As mental health takes a toll across the country, the Surgeon General is calling on organizations to make changes for the well-being of their employees.

Mental health concerns continue to rise amid what many consider to be a mental health crisis. With many Americans spending half of their waking life at work, the work environment plays a critical role in an individual’s mental health, explained U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy in his new Framework for Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplace report.

“A healthy workforce is the foundation for thriving organizations and healthier communities,” he said in an announcement. “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.”

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The framework encompasses five “essentials,” centered around worker voice and equity, to promote mental health and well-being in the workplace:

  1. Protection from harm: Prioritize physical and psychological safety in the workplace, encouraging rest, supporting mental health, and operationalizing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
  2. Connection and community: Establish a culture of inclusion and belonging through trusted relationships, collaboration, and teamwork.
  3. Work-life harmony: Offer worker autonomy, schedule flexibility and/or predictability, increase access to paid leave, and respect boundaries around time outside of work.
  4. Mattering at work: Provide a living wage, open the dialogue around workplace decisions, create a culture based on gratitude and recognition, and connect individual work to the overall mission.
  5. Opportunity for growth: Provide opportunities for training, education, and mentoring to establish a clear path for career advancement and provide the space for reciprocal feedback.

The framework serves as a starting point for organizations to update and institutionalize policies, processes, and practices to better support the mental health and well-being of its workers, urged the Surgeon General. “The most effective leaders express compassion, empathy, and generosity; communicate openly, often, and clearly; and practice human- and wellness-centered leadership by recognizing the connection between individual strengths, growth, and organizational change.”