Today, we’ll revisit our from/to statements from last week using The U.S. Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well‑Being. When we were organizing API’s Mental Health Summit last fall, we found it helpful to categorize the range of possible present and future states with clear objectives. The framework, pictured below, is a reminder that solving problems in one area of the workplace doesn’t solve everything. When it comes to creating and supporting a sustainable workplace culture — one that can be measured and iterated upon — connecting your goals to the larger systems is critical.

The Surgeon General’s framework shows that there are five workplace essentials for well-being. When they’re intentionally present and pursued, organizational well-being, which is grounded in human needs and shared across roles, is fully realized in the staff and begets optimal work performance. These essentials and needs are:

Step 1: Assign one of the 5 Essentials to your present/future state

  • Protection from Harm
  • Connection and Community
  • Work-Life Harmony
  • Mattering at Work
  • Opportunity for Growth

For many of us, our from/to statement will be labeled Work-Life Harmony, and RJI’s recent research further explains and illustrates this. In the report’s top 10 solutions for the pervasive newsroom burnout we’ve all grown accustomed to, seven of those solutions point to this essential — and more specifically, to the human need for flexibility.

  1. Offer employees the option of a four-day workweek.
  2. Offer more hybrid shifts for staff members that allow work-from-home.
  3. Allow for more remote work from home.
  4. Offer more flexible shifts such as 4, 8, or 10 hours.
  5. Remote work shifts at least one day a week.
  6. Flexible hours where employees can choose when they work assuming they work the required number of hours.
  7. Regularly evaluating workloads of journalists and different teams.
  8. Additional days off.

But the bottom two also point in this direction and can easily be mislabeled or deprioritized for having an impact on our work-life harmony:

9. Managers allow employees to have some input regarding how work gets done.
10. Let journalists have more input into how they do their job.

This is because work-life harmony is as much about autonomy as it is about flexibility. Likewise, our relationship with work is as impacted by a lack of harmony as it is by a lack of connection or lack of purpose. As a journalism community, we should be motivated by each of the workplace essentials, if we’re to create a news industry culture worth saving.

Step 2: Unpack your objective for proof

To evolve your statements into measurable objectives, we’ll use OKRs (objectives and key results).

The “to” side of your statement, with its 5 Essentials label, is your aspirational goal. You want to reach this objective, but you may find it difficult to gather quantitative data to prove you have.

That is okay. Qualitative data is also important. Remember, we’re in the news business and quality storytelling is one of our main sources of currency.

  • When will you know you’ve arrived at the future state? Write 2-3 observations.
  • What are at least two receipts (yes, results) of this future state?

Step 3: Share responsibility for your objective

Newsroom well-being, just like newsroom inclusion and belonging, is everyone’s job. Designing a goal-oriented strategy as a one-person band will never last. You need help from others and you need to be the help for someone else. There is no abdicating in the mission for a healthier newsroom culture, which means your measuring well-being story includes:

  • With whom might I share ownership of this objective and key results?
  • How might I support their effort toward this objective?

Here’s what this work is starting to look like:

Future State

Managers cultivate supportive relationships where they model care and promote benefits that can help journalists

Workplace Essential

Mattering at work

Key Result

Direct reports take PTO consistently throughout the year, not just around holidays

Key Result

Staff protect deep work time, observed by Slack & OOO updates, formalized hand-off process, and traction on passion projects

Key Collaborator

My team

Key Support

Regular meetings to share newsroom insights/concerns around time off; shared all-team PTO days


Future State

Logging completely out after 8 hours is not only accepted but is supported by both managers and reporters

Workplace Essential

Work-life harmony

Key Result

Staff adheres to a twice-weekly schedule of assigned eight-hour workdays

Key Result

Newsroom workload is aligned with the capacity we have, allowing 8-hr days to become the norm outside of breaking news

Key Collaborator

Senior leadership and newsroom editors

Key Support

Piloting the schedule with a small, select group; getting feedback and adjusting accordingly; thought partner for coverage and task gaps plus formal cross-training plan; awards system for full participation


The impact we’re working toward is holistic, which means it’s greatest when all five workplace essentials work in tandem and stay centered on your journalists’ voices and their equity. Focusing on one essential and one human need will leave out other necessary needs across your staff, including your own.

Remember, too, that as news leaders, you are also journalists. You deserve to be on a team and in an organization that optimizes for the health and well-being of its employees.

Next week, we’ll evolve your aspirational goal into a tangible goal. If you haven’t yet shared with someone in your newsroom that you’re working through this special series, prioritize that conversation this week. Simply tell someone. Don’t stress convincing them or getting them to buy in. It takes a village to develop a healthy workplace culture. And, trust me, you want to influence that village to do this work; you don’t want to force anyone to just buy in. More on this soon.

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