The workplace is constantly evolving, and one of the most important workplace developments in recent years involves employee mental health and well-being. Last month, adding to the discussion, the U.S. Surgeon General issued several recommendations for ways to improve employee mental health and well-being. Below is everything you need to know about the Surgeon General’s advice, along with how you can support the cause.
In order to be a successful employee, it’s critical that you feel safe both “physically and psychologically.” The Surgeon General highlights that these aren’t simply workplace needs but “human needs.” In fact, some of the most basic human needs are “safety” and “security.” It’s essential for these needs to be met before any kind of deadline can be met. These needs are highlighted in Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs, which puts safety near the base of the hierarchy—base needs must be met before anything extra can be done, such as trying for a promotion or taking on more hours.
While your coworkers don’t have to be your best friends, it’s important for organizations to foster meaningful relationships that allow for “connection and community,” according to the Surgeon General. A sense of belonging at work isn’t only a human need but also helps create a supportive environment, improving your chances at success by placing people in your corner hoping for you to succeed.
It’s important to find balance between your professional and personal life, and finding a balance (or “harmony” as the Surgeon General calls it) is easier when your human need for “autonomy” is met—when you have control over where and when you work. The Surgeon General also mentions the human need for “flexibility.” Being able to adapt and work where it’s best for you is critical in the search for work-life balance. By creating boundaries in the workplace over your schedule and where you work, the journey of finding balance becomes easier.
According to the Surgeon General, “mattering at work” is one of the five most important things employees need in the workplace. Having a sense of purpose at work reduces stress and thus improves mental health. As a result, it’s crucial for organizations to recognize their employees and reassure them that they and their work matter. And this means showing, not just telling. Providing a “living wage” and creating cultures that focus on appreciation and recognition will go much further than mere conversations when it comes to making employees feel like they matter.
A good employee has goals in place they want to achieve, and a good company allows employees to have opportunities to accomplish these goals. When goals seem more attainable, people become more “enthusiastic” about chasing after them. It’s important to learn and feel accomplished within your career, and a lot of this comes from growth. Having the “opportunity for growth,” as the Surgeon General calls it, plays a key role in employee well-being.
As an individual, you have the power to help create a workspace that feels safe for others to be in. One way to do this is showing your support for DEI. While companies should be taking steps to improve DEI within their organizations, you can still walk into work tomorrow and show your stance as an ally.
You don’t need to wait for your company to host an event that allows for everyone to get together and feel more included. If there’s someone in your company that you want to make sure feels like they belong, a simple email or message can go a long way. Simply check in on them, ask them how they’re doing both at work and outside of work, and make an effort to establish a meaningful relationship. These steps go even further in a virtual work environment, where people can easily feel more detached from the rest of the company.
If one of your coworkers is trying to establish boundaries around their work schedule and won’t work past 5 p.m., don’t schedule a meeting with them at 6 p.m. Respecting your coworkers’ boundaries will help them in their journey of finding work-life balance. You can even take it a step further and congratulate them for taking action and establishing boundaries—which is much easier said than done.
Recognition from leadership can help an employee feel like they matter, as can recognition from a coworker. If someone on your team did something great, let them know that you see them and their hard work. Feeling like hard work is being seen and appreciated can go a long way in helping someone feel like the work they’re doing matters.
As an employee, you don’t typically have the ability to open a door to more opportunities for someone else. However, you can encourage them to keep reaching for their goals. Becoming the cheerleader your coworker needs can keep their morale high, while they keep working towards their goals.