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Big Health Blog


How the 8th Largest Retailer in America is Tackling Mental Health for its Employees

Molly Tobin 05.21.2019


On April 12th, 2019, The National Business Group on Health (NBGH) convened for its annual Business Health Agenda conference in Washington, D.C. In a session entitled “Approachable mental health care: Helping the silent majority suffering from mental illness”, Target benefits leader Julia Boyle shared how Target has tackled mental health for its 350,000 team members.

The journey began in 2016 when the Target benefits team discovered that mental health accounted for the largest number of claims of any health condition. The team also knew mental health issues came with a range of comorbid conditions, adding to team member suffering and overall healthcare costs. Target encourages team members to bring their whole selves to work, and strives to deliver the right care at the right time. Therefore, addressing employee mental health became a company priority.


The Process

Vendor Pilots

Target began exploring possible mental health solutions in 2016, when they piloted two programs focused on stress management and resilience. The two programs were chosen for their mobile engagement capabilities. With a dispersed workforce, it was imperative to the Target benefits team that the piloted solutions were able to deliver the right care at the right time. Unfortunately, Boyle explained that engagement was low and meaningful health outcomes were limited.

The Target team concluded that there were two major causes of the lackluster employee engagement. First, it was clear that social stigma played a role in how comfortable team members felt utilizing these solutions. An employee survey then confirmed that sleep was the number one issue employees were looking to solve, which neither solution addressed head on.

Internal Campaigns

In 2017, Target launched a company-wide campaign called “I’m Fine” to call attention to the stigma around mental health and encourage leadership to spark conversations within their teams. Target kicked off the campaign with a workshop by RedTalk, and employee calls to EAP increased 58% the month of the talk. This effort was followed up with a suicide awareness training for leadership in 2018. The training included scenarios on how team members may present with suicidal ideation, then gave examples of how leaders could engage with the team member, along with how to escalate the situation and links to resources.

Introducing Sleepio

As earlier mental health pilots revealed, sleep was a primary concern for team members.  There is far less - if any - stigma surrounding poor sleep, and at the same time, better sleep leads to better mental health. In 2019, Target launched Sleepio as a new benefit for all medically enrolled plan members.


Why Sleepio?

Boyle shared three primary reasons that Target selected Sleepio: program engagement, clinical outcomes, and demonstrated results with other employers. Sleepio engages employees around mental health through the destigmatized topic of sleep. The program is web and mobile friendly, allowing employees to access automated, personalized help at a time and place convenient to them. Sleepio is also backed by 33 peer-reviewed research publications, including 8 randomized controlled trials (RCT). This provided a level of confidence in the likelihood of meaningful health outcomes for team members. Finally, Big Health has implemented Sleepio at several large employers similar to Target. Sleepio successfully engages diverse workforces due to its strategic population-level communications and scalable personalization.  


Every employer and employee population is unique, and we are grateful to customers like Julia who are willing to share their story. Poor sleep, stress and worry affect us all - regardless of where we work. Sleepio is available across a wide range of employer industries, from airline, retail, healthcare, technology, and even high fashion. To find out how Sleepio could help your employees, email workplace@bighealth.com. To participate in our research studies (and get free access to Sleepio for yourself), email research@sleepio.com.




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