As President Biden’s Surgeon General in the USA, Dr. Vivek Murthy reprized his role under the Obama administration from 2014 to 2017. Murthy also chaired Biden’s Covid-19 Advisory Board and was a longtime adviser to Biden during the pandemic. Recently, the Surgeon General published his framework for mental health and well-being in the workplaceproviding an overview of five components that re-imagine workplaces as engines of well-being and create supportive and sustainable mental health.
Framework for mental health and well-being
Research shows that 76% of American workers have at least one symptom of a mental health condition, 84% say their working conditions contribute to at least one mental health challenge, and 81% report that they will seek jobs that support mental health in the future. The Surgeon General’s Five Essentials for Workplace Mental Health and Wellness are designed to address these statistics and the mental health crisis.
- Protection from damage. Prioritizing physical and psychological safety, enabling adequate rest, normalizing and supporting mental health and operationalizing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility norms, policies and programs.
- Connection and Community. Creating cultures of inclusion and belonging, cultivating trusted relationships and fostering collaboration and teamwork.
- Work-Life Harmony. Providing more autonomy over how work is done, making schedules as flexible and predictable as possible, increasing access to paid holidays and respecting the boundaries between working and non-working time.
- Importance at work. Providing a living wage, engaging workers in workplace decisions, building a culture of gratitude and recognition, and connecting individual work to the organizational mission.
- Opportunities for Growth. Providing quality training, education and mentoring, fostering clear and equitable pathways to career advancement, ensuring relevant and reciprocal feedback.
How leadership development meets the essentials
These essentials come at a critical time when employers are trying to improve retention and engagement while workers are prioritizing their mental health. As CEO of National Society for Leadership and Success, Neil Khaund believes that leadership development is key to meeting every need outlined in the report. “Leaders need to treat workplace wellness not just as a way to boost performance or increase retention, but also as a critical part of their social responsibility,” says Khaund. Here’s how he envisions a leadership training program that can help businesses follow the U.S. Surgeon General’s essentials for workplace mental health and wellness:
Protection from damage. Leadership training can teach employees to strengthen their emotional resilience to sustain a sense of security in a changing world. Providing such training also makes employees feel more supported and secure in their workplaces.
Importance at work. Leadership development helps professionals better clarify their passions and skills. Knowing what they are good at and what they care about helps employees focus on how their contributions can help create a role that fulfills them and helps their peers and bosses.
Work-life harmony. Time management skills strengthened in leadership training programs help employees achieve more while maintaining better boundaries between their professional and personal lives. This ultimately creates more satisfaction in both areas – the recipe for a harmonious and more rewarding life.
Connection and community. A key component of leadership development is practicing soft skills with like-minded people, which forms lasting bonds through shared vulnerability and growth. Friendships formed during leadership training can become the foundation of a strong professional network and work community.
Opportunity for growth. Leadership development programs support growth by equipping people with the mindset needed to advance in the workplace. Companies that invest in leadership training provide their teams with the building blocks of personal and professional fulfillment, which, in turn, leads to higher ROI.
“Throughout my career, I have seen leadership training improve the five essentials for workplace wellness outlined in the US Surgeon General’s guidelines,” concludes Khaund. “I believe it’s time to reframe leadership development as more than a tool for career advancement or productivity improvement—and as a key to thriving in the workforce and creating more fulfilling lives. Organizations can offer leadership development as their contribution to the movement that prioritizes mental health and wellness. One way or another, society is shifting to put people first. Organizations leading this movement by providing leadership development will ultimately be more successful and have happier and healthier workers.”