New Framework Makes Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing a Priority
In a groundbreaking initiative, United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has released the Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being. The framework outlines the foundational role employers should play in promoting workplace mental health and the wellbeing of employees and communities.
According to the framework, “With more than 160 million people participating in the United States workforce and with the average full-time worker in the U.S. spending about half of their waking life at work, workplaces play a significant role in shaping our mental and physical well-being.”
Improving mental health at work is a critical issue in the U.S. and globally. And while some workplace conditions had a negative impact on mental health long before the pandemic, the last few years have proved worse for the workforce.
- In Asia, more than a quarter of employees have reported symptoms of depression and anxiety, which, among other implications, can help set the stage for burnout. Worldwide, one in four employees say they’re experiencing symptoms of burnout — but in Asia, the figure is even higher — nearing one in three, according to McKinsey data.
- Across Europe, nearly half of the surveyed workers (44%) say their work stress increased as a result of the pandemic, according to EU-OSHA’s workers’ survey.
- 81% of U.S. workers report they’ll be looking for workplaces that support mental health in the future, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2022 Work and Wellbeing Survey.
The Surgeon General’s five-point framework is designed to address these kinds of statistics. It provides a comprehensive roadmap for organizations to improve mental health outcomes by addressing five critical areas of employee wellbeing.
1. Protection from Harm
Safety and security are basic human needs. Thus, creating physical and psychological safety conditions is critical to ensuring employee wellbeing. Organizations must create protection from harm by
- Prioritizing both physical and psychological safety
- Enabling adequate rest
- Normalizing and supporting employees’ mental health needs
- Operationalizing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility policies and programs
2. Connection and Community
Social support and belonging are also critical to employee wellbeing. To support connection and community, organizations must provide opportunities for positive social interactions and relationships in the workplace by
- Creating a culture of inclusion and belonging
- Cultivating trusted relationships
- Fostering collaboration and teamwork
3. Work-Life Harmony
Employers play an essential role in mitigating work and non-work conflicts. Employees must have autonomy and flexibility to handle work and non-work demands effectively. Employers can help by
- Offering more autonomy over how work is done
- Making schedules as flexible and predictable as possible
- Increasing access to paid leave
- Respecting boundaries between work and non‑work time
4. Mattering at Work
Knowing that they matter can lower employees’ stress levels. Conversely, feeling unimportant increases the risk of depression. Employers can foster employee dignity and purpose by
- Providing a living wage
- Engaging employees in workplace decisions
- Building a culture of gratitude and recognition
- Connecting individual work with an organizational mission
5. Opportunity for Growth
When they have opportunities to learn, employees become more optimistic about their abilities and more enthusiastic about contributing to the organization. Employers can help encourage a sense of accomplishment by
- Offering quality training, education, and mentoring
- Fostering clear, equitable pathways for career advancement
- Ensuring relevant, reciprocal feedback
Putting the framework into practice
The Surgeon General’s framework states, “Employers have a unique opportunity not only to invest in the mental health and well-being of their workforce but also to strengthen their organizations’ success by doing so.”
The Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being provides clear parameters for what organizations should provide their employees. However, deciding where to start and how to implement change can be an overwhelming task. A mental fitness training program can lay the foundation for improving employee performance, relationships, and wellbeing in the workplace and beyond.
The power of a positive mindset
Mental fitness is the measure of how quickly you can shift from negative to positive responses to challenges. When you are mentally fit, you are better able to handle life’s challenges. You are more resilient and better at managing stress, and you cultivate a growth mindset that leads to optimal performance and wellbeing.
The Positive Intelligence (PQ) Program is a proven neuroscience-based approach to mental fitness. The program is based on a comprehensive factor analysis study presented in the New York Times bestseller Positive Intelligence. The study identifies the fundamental underlying factors that promote or hinder optimal performance and wellbeing.
The PQ Program uses a three-prong approach to help individuals and teams create lasting new habits:
1. Address the root-level cause of negative thought patterns rather than just treating the symptoms.
2. Develop mental muscles and instill a daily habit of mental fitness practice.
3. Create a shared operating system for personal and professional growth to simplify coaching, training, and practice.
As a result, individuals and teams who complete the PQ Program increase collaboration, boost creativity and understanding, manage stress better, and increase productivity:
- 90% Use mental/emotional energy more effectively
- 92% Are better at teamwork and collaboration
- 85% Increase happiness
- 91% Manage stress better
- 83% Improve self-confidence
- 84% Are better at conflict management
*Based on survey results from cohort of >2000 Positive Intelligence Program participants after six weeks of mental fitness training
How the PQ Program supports workplace mental health and wellbeing
The PQ Program differs from workshops, books, and other coaching programs that may inspire temporary but not lasting change. While some of these resources and programs provide short-term benefits, they don’t offer the depth and breadth of material, proven practices, and staying power to ensure organizational transformation. The Positive Intelligence program supports workplace wellbeing in the following ways:
- PQ focuses on habit formation. Most training results in short-lived improvements. For sustained results, the PQ Program focuses on building neural pathways that form lasting new habits.
- PQ treats root causes, not symptoms. PQ’s factor analysis research has revealed the foundational root-level enablers and disablers of optimal performance and wellbeing. The PQ Program rewires the brain at the root cause level.
- PQ develops all three core mental muscles. Mental fitness requires three core muscles: Saboteur Interceptor, Self-Command, and Sage. Mindfulness practices focus on the Self-Command muscle, which is only part of the equation for positive change.
- PQ provides one operating system with many applications. PQ’s factor analysis reveals one core operating system of the mind. This system can run a massive variety of work and life applications.
- PQ is a platform for ongoing growth. Similar to maintaining physical fitness, mental fitness requires ongoing practice. After the initial six-week foundation program, the PQ app ensures continued growth through various work and life applications.
- PQ is research-based with measurable results. PQ’s research has included more than a million participants from around the globe. The program’s tools have been field-tested with thousands of tough-minded participants, ensuring their efficacy.
- PQ has lifelong applications. The PQ Program enhances the whole person, improving relationships, wellness, and performance across all domains of life.
Now’s the time to make an impact on workplace mental health and wellbeing
According to the Surgeon General’s report, “We can build workplaces that are engines of well-being, showing workers that they matter, that their work matters, and that they have the workplace resources and support necessary to flourish.”
The PQ Program can support and enhance the five-point framework for prioritizing employee mental health and wellbeing. Through mental fitness training, organizations can cultivate a space where employees feel psychologically safe, connected and the organization, and empowered with a growth mindset to achieve optimal performance and wellbeing.