Framework on Supporting Employees’ Mental Health and Well-Being Published by U.S. Surgeon General

Framework on Supporting Employees’ Mental Health and Well-Being Published by U.S. Surgeon General

The framework includes a list of five essentials that employers can implement to help the mental health and well-being of their employees.

In the last few years, amidst a change in the way we work, in part because of COVID-19, and the Great Resignation, more people are focusing on mental health and well-being in the workplace.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) says that of the time people are awake, about half of an employee’s life will be spent working. This data and the concept of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Total Worker Health "that work is a social determinant of health” are just a few reasons employers should invest in their employees' mental health.

A newly-released document from U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy talks about this essential topic. Released on October 20, the Surgeon General’s Framework for Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplace “outlin[es] the foundational role that workplaces should play in promoting the health and well-being of workers and our communities,” according to an HHS news release.

The document includes a list of “five essentials” that employees can implement, each one focusing on different human needs, according to the HHS.

Protection from Harm hinges on the needs of safety and security. Various steps like making sure workers are safe both physically and psychologically at work, ensuring workers are well-rested and including Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in aspects of work can potentially contribute to a workplace with less harm.

Connection and Community looks at the needs of social support and belonging. To encourage this concept at work, employers can consider incorporating “inclusion and belonging” into their work culture, creating a workplace where employees can form “trusted relationships” and encouraging collaboration and teamwork.”

Work-Life Harmony supports autonomy and flexibility for workers. Just a few ways employees can show support of these employee needs are by focusing on flexible schedules, paid leave and a work-life balance.

Mattering at Work focuses on an employee’s dignity and meaning. Practices such as living wages, being included in decisions and “a culture of gratitude and recognition” can all contribute to showing employees they matter at work.

Opportunity for Growth includes learning and accomplishment. Employers can offer elements like “quality training, education and mentoring,” “clear, equitable pathways for career advancement” and feedback.

“A healthy workforce is the foundation for thriving organizations and healthier communities,” said Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy in the news release. “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 Surgeon General’s Framework shows us how we can start. It will require organizations to rethink how they protect workers from harm, foster a sense of connection among workers, show workers that they matter, make space for their lives outside work, and support their growth. It will be worth it, because the benefits will accrue for workers and organizations alike.”

To download and read the Surgeon General’s Framework for Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplace, click here.

About the Author

Alex Saurman is a former Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety,who has since joined OH&S’s client services team. She continues to work closely with OH&S’s editorial team and contributes to the magazine.

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