Framework to Improve Mental Well-Being in the Workplace

Framework to Improve Mental Well-Being in the Workplace

Did you know the U.S. Surgeon General’s office released a new framework for mental health and well-being in the workplace late last year? Topics like stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression are at the top of many company’s minds these days. That’s all going to have a big effect on bottom lines moving forward, making it very important to take steps to manage mental health in the workplace today.

More than 3 out of 4 of American workers in a 2021 survey reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition (like anxiety or depression), according to Mind Share Partners, a national nonprofit focused on workplace mental health. That’s an increase of 17 percentage points in just two years.

Given such a substantial amount of potentially affected people, let’s take a dive into the U.S. Surgeon General’s recommendations for how employers can support their employees and keep their companies performing at their best.


Framework for Mental Health

According to the Surgeon General’s office, “Employers have a unique opportunity not only to invest in the mental health and well-being of their workforce, but also to strengthen their organizations’ success by doing so.” The logic here is that people spend more than half of their waking lives at work, and what is good for the employee will also transfer into gains for the company.

“As we recover from the worst of the pandemic, we have an opportunity and the power to make workplaces engines for mental health and well-being, and this framework shows us how we can start. It will be worth it because the benefits will accrue for workers and organizations alike,” said Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.

Their recommendations for ways that employers can best support their employees amounted to five essential tips, many of which focus on the company’s overall culture.

Details from the framework includes:


1. Protection from Harm: Creating the conditions for physical and psychological safety is a critical foundation for ensuring mental health and well-being in the workplace. In order to promote practices that better assure protection from harm, workplaces can:

  • Prioritize workplace physical and psychological safety,
  • Enable adequate rest,
  • Normalize and support focusing on mental health,
  • Operationalize Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) norms, policies, and programs.


2. Connection and Community: Fostering positive social interaction and relationships in the workplace supports worker well-being. In order to promote practices that better assure connection and community, workplaces can:

  • Create cultures of inclusion and belonging,
  • Cultivate trusted relationships,
  • Foster collaboration and teamwork.


3. Work-Life Harmony: Professional and personal roles can create work and non-work conflicts. In order to promote practices that better assure work-life harmony, workplaces can:

  • Provide more autonomy over how work is done,
  • Make schedules as flexible and predictable as possible,
  • Increase access to paid leave,
  • Respect boundaries between work and non-work time.


4. Mattering 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 lower stress, while feeling like you do not can increase the risk for depression. In order to better assure a culture of mattering at work, workplaces can:

  • Provide a living wage,
  • Engage workers in workplace decisions,
  • Build a culture of gratitude and recognition,
  • Connect individual work with organizational mission.


5. Opportunities for Growth: When organizations create more opportunities for workers to accomplish goals based on their skills and growth, workers become more optimistic about their abilities and more enthusiastic about contributing to the organization. In order to promote practices that better assure opportunities for growth, workplaces can:

  • Offer quality training, education, and mentoring,
  • Foster clear, equitable pathways for career advancement,
  • Ensure relevant, reciprocal feedback.


Healthy Policies, Healthy Company

Negative mental health symptoms can be very costly for companies, and it’s clearly become important to take action. No business wants the capabilities of its employees to be weighed down by factors like stress, anxiety, or burnout. This year, start taking some steps to ease the minds of your staff by forming new policies aimed at supporting mental well-being. Let this new framework serve as a guide to get your company started on a new path.

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Category Features, Health