Since mental wellness has come into the spotlight, organisations have responded with initiatives such as mental-health days or weeks, enhanced counselling benefits, wellness apps and four-day working weeks. All these initiatives are welcomed and valued. One thing that we need to remember is that all these initiatives mean nothing unless they are sustainable. In short, mental wellness initiatives need to extend beyond the wonderful programmes and enter a space where the organisation’s culture changes to ensure mental health is consistently prioritised.

Mental health initiatives need to be sustainable and should collectively influence all individuals in the organisation. Culture forms a big part of creating lifelong prioritisation of mental health in the workplace. The influence needs to come from the top. Leaders need to treat mental health as a priority with established accountability mechanisms in place to ensure extreme ownership.

Bearing in mind the initiatives outlined in our previous article, here are five principles that you need to live by when implementing these initiatives:

  1. Understand the core risks that influence your organisation:
  • To ensure sustainable action, organisations need to start by understanding the factors that contribute to the risk of diagnosing mental health conditions.
  • A mixture of quantitative and qualitative research should be conducted to ensure a deep understanding of relevant factors in the organisation and how they differ among layers, roles, and locations.
  • While investigating, try to gain an understanding of why current and past attempts to address mental wellbeing have not worked out. When you understand this, you will be able to identify the factors you should focus on for your organisation’s future mental-wellness aspirations.
  1. Ensure integrated and holistic actions:
  • It is essential to be critical and holistic when considering which mental-health initiatives to implement that align with the organisation’s operating model and cultural system.
  • People: What level of awareness and understanding is required from your managers and leaders regarding the mental-health challenges facing the organisation?
  • Process: How does the way that work gets done need to change on both individual and team levels? How do your main people-related processes support mental health in your organisation?
  • Structure: Does your organisational structure provide individuals with the ability to gain the support needed to use their skills and expertise?
  • Culture: Do your purpose and organisational values support the behaviours associated with mental health in the workplace?
  1. Utilise data to tailor interventions:
  • It is important to remember that one size does not fit all when enhancing mental health in the workplace. Each individual in your organisation would have experienced the pandemic differently and still does. If you reflect on the different types of experiences an employee with school-going children experienced compared to a young person living alone, you will see that each employee has different needs and stressors.
  • Using the demographic information, you have on your people will help inform the types of interventions you implement that are best suited to the needs of your people.
  • Although demographics helps to inform the type of intervention you create, do not fall into the trap of believing that grouping people means that they want the same things. You need to take a multi-layered approach to mental wellness. You can do this by broadcasting the mental health message from the top and then all the way down using various communication channels. This way, you can get each person from each layer the opportunity to receive the message and connect with it.
  1. Cross-design solutions with your people:
  • Include a broad range of people to understand the root of the currently experienced challenges and then co-design solutions.
  • Your people hold the key to implementing and driving sustainable change. People who are given the right opportunity will step up, support and assist you in understanding what is really going on.
  • Getting your people involved in designing this change will enhance the odds of your people owning and driving the change.
  1. Solve with your broader community:
  • Organisations strive to keep home and work life separate when it comes to mental health. The pandemic has played a pivotal role in blurring the lines between home and work life.
  • As a leader, it is important that you maximise your employees’ engagement and performance by interacting with them and allowing them to see you as a whole person with a personal and professional life. If you look beyond the individuals you engage with at work, it is important to extend yourself to get involved in your communities and encourage your people to get involved too.

Driving mental wellness and the sustainability thereof has become vitally important. There is hope. Organisations can take meaningful actions that can make a distinct and noticeable impact on their people’s mental health.

By Nadia Daniel


McKinsey. (2021). It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work. Retrieved from It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work (

McKinsey. (2021). Out of the shadows: Sustainably improving workplace mental health. Retrieved from Sustainably improving workplace mental health | McKinsey

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