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Workplace Well‑Being Resources

Reflection Questions

This set of questions can help leaders reflect on their workplaces and start designing organizational policy and culture around the Five Essentials for Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being.

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Practice Examples

This list is not comprehensive, nor does including an example indicate endorsement. Rather, these examples are intended to serve as a starting point for organizations and organizational leaders as they apply the Framework in their workplaces.

Kent State University

The background

Kent State University (KSU) is a public, higher-education institution with approximately 6,000 employees across eight locations in Ohio and New York. In 2012, KSU leadership committed to addressing employee well-being, work-life balance, and mental health. After surveying staff, holding focus groups, and creating an inventory of campus resources, KSU administration confirmed that mental health and work-life balance were top employee concerns and developed a Workplace Mental Health and Wellness Initiative.

The approach

In addition to efforts to build trust and workshops to help supervisors identify and respond to signs of depression among staff, the team at KSU focused on normalizing mental health by minimizing stigma around accessing support services. This included improvements to and communication around their comprehensive EAP program, with online and telephone options, and support with stress, anxiety, depression, child and older adult caregiver needs, as well as assistance with financial, legal or identify theft. The EAP is available to all staff, household members, and dependents of staff. They also focused on increasing time and opportunities for connection, including ‘walk and talks’ which gave workers an opportunity to be together, be physically active, and find peer support.

The outcome

In the first six months following the launch of the campaign, KSU found a notable increase in EAP utilization and increased web traffic to their EAP website on mental health issues. For the 12-month period after the launch of the campaign in 2012, KSU saw a reduction in claims dollars spent for covered employees diagnosed with depression of $4,861.93 per employee per year, resulting in more than $1 million in savings. Following the implementation of the program, positive responses to employee surveys asking if workers believed their organization cared about their health and well-being more than tripled. Their continued efforts to cultivate a positive working environment for employees has led KSU to be recognized as one of the “Great Colleges to Work For” among 212 institutions for the 11th time since the implementation of the initiative. This has included recognition for their efforts in the following areas: Compensation and Benefits; Confidence in Senior Leadership; Shared Governance; Faculty Experience; and Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging.

Gap, Inc

The background

Many retail workers will not know their schedules until a few days in advance of work, or are “on-call”, forcing them to be available without any guarantee of a paid shift. Gap, Inc, a global clothing-retail company, participated in an intervention in 2015-2016 to study the effects of stable schedules on their workforce and business.

The approach

Initiatives to stabilize working schedules included posting workers’ schedules two weeks in advance and eliminating “on-call” shifts. Alongside these baseline initiatives, some managers at different stores implemented additional interventions, such as:

  • Instituting standard start and end times for shifts
  • Allocating extra staff during times when there is expected to be a sales increase
  • Guaranteeing a minimum of 20 hours of work each week for workers
  • Allowing associates to swap shifts with other associates without managerial approval

The outcome

This example shows that making schedules as predictable as possible, while ensuring adequate staff resources to meet high work volume, can reap benefits for the worker and organizations alike. Twenty-eight Gap stores implemented stable scheduling initiatives, which impacted the schedules of nearly 1,500 workers. The total costs of these interventions were low—approximately $31,200. In the stores that implemented stable scheduling initiatives during the 35-week measurement period, Gap saw a 5% increase in worker productivity and a 7% increase in sales. An analysis of the intervention estimated that these stores saw $2.9 million in increased revenue due to the stable scheduling practices. Individual-level impacts included sleep quality improving by 6–8% on average among staff surveyed.

9-1-1 Dispatchers

The background

9-1-1 dispatchers experience a high rate of burnout due to the inherently stressful and traumatic nature of their job as first responders. For example, more than 40% of surveyed emergency dispatchers operating within the Los Angeles Police Department, the third largest police force in the U.S., reported high levels of burnout. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley hypothesized that burnout and turnover among emergency dispatchers can be decreased by fostering a sense of belonging, support, and positive professional identity.

The approach

To test this hypothesis, a group of more than 500 dispatchers across nine U.S. cities received a weekly email for six weeks that featured a story of a dispatcher’s work experience. These emails also included a prompt to encourage workers to reflect on their experiences, in hopes that they would share positive stories their coworkers might resonate with. The stories were collected and stored in an easily accessible online database for future emails. For example, one email featured the story of a dispatcher who saved the life of a woman experiencing intimate partner violence in the community. The email concluded with a prompt asking dispatchers to share similar stories about peers and name who would be great mentors and why. Responses were then featured in the following week’s email.

The outcome

By sharing stories, dispatchers were able to highlight the challenges of the job and find commonality while supporting their peers. This fostered a greater sense of belonging as more dispatchers were able to empathize with the stories and challenges shared by colleagues. Approximately two-thirds of participants asked that the weekly emails continue. Moreover, dispatchers who received these emails reported a decrease in burnout. One model suggested this intervention can reduce turnover by 50%, resulting in cost savings for organizations. For instance, according to the model, a city with 100 emergency dispatchers could save more than $400,000 in recruitment and training costs from turnover. These findings suggest that low-cost interventions for building social connections, helping workers feel valued, and creating a platform for trusted work relationships can mitigate burnout and contribute to worker well-being.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento, CA

The background

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a major Army command with approximately 37,000 civilian and military personnel, one of the world’s largest public engineering, design and construction management agencies. The district of Sacramento has over 900 workers who manage some of the largest and most complex construction projects in the United States. Their leadership has emphasized the need for a robust and positive workplace safety culture, one that includes physical and psychological health and well-being. Their motto, “Building strong AND Taking care of people” reflects this.

The approach

There is a clear commitment from leadership across all levels to prioritize physical and psychological safety at work. The agency meets staff to support their well-being wherever they are, from office settings to government vehicles to construction sites. They utilize engagement surveys and awards so workers feel empowered to prevent and stop unsafe acts, while fostering a sense of ownership over their safety program and culture. Leadership provides early and ongoing communication and improvement opportunities, from new staff orientations to openly and publicly discussing workplace mental health and well-being. These communications also include safety expectation setting through district-wide letters to all staff, a quarterly council to highlight successes on workplace safety, and a district-wide employee council for troubleshooting challenges.

The outcome

Panels with workers on workplace well-being through the pandemic and training on “Mental Health First Aid” for staff have also helped to normalize struggles and address stigma, while increasing access to mental health care and support. When it comes to workplace mental health and well-being, with this supportive safety culture, one worker reported feeling “more open to sharing my own challenges” with peers and “more supported to address them by my supervisor,” especially alongside other disabilities for which he also needs support. The benefits of this program appeared to spill into the community as well, as at least one worker responded to efforts at work by taking on additional speaking engagements in their community to continue confronting stigma, including joining a city stigma association and sharing their story with local high schools, colleges, and teachers. One more worker shared, “Speaking out has helped others to also speak out and know they won’t be punished… Having flexibility was (also) a life-saver for me—being able to make my doctor’s appointments, adding flexibility to scheduling meetings—it’s made a huge difference in my work life.”

DTE Energy

The background

In response to survey results indicating low performance and creativity among their workforce, leadership at DTE Energy, a Detroit-based energy company, were eager for solutions. They were inspired after visiting a local call center where, contrary to expectations, they noted “positive, fully engaged employees collaborate and go the extra mile for customers.” The secret: “connecting the people to their purpose.”

The approach

One of DTE’s first related initiatives was to film a video articulating the importance of each worker. They highlighted truck drivers, plant operators, corporate leaders, and many others to recognize the impact of their work in the company and on the community. Workers reported being moved by the videos because their work had never before been framed as a meaningful contribution. This newfound meaning was ingrained in the organizational culture itself, as the company adopted a new statement of purpose: “We serve with our energy, the lifeblood of communities and the engine of progress.” This statement was woven into company leadership activities, onboarding and training programs, corporate meetings, and teambuilding efforts.

The outcome

This example demonstrates one way to make an explicit connection between individual’s work and the functioning of an organization and its surrounding community. After centering the importance of mattering in the workplace, DTE Energy received a Gallup Great Workplace Award five years in a row.

Protection from Harm

Resources

  • toolkit

    CDC/NIOSH

    This workbook will help you develop new Total Worker Health (TWH) initiatives or better align existing workplace interventions with the TWH approach.

  • toolkit

    Oregon Healthy Workforce Center

    The Safety & Health Improvement Program (SHIP) was designed to increase supervisor and peer support and decrease job strain, which play a key role in safety compliance and improved physical and mental health.

  • assessment

    CDC/NIOSH

    The NIOSH Worker Well-Being Questionnaire (NIOSH WellBQ) is intended to help researchers, employers, workers, practitioners, and policymakers understand the well-being of workers and target interventions to improve worker well-being, among other applications.

  • toolkit

    OSHA

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides information on employers’ training requirements and offers resources such as free publications, videos, and other assistance to help employers protect workers against injuries and illnesses.

Connection & Community

Resources

  • directory

    SBA

    Free or low-cost counseling and training in your area from SBA and its network of partners.

  • toolkit

    Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN)

    EARN provides employers with general guidance and background on the what, why and how of making your organization more welcoming and accessible to applicants and employees with disabilities.

  • directory

    Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

    JAN provides A to Z listings by disability, topic, and limitation. This information is designed to help employers and individuals determine effective accommodations and comply with Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

  • toolkit

    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health / MIT Sloan School of Management

    This toolkit presents case studies of “Promising Practices” that are drawn largely from a systematic review of published experimental research on work design for worker well-being.

Work-Life Harmony

Resources

  • toolkit

    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health /MIT Sloan School of Management

    This toolkit presents case studies of “Promising Practices” that are drawn largely from a systematic review of published experimental research on work design for worker well-being.

  • tips

    Mental Health America

    Recommendations on how employers can allow employees to have more flexibility and autonomy in their jobs.

  • research

    MIT Sloan Management Review

    Based on survey data that speaks to the challenges that organizations are experiencing from the rapid transition to remote work and their creative solutions, this article highlights five ways that organizations can support remote work.

    By Donald Sull, Charles Sull, and Josh Bersin. June 03, 2020

Mattering at Work

Resources

  • toolkit

    UMass Lowell

    The CPH-NEW Healthy Workplace Participatory Program (HWPP) Toolkit was developed to engage employees in designing integrated solutions that address a wide range of work environment, work organization, safety, and employee health issues.

  • campaign

    Institute for Healthcare Improvement

    Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) believes that “What Matters” is a simple, yet profound concept that is key to creating deeply personal engagements with patients and their family members, a deeper understanding of what really matters to them, and is the foundation of developing genuine partnerships for co-creating health.

Opportunities for Growth

Resources