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Chesapeake Energy Corporation 1

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  • Headquarters

    Oklahoma City, OK

  • Number of Employees


  • Industry


“Your Life Matters” at Chesapeake Energy

Benefit Enhancements and Communication Campaign Reaches Out to Employees and Managers

Chesapeake Energy is an entrepreneurial company with a history of supporting employee health. Over the last two years, as the national news described the changing economy’s effect on families, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Chesapeake Energy has been asking what the company could do to help its people. “It just seems like the right thing to do, to take care of our employees,” says Colleen Dame, Chesapeake Energy’s manager of health and wellness benefits. The company’s executives frequently exhibit top-down leadership in caring, concern, and problem-solving around employee health issues.

Discussing Benefit Enhancements for Mental Health

Tragedy made Chesapeake Energy’s leaders acutely aware of the importance of mental health. A company leader, troubled about losing some friends to suicide in 2009, wondered how many employees were facing serious emotional distress without getting the professional mental health support that might help them. The company’s health and benefits management team began examining the supports already in place and areas in which they could improve. Together, they began planning ways to increase awareness about mental and emotional health, to adjust benefits to enhance mental health treatment, and to inform employees and mangers about available resources. The resulting communication campaign, called “Your Life Matters,” reached out to all employees.

The company had long had mental health parity: a $25 co-pay covered employees’ health treatments whether for mental health or for other medical concerns. The management team knew they could do more, however, to improve resources and to raise awareness. To plan their efforts, they first met with mental health experts in their region. “Bringing in community resources is natural,” says Dame. “The company is highly community oriented, and there is high volunteerism in the communities where we have a presence.” The local mental health leaders helped the management team develop an approach that would be more proactive in raising awareness and in reducing barriers to care.

Proactive Approaches

The “Your Life Matters” team next discussed ways to encourage employees to access mental health information and treatment. They decided to change employee assistance program (EAP) providers, seeking an EAP that could foster a more proactive approach to EAP services in partnership with Chesapeake Energy. They needed a highly visible EAP with 24/7 live triage by phone, manager training services, electronic resources, and outreach capabilities. The team completed a due diligence process and engaged ComPsych as their new EAP vendor partner. They enhanced the EAP benefit, increasing the number of free consultations with a mental health professional from three to six, and expanded the covered content areas to include services in legal and financial areas and help in obtaining childcare and elder care.

Communicating “Your Life Matters” to a Diverse and Scattered Workforce

Thinking about Chesapeake Energy’s varied employee population and their 17 different locations, the team brainstormed with other internal resources to develop a communication campaign to reach all employees, from engineers to customer service personnel, with their emotional message. “Your Life Matters” began with a video that automatically opened up on all employees’ computer screens when they logged on the morning of the campaign launch. Senior vice president Martha Burger gave a rationale and overview followed by a three-minute video in which CEO Aubrey McClendon, looking directly into the eyes of the viewer, thanked employees them for the work they do and assured them that learning about and getting help for serious life issues could be an important step to take.

Other video vignettes featured former football player Trent Smith and a “just-like-me” employee example along with medical experts describing changes that occur with depression and its treatment. About 2,000 employees have no regular access to computers, however, so the video presentation was also packaged on a DVD and sent to employees’ homes along with a letter from management, a brochure describing EAP services, and fact sheets on mental health topics. Presentations on a variety of topics by community mental health experts were posted on the company’s intranet along with links to the EAP and other resources.

Chesapeake Energy received a Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Places to Work” designation each year from 2007 to 2010, and the company was nominated for Employee Benefit News’ Benny Award in 2010.

Maximizing the Value of Vendor-Partners

The “Your Life Matters” team also scoured their resources for additional enhancements to their emotional health efforts. The team worked with the company’s health and wellness vendor, Dallas-based Viverae, to help employees recognize whether they might be struggling emotionally. Viverae built a depression identification tool (a modified Patient Health Questionnaire [PHQ-9]) into the company’s health risk assessment and biometric testing process. Employees who screen positive on the assessment are asked if they would like to talk with an EAP professional. The EAP receives this list and reaches out to the employees by phone.

The company’s pharmacy benefit management vendor analyzed patterns of adherence to prescribed antidepressants and compared them to counseling visits. If an employee does not complete a counseling appointment within three months of beginning to take antidepressants, a letter is sent to the employee and the prescribing physician explaining the benefits available through the EAP program

EAP vendor ComPsych has worked closely with the team in several ways. To enhance referrals, ComPsych’s phone counselors received training about the areas of expertise of counselors who are available to employees within local networks. ComPsych also provided manager training to help managers address employees’ emotional issues while also adhering to Chesapeake Energy’s human resources policies.

A chaplain service supplements the EAP, particularly in addressing areas of bereavement, substance use, and family issues. This service has been especially helpful for field employees in isolated locations such as oil and gas rigs. For critical incidents, a counselor is sent to the rig site. Rig workers, who have a seven day on/seven day off schedule, may see a counselor within their home radius when they are “off hitch,” that is, during the seven days they are at home. If an employee has an immediate concern, the employee may also talk to the ComPsych counselors or the chaplain service by phone.

The “Your Life Matters” team also contracted with specialists to train local doctors and nurse practitioners about combinations of antidepressant medications that enhance adherence and reduce side effects. For employees who request disability leave, EAP information is provided along with prompt case management and appropriate referrals for emotional support when indicated.

The team also organized a company town hall meeting featuring celebrity addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky. The event was held under a large tent on a football field in Oklahoma City and drew nearly 600 employees. An open forum on substance abuse and relationship issues resulted in the formation of an employee-organized support group for addiction recovery

Promising Results

Chesapeake Energy’s senior vice president of human and corporate resources Martha Burger, enthusiastically described “Your Life Matters” in a presentation given with the Partnership’s director Clare Miller at the Disability Management Employer Coalition’s national behavioral health conference in March 2011. “We are having great results,” Burger shared. Prior to the campaign, utilization of the company’s EAP was limited. After the campaign, calls to the EAP increased dramatically (from 326 calls in 2009 to 2,200 calls in 2010). The “Your Life Matters” web page was accessed more than 12,000 times in 2010, and more than 4,000 individuals logged onto the EAP website to look for additional articles, survey tools, and information on depression, anxiety, relationship issues, stress, bereavement, substance use, legal issues, and financial counseling. Nearly 3,000 employees have attended lunchand-learn sessions and online seminars. “What our team did wasn’t expensive,” said Burger. “Just telling our employees we cared really made a difference.”

The internal health and benefits team contributing to “Your Life Matters” included:

  • Martha Burger – Senior Vice President, Human & Corporate Resources

  • Lorrie Jacobs, Vice President of Compensation and Benefits

  • Gena Perry – Director, Benefits

  • Colleen Dame – Manager, Health & Wellness Benefits

  • Lindsay Sparks, Wellness Administrator

The team was encouraged and supported by Chesapeake Energy’s CEO, Aubrey McClendon, who was featured in the program’s launch video distributed to each employee.

About Chesapeake Energy Corporation

Founded over 20 years ago, Chesapeake Energy has grown into a top producer of oil and natural gas in the United States. The company has nearly 10,000 employees, with a large headquarters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and smaller settings across 17 states, primarily in the Southeast.

Nancy Spangler, PhD, OTR/L is a consultant to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation.

Last Updated: July 2011

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