HR Tech 2019: Wellness program helping fight burnout

Employees of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are under a great deal of pressure: They work long hours, they’re constantly on their feet and they deal with a stressful environment as they help sick children.

That’s why the hospital turned to a comprehensive wellness program to help its 16,000 employees deal with stress and fight burnout.

“Stress is one of our top risk factors,” Lauren Chestnut, the hospital’s wellness and work life program manager, said Thursday during the HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas. “We help our patients focus on behavioral and mental issues, but we need to do that for our employees, too. We want to make sure they know they aren’t alone.”

The hospital started its wellness journey about a decade ago, but it has been adding on components ever since, including partnering with Virgin Pulse on a more high-touch, engaging process.

Sixty percent of the general workforce is dealing with a chronic illness, said Steven Parker, senior vice president of Virgin Pulse. “If we can help them solve it, we can help them live their best lives at work and at home,” he said. “It can drive a sense of commitment because you are helping them do something they couldn’t help themselves.”

Anxiety and depression coaching, free onsite fitness centers, financial counseling, disease/condition care management, mindfulness coaching and classes are among some of the hospital’s wellness program features.

One of the most successful program components has been onsite health coaching, Chestnut said.

“It’s really boots on the ground; they are there to listen to our employees about everything,” she said. “It’s about going beyond healthy food to focus on things like mental issues, energy management and stress resilience.”

The hospital also offers telephonic sessions to provide “quick and easy sessions that can fit into their life,” Chestnut said, adding that the sessions can be scheduled via a mobile app. Sixty percent of employees who work with a health coach meet or exceed their health goals in six months or less, Chestnut said. Overall, onsite coaches have had nearly 6,000 touch points with employees.

“We believe when [employees] are at their best … they are better able to take care of themselves, each other and the patients we serve every day,” Chestnut said.

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Overall, the vast majority of eligible employees at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia–83%–engage in the hospital’s wellness program, and 50% of employees participate in behavior change programs addressing issues like sleep, nutrition and exercise. Further, stress risk is seeing positive improvement from previous years, Chestnut said.

The positive measures that have been achieved are more important than simply saving the employer money, Chestnut said.

“It’s not based on return on investment and saving money on our health plans,” she said. “For us, it’s that value, that impact. It’s about having our employees feel valued and appreciated and feel cared for.”

Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at