On October 20, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a new framework on workplace well-being that does more than offer simple guidelines. It demonstrates how the country’s leaders are placing a new emphasis on healthy employees and workplaces as a result of the changing nature of work.
We recently wrote about some of the factors that are contributing to the difficulty of being a leader today, and massive changes in the world of work topped our list. The COVID-19 pandemic brought new stressors to leaders and their employees, and in 2021 research, 84% of U.S. workers said their workplace conditions had contributed to at least one mental health challenge. As the discussions around “quiet quitting” and the Great Resignation continue, leaders must rethink what a “healthy” workplace looks like.
The Surgeon General’s Framework for Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplace offers tips for how workplaces can promote the health and well-being of workers and their communities. In the framework, Dr. Murthy offers Five Essentials for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being. Learn more about these essentials and how, as a leader in the health ecosystem, you can support your team members' holistic well-being.1. Protection from Harm
According to the first essential component of this framework, namely Protection from Harm, the Surgeon General supports a focus on both physical and emotional safety. In particular, the Surgeon General suggests prioritizing workplace psychological safety, adequate employee rest, mental health support, and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) norms and policies.
Protection from Harm extends far beyond meeting the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) guidelines that are typically associated with workplace health and safety. While in the past, leaders’ primary focus may have been to maximize productivity in pursuit of achieving results, the pandemic proved that a hyper-focus on results without adequate focus on well-being can lead to burnout, quiet quitting and disengagement, and increased turnover — all of which negatively impact the ability to achieve results. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2022 Work and Well-being Survey results, 81% of workers reported that they will be looking for workplaces that support mental health in the future.
To support this essential component, leaders must learn how to motivate their teams to achieve results in new and different ways. Examples include having authentic and supportive discussions, demonstrating connection and vulnerability with their teams, and listening deeply. Every person has the potential to lead with compassion and empathy. However, it’s easy for leaders to lose connection to these skills through a hyper-focus on external performance benchmarks (or a lack of emphasis on their own and their team’s health and well-being).
How organizations and leaders can promote psychological safety and protection from harm: Executive coaching and leadership training can be valuable tools to help leaders better understand and utilize their innate sense of empathy and compassion, which help them better support and promote their employees’ health and well-being. These trainings can equip leaders with the skills necessary to build psychological safety and lead productive discussions around mental health.
Additionally, as DEIA continues to transform, rather than thinking about diversity and inclusion as an initiative with a beginning and an end, leaders should focus on integrating a lens of DEIA into all they do. This includes evaluating all new policies, processes, and programs under the lens of: “Is this inclusive?” “Is this equitable?” “Does this support every employee?” Enlisting the help of a coach or consultant who specializing in DEIA can help leaders to hone and develop this skill.
2. Connection and Community
The rapid shift to remote work at the beginning of the pandemic brought a loss of connection and community for many employees. A report from Pew Research on the continued impact of the pandemic on work in America found that 59% of workers with jobs that can be done from home were teleworking in January 2022.
We’ve learned that there are pros and cons to telework. While 64% of the Pew Research survey participants reported that they found it easier to balance work and personal life by working from home, 60% also said that they feel less connected to their co-workers. As we continue in the “new normal” of work, TLD Group clients often report that their employees crave a sense of belonging and want to work collaboratively to reach goals.
Belonging in the workplace matters. In one study, employees who experienced belonging in the workplace said they were 5 times more likely to want to stay at their company for a long time. Fostering positive social interaction and a sense of belonging at work also supports worker well-being, according to the Surgeon General’s framework. Belonging in the workplace impacts business performance, too. Employees who don’t experience a sense of belonging are more likely to feel insecure about their place in the organization. That insecurity can undermine their performance, their creativity, and their ability and willingness to collaborate.
One way to create connection and community at work: Cohort-based leadership academies are a great way to rebuild camaraderie and connection among employees. 100% of post-pandemic participants in TLD Group’s Applied Physician Leadership Academy (APLA) reported that the program better prepared them to engage in a leadership role and helped them feel a stronger commitment to their organization.
“It brought people together from disparate areas of the system and really created a cohesive group,” said participant in the academy John Clifton Hastings, MD, the Physician Leadership Officer for Northeast Georgia Health System.
3. Work-Life Harmony
The third essential in Dr. Murthy’s Five Essentials for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being is work-life harmony, which includes providing worker’s control over how and where work is done, making schedules as predictable and flexible and possible, and increasing access to paid leave.
The framework stresses the individual employee’s autonomy. While leadership plays a crucial role in overall well-being, individuals that feel empowered to care for themselves by setting and maintaining healthy boundaries at work tend to be more resilient. This is difficult in any industry, but especially in the healthcare ecosystem, where employees often feel a strong need to work selflessly for the sake of their patients. That quality is great for producing high-quality care, but can ultimately lead to faster burnout for individual employees.
A simple way to increase work-life harmony: Executive coaching, which is designed to accelerate performance and includes a focus on enhanced well-being, can help employees create boundaries and healthy habits. Employee well-being results in higher-quality patient care, more efficient work, and decreased turnover.
“Coaching is all about honoring the individual as whole, capable, and resourceful,” said Tracy Duberman, President & CEO of TLD Group. “Through coaching, individuals can tap more fully into themselves, honoring their own needs in relation to health and wellness, and gaining a deeper understanding of what they need in order to bring their best selves to work each day.”
4. Mattering at Work
The fourth essential in the framework is Mattering at Work. Employees need to know they matter to those around them and that their work matters. Without both, the risk for depression is elevated.
Key components of mattering at work include providing workers with a living wage, engaging them in workplace decisions, building a culture of gratitude and recognition, and connecting individual work with the organization’s mission.
How to help employees’ understand their worth: Action learning, a primary component of TLD Group’s cohort-based leadership academies, is an approach to working with and developing people through an actual project or problem as the learning method. Throughout the action learning process, participants work in small groups with help from a certified action-learning coach to take action on organizational challenges, while simultaneously reflecting on leadership learnings gathered from the process.
The approach combines analysis and action, reflection and doing, and organizational development and bottom-line performance to drive results in new ways and build leadership competencies and organizational capabilities.5. Opportunity for Growth
The final essential, Opportunity for Growth, is about creating opportunities for workers to accomplish goals based on their current skills and future ambitions, leading them to become more optimistic about their abilities and enthusiastic about contributing to the organization. To assure opportunities for growth, the framework suggests offering quality training and education, fostering clear and equitable pathways for career advancement, and ensuring relevant and reciprocal feedback.
We agree! Opportunities for growth are essential for health and well-being, and for organizational success. It’s impossible for organizations to grow unless their people grow and develop, too.
How TLD Group encourages opportunities for growth: Strategic Succession Management, or the intentional, on-going development of your workforce, ensures a continuous flow of talent to fill key leadership positions in the present and future. It’s vitally important to any organization’s success to continuously identify and develop talent to fill critical roles in the future, and the Surgeon General’s framework proves that it’s essential for individual employee’s well-being, too.
By supporting the health and well-being of their workforce, leaders allow their teams to contribute their best selves to the important work of their organizations.
Not sure where to start? At TLD Group, we’re passionate about supporting organizations across the health ecosystem through customized, innovative talent development solutions. To learn more about how we can support your efforts to improve employee health and wellbeing, visit our website today.