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The New Employee Contract

Handshakes, concerts, and travel all came back, but it’s become clear that the old way of work is gone for good. It started with furloughs and mass layoffs, ever-changing protocols for deskless workers, and remote/hybrid setups for office workers. Next came the Great Resignation and quiet quitting. This moment of workforce reckoning, despite a struggling economy, has driven workers from all industries to demand a new employee contract.

Employers have long been held accountable for ensuring the health and safety of workers, but recent in-depth reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Surgeon General make it clear that psychological health and safety is the new organizational imperative.

CHROs and HR leaders are tracking the data closely. More than 80 percent of workers reported that they’ll be looking for workplaces that support mental health in the future. Pair this with the backdrop of 2021, which saw a record average of four million workers quitting their jobs each month, and you can see why companies globally are moving swiftly to meet the mental health needs of their employees through individual support and organizational change.

Top 3 takeaways from the WHO and U.S. Surgeon General reports 

  1. Individual care benefits are an important part of a holistic organizational responsibility employers have to support and protect employee well-being.This is because individual and workplace well-being are interdependent. If you treat the individual but they remain in a stressful environment that doesn’t set them up for success, they cannot recover or flourish. The work experience must be designed to promote connection, growth, and work-life balance while protecting employees from workplace hazards to their mental health.
  2. Organizational approaches are as important as individual mental health care support and should focus on preventing and resolving mental health distress caused by work.Employers must consider the mental health implications of how workloads, the work experience, corporate policies, employers’ internal programs, management practices, and learning and development priorities are designed.
  3. A workplace mental health vendor should help employers bolster their benefits by creating a comprehensive workforce mental health strategy that includes assessment of psychosocial risks and hazards and consultation.

So now what?

Evaluating the current state of the workplace is the first step in creating meaningful organizational change. This goes far beyond an engagement survey and into a specialized assessment that identifies the primary psychological health and safety risk factors. The second step is developing an actionable plan to meaningfully address these concerns and then continuing to regularly evaluate progress.

We recommend employers implement the following: 

  • First and foremost, conduct routine psychosocial risk assessments as an occupational health and safety imperative. Employers need data that tell them what the state of their workforce’s mental health is and what specific workplace factors are driving those outcomes in order to maximize the ROI of any solutions.
  • Upskill managers with specialized training on how to mitigate psychosocial risks at work through healthy work design. This includes ensuring employees have role clarity, sustainable workloads, proper resourcing, adequate manager support, scheduling flexibility, and so on. WHO cites this ISO paper as the guiding principle on healthy work design.
  • Train people leaders in techniques to promote psychological safety and emotionally intelligent management.
  • Promote employee well-being through strategic workforce training on healthy practices in the workplace including promotion of better stress management, resilience, and burnout prevention techniques.
  • Audit company policies for their impact on employee mental health.
  • Investigate workplace factors that may be contributing to poor employee mental health when employees take leave for burnout and other work-related mental health distress.
  • Introduce educational programs to support leaders of peer-led programs such as ERGs in addressing mental health within their communities, and provide training and work structures that reduce their risk of vicarious distress.
  • Offer comprehensive individual mental health care services that deliver meaningful and measurable results to employees and dependents.

The CHRO’s new mandate is to prevent, protect, and support workforce mental health

The reports from the WHO and U.S. Surgeon General are currently guidelines and best practices, but it’s not hard to imagine a world where they become mandates and law. Holistically supporting workforce mental health isn’t just the right thing to do and good for the company, it is the future of work.

We’ve seen millennials, and Gen Z in turn, demand more from their employers—with purpose and well-being chief among their demands. In order to attract and retain top talent and foster an environment where they can be at their most creative and productive, employee mental health and well-being needs to be at the core of every decision.


Joe Grasso, PhD, is the Senior Director of Workforce Transformation at Lyra Health and a clinical psychologist by training. He is responsible for advancing the development of Lyra’s suite of psychological wellness and behavior change products which are designed to meet the specific needs of teams and organizations. Dr. Grasso also consults with employers on programs, policies, and communication strategy to support mental health in the workplace, and is the author of numerous peer reviewed papers on topics of presenteeism, integrated health care, psychotherapy outcomes, and the intersection of social identities and mental health. Prior to joining Lyra, Dr. Grasso managed the implementation of a national training program for more than 1,500 mental health providers at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, where he also led quality improvement initiatives and conducted health services research.

Alethea Varra, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and vice president of clinical care for Lyra Health. She serves as the senior clinical leader for therapy programs and is responsible for driving overall clinical strategy and oversight of clinical quality and training. Alethea received a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and doctorate degree in clinical psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno. She completed her internship training at VA Puget Sound Healthcare System and a research fellowship at the Mental Illness Research and Education Center (MIRECC) in Seattle. She has over 15 years of experience in mental health and clinical operations. Her focus is on health care innovation and program development, and she is passionate about improving access to evidenced-based mental health care, especially for underserved populations.

By Joe Grasso, PhD, Senior Director of Workforce Transformation &
Alethea Varra, PhD, Vice President of Clinical Care
31 of October 2022 - 5 min read
Mental health at work
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