Surgeon General Report Summary: 5 Recommendations for Supporting Worker Mental Health and Well-Being

Surgeon General Report Summary: 5 Recommendations for Supporting Worker Mental Health and Well-Being

It’s no surprise that stress impacts an employee’s well-being, mental health, productivity, and relationships. These days employees are working on shorter deadlines, striving to meet aggressive deliverable deadlines, juggling family commitments, and more. In fact, a recent American Psychological Association report indicates that 79 percent of employees had recently experienced work-related stress. Further, negative impacts of this stress included lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26 percent) and lack of effort at work (19 percent).

These staggering statistics and implications underscore that employee mental health and well-being are an important priority year-round – not only for the well-being of employees but also to retain employees and positively affect the financial health of the company. The U.S. Surgeon General’s recently released report on mental health priorities calls for organizations to consider five key efforts when promoting the health and well-being of workers and our communities. The five essentials to support workplace mental health & well-being include:

  1. Protection from Harm
  2. Connection and Community
  3. Work-Life Harmony
  4. Mattering at Work
  5. Opportunity for Growth
Key Physical and Mental Well-Being Stats from U.S. Surgeon General Report
  • 76% of U.S. workers reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition
  • 84% of respondents said their workplace conditions had contributed to at least one mental health challenge
  • 81% of workers reported that they will look for workplaces that support mental health in the future

Protection from Harm  

The first key essential, protection from harm, focuses on two human needs, safety and security. To ensure a business is meeting these basics needs, the Surgeon General and OSHA recommend proactive safety and health programs to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths.  

Traditionally, incident prevention has been the primary focus of occupational safety teams. However, in recent years, organizations have increasingly integrated employee health and wellness initiatives into safety programs by following Total Worker Health frameworks developed by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Total Worker Health programs take a more integrated approach to safety management by championing a holistic understanding of the myriad of factors that influence employee safety, health, and well-being, including job-related factors such as wages, interactions with coworkers and supervisors, work hours, workloads, stress, and access to paid leave. Overall, EHS leaders agree with a focus on building Total Worker Health programs. The latest EHS Global Survey conducted by research and advisory firm, Verdantix, found that 66 percent of the decision-makers polled indicated that their teams were directly responsible for supporting their worker’s mental health and wellness. 

Proactive, holistic safety and health programs are important for any workplace but may be particularly heightened for industries such as construction, industrial manufacturing, and facilities maintenance where labor shortages, physically demanding roles, meeting OSHA compliance standards, seasonal layoffs, and working with various types of machinery are commonplace. Implementing safety and health programs includes increasing workers' knowledge and skill retention of critical safety procedures and processes, promoting connectedness, teaching coping and problem-solving skills, identifying and supporting people at risk, and lessening harm and preventing future risk. Another strategy to highlight an organization’s focus on creating a safe and secure workplace includes encouraging mental health days.

Check out these helpful health and safety resources:

In a recent Human Resources Director article, Jackie Wolf, Vector Solutions CHRO, echoes that focus. "Allowing employees to take days off for mental health and wellness improves employee engagement, commitment and balance, which ultimately improves productivity and attrition,” Wolf states. “If people need to take a mental health day, they should.” 

Connection and Community

The second key essential outlined in the Surgeon’s General report is connection and community. This essential focus is on the human need for social support and belonging. The report explains that fostering a sense of belonging and connection within the broader communities they are a part of has the potential to improve the health and well-being of workers and communities, and the prosperity of organizations themselves.

To undertake focus on this key essential, organizations should focus on creating an inclusive work culture, undertaking

Identifying signs of mental health concerns, stress, and burnout is a crucial step in creating a caring work environment and being a support system for employees. Check out these training resources to support the needs of workers:

relationship-building activities, and fostering a collaborative workplace whether employees are remote, in-person, or hybrid. A great resource full of recommendations for creating high-performing teams that prioritize physical and mental well-being can be found here.

Work-Life Harmony

The third essential outlined in the report is work-life harmony. Workers have responsibilities in and out of work, and therefore, organizations must have an understanding that professional and personal roles and responsibilities can both be met. Ultimately, workers who feel they can better harmonize their professional and personal needs report greater satisfaction with their work and life and experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.

To achieve improved work-life balance, the Surgeon General and Mental Health America recommend:

  • Providing 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 and non-work conflicts

Mattering at Work

The fourth essential, Mattering at Work, centers around the principles of providing a living wage, engaging workers in workplace decisions, building a culture of gratitude and recognition, and connecting individual work with organizational mission.

The Attorney General’s framework encourages organizations to review all resources aimed at meeting job demands. Areas such as compensation, retirement plans, mental support, and caregiving programs should be reviewed as each of these impact employee health and well-being. Further, organizations should develop a connection between worker day-to-day responsibilities and the organizational purpose and mission.

Leaders can reinforce these connections by acknowledging the different roles of individuals, teams, and departments in achieving organizational goals. - Harvard Business Review article cited by Attorney General

Opportunity for Growth

The fifth and final essential for improving workplace mental health and well-being focuses on learning new knowledge and skills to provide employees opportunities for growth – professionally and emotionally.

Organizations seeking to improve growth opportunities should consider a focus on skills-based training, career pathing, mentoring, apprenticeship programs, and more. These opportunities should include workers and leadership-level team members to ensure there are no limitations to career advancement opportunities and so leaders have access to resources to engage, manage, and coach others. Organizations that are beginning or improving their training program may find this checklist and evaluation tool helpful.

When organizations create more opportunities for learning, accomplishment, and growth, workers become more optimistic about their abilities and more enthusiastic about contributing to the organization. - Center for Workplace Mental Health

In closing, the U.S. Surgeon General’s report and framework certainly elevates the need for an organizational focus on employee mental health and well-being. It’s a critical year-round focus and crucial component in creating a caring work environment and being a support system for workers.

Vector Solutions helps organizations keep their employees safer, strengthen response to critical concerns or risks, and connect training and technology to achieve better outcomes. Contact us and see what we can do for you.

Want to Know More?

Reach out and a Vector Solutions representative will respond back to help answer any questions you might have.