HOMECase Studies Team Health
U.S. Headquarters
Knoxville, TN
Number of Employees
9,000
Industry
Health Care and Social Assistance

Team Health

Mental Health Matters at TeamHealth

Support of mental health in the workplace is often an evolution over time. In the case of TeamHealth, leadership has been committed to creating a culture where their employees can be healthy and stay healthy. The company has had an employee assistance program (EAP) and a wellness program since 2005, but the utilization of the services was low. Fortified with an understanding of the value of addressing mental health in the workplace, multiple champions stepped forward to begin a dialogue about how to take action and increase utilization of services.

TeamHealth provides health professionals and hospital-based support staff to fill outsourcing needs across the United States. TeamHealth’s quickly growing workforce includes employees filling a wide range of roles, from hourly employees to physicians, in 700 facilities across the U.S. As a team of medical professionals, TeamHealth faces challenges specific to those who provide care for others. Research shows that caregivers often delay self-care in order to serve patients, which can allow their own challenges to worsen (Siebert & Siebert, 2007). In order to address these realities, TeamHealth worked to reduce stigma and alleviate concerns employees might have about seeking help. The company’s leaders sought external expertise to understand how to address concerns specific to TeamHealth and its industry and built campaigns to respond.

Mental Health Matters

The first steps in TeamHealth’s efforts to address mental health occurred in 2009, when the wellness manager helped expand awareness of the company’s EAP services. Next, the company tapped local expert Ben Harrington at the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee (MHA-ET). Adopting MHA-ET’s existing “Mental Health Matters in the Workplace” toolkit, TeamHealth had a ready-made campaign to engage employees. The toolkit offers educational content, including a variety of flyers on topics related to mental health. (See the MHA-ET inset box for a list of the toolkit flyers.) MHA-ET offers employers technical assistance in implementing the toolkit and sponsors meetings and conferences supporting mental health in the workplace.

The result of these discussions was the implementation of a 6-week “Mental Health Matters” campaign at TeamHealth in the summer of 2009. During this campaign, weekly wellness tips, drawn from MHA-ET’s materials, were distributed to all employees. The campaign also included an online Mental Health Matters portal that tied employees to the services provided through the EAP. The portal included information on how best to utilize the EAP services, which reduced the mystery of what happens when employees call in for assistance.

Mental health professionals from TeamHealth’s EAP made onsite visits to address anyone’s concerns, as well as to meet with human resources staff and executives. These activities created a great deal of good will across the organization and demonstrated to employees that TeamHealth’s leadership was supportive and that it was “okay to seek help.” The Mental Health Matters campaign and follow-up initiatives contributed to a 79% increase in clinical counselor cases between October 2009 and September 2010, suggesting that help-seeking became more acceptable among TeamHealth employees.

Mental health professionals from TeamHealth’s EAP made onsite visits to address anyone’s concerns, as well as to meet with human resources staff and executives. These activities created a great deal of good will across the organization and demonstrated to employees that TeamHealth’s leadership was supportive and that it was “okay to seek help.” The Mental Health Matters campaign and follow-up initiatives contributed to a 79% increase in clinical counselor cases between October 2009 and September 2010, suggesting that help-seeking became more acceptable among TeamHealth employees.

LiveWell Campaign

team_health_visual.PNGWitnessing the growth in the use of the EAP services, Lisa Courtney, vice president of human resources for TeamHealth, built on this success with the launch of a new campaign, called LiveWell. Mental health was given an ongoing focus as one of the top ten themes of this comprehensive program. The campaign revisits the mental health theme each November by highlighting “Stress Relief.” This top billing gives mental health the same standing as other health concerns addressed in the campaign.

As part of the new health campaign, TeamHealth expanded the LiveWell web portal, which now includes innovative communication techniques to reach and educate employees, such as an increased use of social networking tools and online instructional videos. The original Mental Health Matters content is presented within the stress relief section. Information is provided on a variety of topics known to impact behavioral health, including:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Legal concerns

  • Separation and divorce

  • Relationship issues

  • Child care

  • Parenting issues

  • Elder care issues

  • Education issues

  • Alcohol and drug abuse

  • Domestic abuse

  • Gambling and other addictions

  • Budgeting, financial worries, and reducing debt

  • Conflict at work

  • Grief and loss

  • Job burnout

  • Crisis and trauma

While employees may struggle with multiple mental health concerns at the same time, they may also face physical health challenges that increase their distress. Complex health issues may create difficulties with work attendance and performance. An approach that highlights mental health services alongside other health efforts is supported by research showing that integrated responses may be more effective.

Where Mental Health and Performance Meet

The final step of TeamHealth’s approach is to provide early intervention and resources to employees in distress through performance management strategies. While employers are not able and not intended to diagnose health conditions, they have a particular perspective to notice work behavior changes or substance use that negatively impact performance. Offering help through the company’s EAP provider can assist the employee in getting back on track and realizing his or her full potential. TeamHealth partnered with their EAP, and the results were positive; utilizing the EAP within performance disciplinary processes increased employee retention at TeamHealth.

In fact, TeamHealth’s EAP-assisted behavioral interventions improved performance for all the medical providers who participated. By improving the coping skills of medical providers and others, EAP services helped in retaining employees who might otherwise have had to leave the company. Making life-and-death decisions every day creates a much higher level of distress among physicians than is experienced in many other professions. Courtney noted that, because of the shortage of physicians in the U.S., helping TeamHealth’s physicians work through challenges is essential for the success of the business. TeamHealth benefits by retaining valuable employees with technical training and skills, and society benefits by keeping qualified physicians available.

What Employers Can Take Away

TeamHealth’s experience exemplifies how the workplace environment evolves in response to the mental health needs of employees. TeamHealth built a mental health campaign and kept mental health as a core component of their ongoing LiveWell program. The company’s investment for these expanded services was minimal. Costs for the 6-week Mental Health Matters campaign primarily consisted of staff time to help TeamHealth better leverage the EAP, resources for which TeamHealth had already paid.

Ben Harrington of MHA-ET shared, “The TeamHealth approach to promote the existing EAP resources, especially how and when to use them, changed the culture dramatically. The intranet portal of resources, combined with frequent communication reiterating the message that ‘it’s OK to use the EAP,’ resulted in the 79% increase in EAP utilization. The higher rate, even while the organization grew in size, demonstrates that management supported the change in culture.”

You too have the same opportunity to influence the evolution of support for mental health in your organization.

Next Steps for Improving Mental Health:

  • Start your own mental health campaign, working with your EAP and local mental health association.

  • Use and distribute other ready-made programs and materials, such as the Mental Health Matters program of MHA-ET, to address mental health in the workplace.

  • Take advantage of Right Direction, a depression awareness initiative recently launched by the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health and Employers Health.

  • Visit RightDirectionForMe.org (employee website) and Rightdirectionforme.com/Employers (employer portal).

If you already have an EAP or other resources in place, are they well understood by your staff? What steps can you take to increase awareness and use of resources?

  • Provide training for managers on how to recognize performance challenges that may indicate the need to refer to your EAP.

  • Review the Partnership’s Employee Case Studies to get ideas of what other employers are doing related to mental health. Search examples by company size and industry for organizations similar to your own, or brainstorm by looking at businesses different from your own.

  • Share your experiences with the Partnership through a case example of your own workplace!

We hope that TeamHealth’s initiatives will help you leverage similar tools and resources already available to you that are low cost, but have an increasingly large impact on the productivity of your employees.

Kate A. Burke, MA, is the former associate director for the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, is currently a Senior Training and Development Specialist at Greenleaf Integrative Strategies, and can be reached at kate.burke@greenleaf-is.com.


Sources

Siebert, D. C., & Siebert, C. F. (2007). Help seeking among helping professionals: A role identity perspective. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77,49–55. doi:10.1037/0002-9432.77.1.49


Mental Health Matters in the Workplace Toolkit

Toolkit flyers include:

  1. Getting Help

  2. Finding Your Balance

  3. Mind Your Stress

  4. Coping With Stress Checklist

  5. Depression in the Workplace

  6. Depression in Women

  7. Adult ADHD in the Workplace

  8. Postpartum Disorders

  9. Stress Coping Every Day Problems

  10. Anxiety Disorders

  11. Taking Care of Aging Parent(s)

  12. Substance Abuse

  13. Depression in Teens

  14. Children’s Mental Health

MHA-ET has supported efforts of employers addressing mental health in the workplace since 2004.

About Team Health

TeamHealth was founded in 1979 with a vision of developing exemplary teams of healthcare professionals. With headquarters in Knoxville, TN, TeamHealth was originally founded to provide emergency department administrative and staffing services. Currently, TeamHealth is one of the nation’s largest providers of hospital-based clinical outsourcing in multiple departments, including anesthesia and hospital medicine, in addition to emergency medicine. Although TeamHealth is a national organization, the operating philosophy is essentially the same as when the company started. TeamHealth is committed to a patient-centric model of healthcare delivery, with hospitals, physician groups, and TeamHealth working collaboratively to deliver compassionate, effective, efficient, and safe patient care.

Last Updated: October 2013

Contact Company Representative

Lisa Courtney, SPHR, Vice President Human Resources
Lisa_Courtney@teamhealth.com