A New Framework for Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplace

May 4, 2023
5 min read

As the world continues to navigate beyond the pandemic, mental health and well-being have become an increasingly important topic of conversation. The impact of the pandemic on individuals' mental health has been staggering, and it has become clear that employers have an important role to play in supporting their workforce's well-being.

Recently, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy called on employers to invest in the mental health and well-being of their employees by releasing a new Surgeon General's Framework for Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplace. The framework outlines the role that workplaces should play in promoting wellness, and highlights the benefits of doing so for both employees and organizations.

According to recent surveys, a significant number of employees are experiencing negative impacts on their mental health due to workplace factors. The Mental Health at Work Report 2021 found that 84% of respondents reported at least one workplace factor that had a negative impact on their mental health. Additionally, the same report found that 76% of U.S. workers reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition, such as burnout, depression, or anxiety, which is an increase of 17 percentage points in just two years. It is clear that employers have a responsibility to address these issues and support their employees' well-being.

The Surgeon General's framework focuses on five specific areas that employers can address to foster mental and physical wellness in their workplaces. By focusing on the following areas, employers can create a culture that supports the well-being of their employees, which in turn strengthens the organization's success.

Diagram illustrating "mattering at work" with five interconnected circles labeled opportunity for growth, safety from harm, connection & community, work-life harmony, and centered on equity, each containing related keywords.

Protection from harm

The protection from harm component of the framework includes steps for prioritizing workplace physical and psychological safety, enabling adequate rest, normalizing and supporting mental health, and making diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility a part of how an organization operates.

Connection and community

Connection and community focuses on creating a culture of inclusion and belonging, cultivating trusted relationships, and fostering collaboration and teamwork.

Work/life harmony

Work/life harmony looks at ways to provide workers with more autonomy over how work is done, making schedules as flexible and predictable as possible, increasing access to paid leave, and respecting work and non-work time boundaries.

Mattering at work

Mattering at work includes providing a living wage, engaging workers in workplace decisions, building a culture of gratitude and recognition, and making clear how the employee's work connects with the organization's mission.

Opportunity for growth

Lastly, opportunity for growth focuses on offering quality training, education, and mentoring, fostering clear, equitable paths for career advancement, and providing relevant, reciprocal feedback to employees.

The Surgeon General's framework includes several online resources, including information on safety programs, details on the Job Accommodation Network's directory to help employers and individuals determine effective accommodations and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and suggestions on how to combat burnout and contribute to worker well-being.

As Dr. Murthy states, "we have an opportunity and the power to make workplaces engines for mental health and well-being." By prioritizing the five areas outlined in the Surgeon General's framework, employers can create a workplace culture that promotes the well-being of their employees and strengthens the organization's success. The Human Resources consulting team at Next Level Benefits understands the importance of supporting mental health and well-being in the workplace. Contact us to learn how we can help your organization foster a culture of well-being and success.

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