A Recap of the Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being

When it comes to public health, mental health and well-being are of paramount importance. How organizations ensure the safety of their employees and the public’s safety must be re-evaluated. Organizational success and community well-being depend on the good health of the workforce. When individuals are happy and fulfilled in their jobs, they are more likely to contribute constructively to their places of employment and have good physical and mental health. The health and well-being of professionals may be severely impacted in many ways by workers’ competing jobs and personal demands. 

Diseases including hypertension, cancer, obesity, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and high cholesterol are all related to chronic stress. Workplace mental health should be a top priority for company executives, who should remove obstacles employees face when trying to get treatment. The Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well-being encourages discussion of this important topic and action within organizations.

There are five essentials to the Surgeon General’s framework, and many of the areas of wellness discussed within are parallel to many of the outcomes of Healing Breaths’ programs:

  • Prioritizes getting enough rest each night (Essential 1: Protection from Harm),
  • Improved peer relationships and teamwork (Essential 2: Connection and Community),
  • Setting boundaries to allow for self-care during off-hours (Essential 3: Work-Life Harmony),
  • Realigning healthcare workers with a sense of purpose and restoring passion for their careers (Essential 4: Mattering at Work), and 
  • Contributing to the health industry through personal development (Essential 5: Opportunity for Growth).

Contact us today to learn more about how Healing Breaths has been at the forefront of bettering the lives of healthcare professionals through our cornerstone methodology that is accentuated within this framework.

Each essential shown here supports the purpose of connecting five essentials. They intersect as if they were rivers flowing into each other, and eventually, they merge into the whole.  

We wish to recapitulate the critical components of these essentials to reinforce the thematic nature of urgency. We need organizational shifts across all sectors, not just healthcare, so all workers can thrive in supportive and inclusive environments. Healthcare workers will be poised to succeed and grow with the practical application of the Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well-being.

Protection from Harm

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

When the Surgeon General talks about a safe workplace, he’s referring to one where employees are free from the risk of harm, injury, disease, or death while on the job. This is achieved by reducing exposure to potentially dangerous working conditions, physical violence, and psychological suffering caused by things like prejudice, emotional hostility, discrimination, harassment, and bullying. If employees fear for their safety, they will be unable to provide their best performance. Between 2018 and 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 98,411 complaints claiming harassment based on race, national origin, and other characteristics. Additionally, more than twenty times as many taxi drivers are killed on the job than in any other occupation. 

Managers at all company levels may audit their workplaces, identify and remove risks, and develop, roll out, and frequently assess prevention initiatives. Redesigning workstations to reduce the chance of harm, limiting access to firearms, other lethal weapons, and equipment at work (a risk factor for worker suicide), and instituting strict infection control measures are all viable options.

Workers’ physical, emotional, and mental well-being may be negatively impacted by insufficient rest, whether it be due to a lack of either any sleep or quality sleep. Leaders in the workplace may consider employees’ preferences for work schedules, including the number of hours per week, the frequency of overtime, and the availability of time away from the computer. Companies need to reevaluate their benefits packages and ensure that their employees have full access to medical care, including services for mental health and substance abuse.

Facilitating access to mental health treatment while maintaining privacy is an organization’s fundamental responsibility. Supporting initiatives to combat stigma, such as the StigmaFree Company Pledge created by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, may help mainstream mental health in the workplace. To put DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility) standards first, applicable policies and initiatives must be implemented to guarantee safety. This category includes challenges such as addressing unconscious prejudice, ableism, microaggressions, and institutional racism.

Connection and Community

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

The framework points out that two fundamental human needs underpin this Essential: the desire for and the ability to provide social assistance and a sense of belonging. Loneliness and isolation may be lessened if one has social, material, and emotional support from connections and networks. To have a sense of belonging is to feel like you belong in a particular group or community, like you have a solid emotional and social connection to others. Leaders in any organization should make an effort to create settings where employees feel welcome and comfortable regardless of their identity. Positive interactions and connections at work have been shown to boost productivity and increase employee engagement and originality. 

Leaders may pave the way for employees to get to know and trust one another as individuals by providing structure and chances for such growth. Workplaces of the future will likely have a mix of full-time and part-time employees and remote workers. This trend will raise the stakes of finding effective strategies for encouraging cooperation and teamwork.

Work-Life Harmony

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

The Surgeon General highlights that human requirements of autonomy and flexibility enable the capacity to balance work and non-work obligations. More study is needed to fully understand the effects of remote and hybrid work on employees’ mental health and well-being. To be successful, businesses need to value their employees as more than just their job titles. They might have a lot of demands, tasks, and obligations outside of the office. More than a third of the American workforce is under 35, and their influence on changing views on work-life balance cannot be overstated. 

Employees who reported balancing work and home lives more effectively had lower rates of despair and anxiety. Many employees desire more say in building their work environments and more flexible and predictable schedules. When surveyed, these workers identified favorable working conditions and paid time off as two of the most crucial factors for excellent work-life balance. Workers subjected to unpredictable schedules have been shown to report increased rates of psychological discomfort and worse quality sleep, both of which have been associated with unfavorable health effects. Employers should make it possible for employees to start and finish their workdays at times that work best for their families. They should not punish them financially if they take time off due to an unexpected personal or family obligation. 

There should be more opportunities for employees to take paid time off for illness, family emergency, or vacation. Paid sick leave has been shown to boost retention, decrease turnover costs, and positively impact employee and family health. Workers are happier when they can set clear boundaries between work and personal life and are not punished for exercising this necessary flexibility.

Mattering at Work

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

The stress-reducing effect of self-affirmation is well documented, whereas the depression-inducing impact of a false sense of worth is also well established. Companies should assess their pay strategies and other benefits to ensure they provide their employees with a sustainable income. Workers who reported adverse effects on their mental health from their jobs were more likely to be concerned about their pay, according to the Work and Well-Being Survey conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2022. All employees should be given a fair, stable, and predictable minimum salary (one that considers overtime, gratuities, and commissions) that grows with their experience and expertise. Employers should also ensure they are actively involved and give responsibility to all employees. 

According to researchers, employees who are regularly shown appreciation for their contributions are more inclined to express gratitude for their coworkers. Leaders can make employees aware of how their work contributes to the company’s goals.

Opportunity for Growth

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

In the framework, workplace learning is positioned as acquiring new information and skills for personal, professional, social, and emotional development. Only 59% of the 129 large and medium-sized U.S. businesses participating in a recent study have made research and development a top priority during the previous three years. Leaders and managers may guide employees effectively by considering their skills and needs for improvement. It is crucial to provide a level playing field and remove obstacles to growth for people of color in the workforce. In addition, companies should make sure that employees who work remotely or in a hybrid capacity still have equal access to promotions and other professional development possibilities.

Worker happiness and organizational success are inextricably linked, as the Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being demonstrates. It provides a framework and tools applicable to businesses of any size and within any field. By giving everyone a place at the table, as the Surgeon General said, to “center their voices,” we can help ensure that each individual has a chance to succeed.

Many health professionals are avoiding burnout and reclaiming better, happier lives after years of struggling with issues like lack of self-care and sleep deprivation due to stress at work. They do so with support from Healing Breaths’ scientifically proven SKY Breathing Meditation. Learn more about our studies and seminars by contacting us now.