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Making every day R U OK? Day

R U OK? Day is about starting the conversation between colleagues to ensure they're looking out for each other's wellbeing – not just on the day, but every day, according to SuperFriend CEO Margo Lydon.

R U OK? Day, which falls on 13 September this year, is the perfect reminder about the importance of those often tricky check-in conversations that are so important to have with our colleagues.  

It is important to keep in mind that R U OK? Day extends beyond being a standalone event in the workplace, and is not about explicitly asking, "are you OK?" or hosting a morning tea at work, even though these can be great places to start.

For organisations looking to create a mentally healthy workplace where employees can thrive and do meaningful "good work", they must consider the different ways to extend R U OK? Day to be an ongoing conversation. 

Below are some practical tips on how people can check in with those around them, and what leaders can do to support workers' mental health every day – as this is not a conversation that works as well out of the blue! 

The art of checking in

Small daily efforts like saying "hello" and asking, "how are you?" has the power to start meaningful conversations. 

Colleagues must try to get to know one another every day and understand the baseline for what "OK" looks like for each one of them. It will end up familiarising them with the signs that someone may need support and help them understand when to check in throughout the year. 

Other simple ways to touch base can be offering each other a coffee, chatting at the lunch table or going on "walk and talk" meetings where you can also discuss how they are doing and what the workload and stress levels are. 

This way, colleagues can build close enough relationships to be able to confidently reach out when someone may be having trouble.

Leaders creating a 'culture of care'

Workplace mental health is implemented from the top, so it's important that managers create and maintain the R U OK? Day culture of care, including trust, respect and fairness.

To do this, leaders must ensure they are creating a psychologically safe workplace which protects employees' mental health, where workers feel comfortable and confident to speak their mind and are able to express new ideas or concerns they may have, without fear of being ignored, spoken down to or retribution.

Leaders need to be accessible, acknowledge their mistakes, show workers how to learn from failures and encourage requests for help and feedback.

Other key initiatives include: adding psychological checks, in addition to physical safety checks, even if that involves spending five minutes every morning doing a "team huddle"; promoting the Employee Assistance Program (a free work-based intervention program provided by employers to enhance wellbeing of employees and their family members); attending mental health seminars and lectures; as well as providing mental health and wellbeing training to all workers, including front line managers. 

Putting mental health 'on the table' 

It is more important than ever that employers stand together and make employees feel safe and supported enough to speak up when they are not feeling OK. 

Communicating a clear message that your business values the mental wellbeing of their employees, as much as the productivity of the organisation, will take you a long way to achieving a thriving workplace. 

Margo Lydon is the chief executive officer of SuperFriend.

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“Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain