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Kalyn Ponti | 13 September 2019

Mental Health Awareness Week: Developing an employee-centred approach to wellbeing at Humankind

Mental Health Awareness week is 23-29 September this year.

With so much of our lives affected by what happens at work, we’re excited to share our thoughts about supporting wellbeing in the workplace. In this post we describe how we recently refreshed our own Wellbeing Philosophy using Employee Centred Design.

Why would a fast growth business focus on wellbeing?

Working in professional services, the unavoidable truth is that our team is working in a challenging, fast-paced environment. We’re surrounded by high-performers (we have an amazing team) and we’re constantly focused on supporting our incredible clients to solve problems. There is rarely down time. We tend to thrive on this, but there’s no escaping the fact that it can be exhausting.

Great employee experiences enable and inspire people to perform. We know that supporting each other holistically means that we succeed as a team, and with clearer minds we can better serve our clients.

So how can a growth business find the time to develop a wellbeing philosophy?

The catalysts for the development of our Wellbeing Philosophy were two members of our team, Madi and Charlie. They had been sharing what they had been learning about wellbeing and had noticed a growing interest within the Humankind team to take more action on our own health. Humankind has always supported wellbeing but our ‘Wellbeing Warriors’ were keen to help us formalise this, so they have led the development of our thinking and approach. We wanted to be sure that we were going to come up with an approach that works for our team (not just a list of ‘fad ideas’) so we have used Employee Centred Design to make sure we hit the mark.

Here are some of the key steps we took. We hope that it helps you on your journey as well!

1.    It’s been led by the team

From the outset, we wanted to harness the passion of our team to develop our wellbeing programme, so we asked for a group of volunteers. There are now six of us, and the philosophy has been designed by the team (rather than leadership). Empowering the team to own it means that our wellbeing initiatives reflect what we know would make an impact, not what leadership thinks will help. Having six of us means that people can contribute when they have capacity to do so. They jump in when they have time.

2.    We defined what wellbeing means to us

If you’ve read our article Introducing Employee Centred Design, you’ll know that instead of implementing “best practice”, we believe in working with employees to develop solutions that will truly serve them. There are many great models of workplace wellbeing out there, but our first step was to understand what wellbeing meant to our team. How did we do this?

3.    We used Employee Centred Design


Discover is the first phase in our Employee Centred Design approach – understanding what people’s current thoughts and experiences are on the topic at hand. Information collected during this phase helped us understand and stay focused on the ‘why.’ We had already had a number of team conversations about wellbeing, but we felt that we may not have heard everyone’s voice. We wanted to capture some data.

  • We went out to the team with a three-minute survey designed to ascertain which areas of wellbeing were important to them.
  • We reviewed previous survey data related to wellbeing as well as previous insights from a broader employee experience discovery we had recently completed.


  • From our Discovery work, we identified that there were four key types of wellbeing that were most important to our team. We then took the important (but often overlooked) step of defining what we planned to do next, grounding our intent in what our people want, and giving us clarity on what success will look like.
  • Our Employee Experience (EX) Definition Statement is: “We will design a Wellbeing Philosophy and ongoing programme of initiatives to make a positive impact on our team’s physical, mental, social connectedness, and work wellbeing. Our programme will be flexible; one where people can pick and choose initiatives that work for them.”


  • We went out to the broader team, asking for volunteers for a 30min co-design session. The session was led by three of our Wellbeing Warriors.
  • During the session, they tested our four areas of Wellbeing, brainstorming and prioritising initiatives under each area.
  • Charlie, Ella, Steph, Ali and Louise have pulled it all together into a simple document that outlines our philosophy as well as the benefits, actions and activities we commit to. They’ve each contributed to this when they’ve had pockets of capacity.


  • This step is really easy when the solution has been co-designed with the team. The team has already started implementing new initiatives (led by them) and we are still evolving our approach and ideas.
  • In addition to our Wellbeing benefit, Duvet Day, flexible working and EAP, some of the initiatives we’re adding include:
  1. Lunch and learn sessions related to our four wellbeing areas. Topics include nutrition, resilience, deep work and mental health
  2. Daily tips and reminders shared via Slack
  3. More deliberate time scheduled for our team to connect socially
  4. Co-designing our office etiquette to allow for deep work, productivity and work/life balance
  5. Leaders bringing the topic of wellbeing into one-on-ones
  6. Team events such as hikes, runs and step challenges
  • We also plan to develop a more detailed Wellbeing Guide as the year progresses. It will likely include information on how work can affect your mental health, information on our workplace stressors, what support Humankind offers, and personal stories of how various team members cope with stress or focus on their own wellbeing.

During Mental Health Awareness week, the Wellbeing Warriors have organised training on mental wellbeing in the workplace. The training focuses on awareness as well as equipping our team with reactive and proactive responses. They’ve also coordinated short activities to do each day including a roundtable discussion on workplace stressors; a walk around Mount Vic; connecting over a potluck lunch; and a lunchtime quiz designed to lift awareness and dialogue around mental wellbeing.

It doesn’t take long to start the discussion on mental wellbeing at work, and it is a great topic to design solutions with your team, not just for them. Mental Health Awareness Week is a great platform. What are you doing in your organisation?

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