U.S. Surgeon General releases new framework for workplace mental health and well-being

Reports of the ‘silent shutdown’ and the great resignation highlight how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Americans live and work

The framework highlights five essential elements for workers in organizations and businesses of all sizes to help leaders develop policies and practices that support worker mental health and wellbeing.

(Washington, DC) — Today, United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a new Surgeon General’s Framework for Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace outlining the fundamental role that workplaces should play in promoting the health and well-being of workers and our communities. As the “silent resignation” reports and the great resignation have shown, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the nature of work for many and the relationship some workers have with their jobs.

With more than 160 million people participating in the United States workforce and the average full-time worker in the United States spending approximately half of their waking life at work, workplaces play an important role in shaping our mental and physical well-being. Employers have a unique opportunity to not only invest in the mental health and well-being of their workforce, but also to enhance the success of their organization by doing so.

“A healthy workforce is the foundation for thriving organizations and healthier communities,” said General Surgeon Dr. Vivek Murthy. “As we recover from the worst of the pandemic, we have the opportunity and the power to make workplaces engines of mental health and wellbeing, and this framework from the Surgeon General shows us how we can start. It will force organizations to rethink how they protect workers from harm, foster a sense of connection among workers, show workers they matter, make room for their lives outside of work, and support their growth. It will be worth it, as the benefits will accrue for workers and organizations. »

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the relationship between work and well-being for many American workers. According to recent polls:

In the Surgeon General’s Framework for Mental Health and Wellbeing in the WorkplaceDr. Murthy outlines five essentials for mental health and wellbeing in the workplace to help organizations develop, institutionalize and update the policies, processes and practices that best support mental health and wellbeing of all workers.

  1. protection from evil: Creating the conditions for physical and psychological safety is an essential foundation for ensuring mental health and well-being at work. To promote practices that better protect against harm, workplaces can:
    1. Prioritize physical and psychological safety at work
    2. Allow adequate rest
    3. Normalize and support with a focus on mental health
    4. Operationalize Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) standards, policies and programs
  2. Connection and community: Fostering positive social interaction and relationships in the workplace promotes worker well-being. To promote practices that better ensure connection and community, workplaces can:
    1. Create cultures of inclusion and belonging
    2. Cultivate trusting relationships
    3. Foster collaboration and teamwork
  3. Work-life balance: Professional and personal roles can create professional and non-professional conflicts. To promote practices that ensure better work-life harmony, workplaces can:
    1. Provide more autonomy over how work is done
    2. Make schedules as flexible and predictable as possible
    3. Increase access to paid leave
    4. Respect the limits between working time and free time
  4. counting at work: People want to know that they matter to those around them and that their work matters. Knowing you matter has been shown to reduce stress, while feeling like you don’t matter can increase the risk of depression. To better ensure a culture of importance at work, workplaces can:
    1. Offer a living wage
    2. Involve workers in workplace decisions
    3. Building a Culture of Gratitude and Appreciation
    4. Connect individual work to organizational mission
  5. Growth opportunities: When organizations create more opportunities for workers to achieve goals based on their skills and growth, workers become more optimistic about their abilities and more enthusiastic about contributing to the organization. To promote practices that ensure greater opportunities for growth, workplaces can:
    1. Provide quality training, education and mentorship
    2. Foster clear and fair pathways for career advancement
    3. Provide relevant and reciprocal feedback

A Surgeon General’s Framework is a guide to bringing attention to a public health issue, developed to help the American public better understand and address the factors that affect health. This particular framework provides the essentials, a foundation of key elements, enabling workplace leaders to engage all workers and support their mental health and well-being equitably. It includes evidence-based practices that leadership in workplaces of varying sizes and industries can apply to reinvent and reinvigorate their organizations.

As the nation’s physician – the 21st surgeon general of the United States – Dr. Murthy has focused much of his work, research and public platform on how the nation can recover from the pandemic stronger than before, including his recently released Surgeon General’s Opinions on youth mental health and healthcare worker well-being. The Surgeon General’s Framework for Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace is part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) ongoing efforts to support President Joe Biden’s whole-of-government strategy to transform mental health services for all Americans – a key part of the President’s Unity Agenda that is reflected in the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget. Following the President’s State of the Union in March, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra launched the HHS National Mental Health Strengthening Tour to address mental health challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including substance use, youth mental health and suicide.

You can read the full framework here.

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