Work and Well-Being Initiative advises on new Surgeon General’s Framework

December 15, 2022—Researchers affiliated with the Work and Well-Being Initiative (WWBI), jointly run by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and MIT’s Sloan School of Management, served as advisors for a new Surgeon General’s Framework on workplace mental health and well-being.

Released as a 30-page document and accompanying website in late October, the Framework highlights five “essentials” for supporting the mental health and well-being of workers—protection from harm; connection and community; work-life harmony; mattering at work; and opportunities for growth—and steps that leaders can take to incorporate them in policies and practices.

“A healthy workforce is the foundation for thriving organizations and healthier communities,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in a press release. The Framework can help make workplaces engines for mental health and well-being, he said. “[Making changes] will be worth it, because the benefits will accrue for workers and organizations alike.”

Cited throughout the Framework is an Employer Toolkit released last year by WWBI and freely available online. It includes tools that employers can use to improve worker health as well as boost employee engagement, retention, and productivity.

WWBI researchers were involved in the development of the Framework. Lisa Berkman, Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and of Epidemiology; Laura Kubzansky, professor of social and behavioral sciences; Meg Lovejoy, research project director at the Center for Population and Development Studies; and Erin Kelly, Sloan Distinguished Professor of Work and Organization Studies at MIT; participated in exploratory and advisory conversations with the Surgeon General’s Office, and Kubzansky also served as a subject matter expert.

“Change the workplace, not the worker” is WWBI’s motto, said Kubzansky. She noted that many workplace wellness programs put the responsibility on workers to improve their health. While these programs can be helpful for particularly motivated people, randomized studies have found that they have no overall impact on improving worker health, Kubzansky said. What’s more, they do nothing to address underlying problems in workplaces.

“My hope is that the Surgeon General’s Framework will shine a light on workplace mental health and well-being and inspire people to see that it really matters, and we should put resources behind it,” she said.

Read the Surgeon General’s press release: U.S. Surgeon General Releases New Framework for Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplace

Learn more

We’re living longer so that just means we work longer, right? (Harvard Gazette)

“Work Design for Health” framework and toolkit developed by researchers at Harvard Chan School and MIT Sloan School of Management offers employers effective alternative to employee wellness programs (Harvard Chan School news)