BDO Australia

Co-designing a national mental wellbeing strategy

Mental Health


Organisational Design

The problem

Re-design the entire employee experience to support and improve mental wellbeing.

The solution

Implementation of a comprehensive employee wellbeing program, covering six key domains for wellbeing and more than thirty detailed actionable solutions.

Project updates

BDO Australia has since rolled out the strategy nation-wide, including receiving a global award for wellbeing initiative.

The problem

Wellbeing is critical to an engaged, happy and productive workforce.

And yet, the professional services industry is inundated with cases of poor mental wellbeing in the workplace

  • 1 in 3 accountants feel stressed day-to-day.
  • 42% of people with workplace stress consider consider resigning.
  • 1 in 5 people have taken time off work due to feeling mentally unwell in the past 12 months

These challenges impose both moral and liability questions on employers to support employee health. However, they also create opportunities for business success. By improving employee mental wellbeing we can help employees become more productive, successful and with much lower rates of absenteeism.

The business case for addressing poor mental wellbeing is also mounting. Australian businesses incur an estimated $6.5 billion by failing to provide early intervention and support for mental wellbeing. Yet, for every dollar we spend on identifying and supporting workers with mental health conditions, businesses can tap into a 500% return in improved productivity.

Whether the issue tugs at your heart-strings or your purse strings, it's a big problem.

The request

When we first met BDO Australia it was clear that the organisation placed the wellbeing of its people at the top of its priority list. Yet, the BDO was also aware how they suffered from some of the same problems experienced throughout the professional services industry.

These problems are, after all, universal. And, the cause and solution were hard to pin down.

BDO Australia offered spur: an interesting challenge: could you design a holistic, national strategy for how the company could best protect and improve employee wellbeing? 

In other words; what would it take for the act of coming to work to become a positive mental wellbeing experience?

The process

This was a delightfully complex question.

To answer it, we would have to look both wide and deep. Working with just a small group of executives wouldn't cut the mustard, nor would just focusing on 'work problems'.

Instead, spur: worked with the BDO People and Culture team to pull together a volunteer Wellbeing Working Group. This representative group gathered approximately thirty people from across the organisation, including variance in age, role, and seniority, to co-design the strategy and wellbeing framework.

This Working Group were introduced to the concepts of workplace wellbeing and co-design and, through iterative workshops, worked with the spur: team to understand what exactly nourished or depleted their wellbeing, and what BDO could do to help.

spur: designed the workshop series to cover several key areas:

1 · Engagement

Introductory workshops with both the senior leadership team and key stakeholders across the organisation to generate understanding and buy in to the importance of the strategy.

Although the shortest phase, this helped ensure buy-in from stakeholders and organisational influencers to implement the project's outcomes.

Employees mapped their daily emotions

2 · Research and Analysis

  • Communicate the reality of poor mental health in the workplace
  • Understand the current causes of poor mental wellbeing
  • Brainstorm desired “future states”
  • Discuss participants' roles in creating change
  • Understand the nuances the office’s culture and paradigms
  • Build the beginning of a shared roadmap to future BDO mental health culture
  • Understand the six ‘themes’ of wellbeing to form the spine of the strategy
  • Get buy-in of impacted stakeholders and create wellbeing ‘champions’

3 · Impact Strategy

Desktop research, including external case studies and journals, were combined with workshop insights to form a wellbeing strategy under each theme of wellbeing:

  • A comprehensive framework of how BDO can foster a mentally healthy workplace through a range of 30 different activations 
  • How BDO can implement this framework 
  • Contextual implementation considerations, including logistics, resourcing, time
  • How BDO can measure the effectiveness of its implementation

Additionally, the Wellbeing Strategy aligned with and leveraged the Values project produced for BDO Australia.

The outcome

What was the biggest insight from the Wellbeing Working Group workshop series?

There is no work life balance. Almost all of the major wellbeing issues described by the group - and validated by company wide surveys - indicated it was general life events, pressures, and commitments, that caused problems in one's mental wellbeing.

Work only compounded the problem.

Yet, the workplace could be an oasis of relief, a support network, and provide key pieces of value such as purpose and connection.

General mental wellbeing hygiene was also important - seemingly minor things like adjusting the food provided to more healthy options, increasing the amount of plant life in the office, and providing more flexibility in work location and time, could major rewards.

The wellbeing strategy has officially rolled out across the organisation nationwide.

project team

Lee Crockford
Lee Crockford
William Smith-Stubbs
William Smith-Stubbs

William Smith-Stubbs

Olivia Roney
Olivia Roney

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