The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, recently released the Framework for Workplace Mental Health & Wellness to set a new standard for expectations fo employers. In this new normal, businesses must take some responsibility for their wellbeing of those who work for them.
The report is comprehensive and includes research and data supporting the need for wellness and describing the reality for many of the 160 million U.S. workers. More than 80% of people say workplace is a factor in one or more of their mental health challenges, according to Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work report, which is cited by the U.S. Surgeon General. Also, more than 75% of U.S. workers reported having at least one symptom of a mental health condition, according to that same report.
Not surprisingly, this data, along with the recent trauma of the pandemic, led Murthy to share this report.
“People have been going through a reckoning, asking themselves what they really want out of work but also what they’re willing to sacrifice for work,” said Murthy on CBS News.
In the latest State of HR report, HR leaders revealed that burnout was the greatest consequence of the pandemic, so there is urgency around this kind of guidance. Because few Human Resources professionals are trained in mental health, they are hungry for the kind of information found in this government report.
To begin, here are the 5 recommendations for moving forward:
Protect from Harm
The purpose of this suggestion is to emphasize the employer’s role in ensuring that workers and those connected with the business are psychologically and physically safe. Obviously, the bare minimum is having plans for fires, emergencies, and other events that could cause physical harm. Laws usually guarantee some sort of adherence. However, this tenet goes a step further by suggesting enabling people get plenty of rest and that the organization has a diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility plan to help develop a sense of belonging and security.
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In the report, the U.S. Surgeon General directs employers to help people develop social connection. It is the obligation of employers to create an atmosphere ripe for collaboration and teamwork. Of course, most employers are already trying to help teams thrive because it is beneficial to the bottom line, too. But this report also recommends cultivating trust. That’s deep and requires business leaders to develop empathy and encourage socializing and bonding.
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Opportunity for Growth in the Workplace
This suggestion is pointed and interesting because the health practitioners are clearly connecting a person’s ability to develop their minds and move forward in their jobs and careers as relating to their wellness. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends offering quality training, mentorship, pathways to promotions and growth at work, and regular, reciprocal feedback.
“When people thrive at work, they are more likely to feel physically and mentally healthy overall, and to contribute positively to their workplace,” according to the U.S. Surgeon General report.
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A Sense of Self-Worth
People need to feel needed. The Surgeon General suggests that employers express that they value their workers. They should show gratitude and help people recognize the meaning and purpose of their work no matter what it is. In this tenet, the report includes information about providing a living wage, letting employees weigh in on decisions, and connecting the work of employees with business objectives.
The idea behind this tenet is to provide better work-life balance and flexibility. Employers should give people the time and support they need to fulfill responsibilities outside of their work. Respecting boundaries is an obvious suggestion. Some companies are prohibiting emails and calls after a certain time of day, for example. But the U.S. Surgeon General goes a step further by recommending greater access to paid leave and allowing for more autonomy when it comes to how and when employees get work done.
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“It’s not only about work,” says Murthy. “It has a broader benefit for society as a whole.”
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