Sprint Corporation (Sprint) is headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas. As a communications services company, Sprint’s approximate employee base of 31,000 people support prepaid and postpaid wireless services, 4G and 3G networks, wireline, and global Tier 1 internet backbone services

Last Updated: April 2015

Contact Company Representative

Stacey Nelson, SPHR, manager of Health and Welfare
703-592-8386
stacey.nelson@sprint.com

References

  • Attridge, M., Cahill, T., Granberry, S. W., & Herlihy, P. A. (2013). The National Behavioral Consortium industry profile of external EAP vendors. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 28(4), 251–324. doi: 10.1080/15555240.2013.845050 Gallup & Healthways. (2014). State of American well-being: 2013 state, community and congressional district analysis.

  • McCarthy, J. (2010, October 12). The 5 essential elements of wellbeing [Review of the book Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, by T. Rath & J. Harter].

  • Nelson, S. (2014, January). Mental health in the workplace. Lecture prepared for the 2014 Health Benefits Conference & Expo, Clearwater Beach, FL.

  • Rath, T., & Harter, J. (2010). Wellbeing: The five essential elements. New York, NY: Gallup Press.

More References