8th September is R U OK? Day in Australia. This day is commemorated as a national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone that every day is the day to ask ‘Are you OK?”
In 2009, Gavin Larkin wanted to ask one question, ‘Are you okay?’ to honour his father and try to prevent and protect other families from the pain of losing someone. He collaborated with Janina Nearn on a documentary to raise awareness, but they felt it wouldn’t be enough. To really impact and change behaviour, a national campaign was needed. With this realisation, the idea of R U OK? Day was born. This movement is aimed at offering Australians skills and confidence to support those struggling or feeling overwhelmed.
Research has shown that four in ten Australians feel asking someone, ‘Are you OK?’ is a conversation better had with an expert. However, there are ways you can make people feel supported and heard without being a professional.
As employers or business owners, we can all create a workplace and culture where people feel supported and included.
What can you do?
R U OK Day is about everyone feeling heard and supported, including small business owners. Running a business can be time consuming and mental health and wellbeing can often take a back seat. How can you look after others if your personal health is suffering?
Before you can look out for others, here are few things to remember:
Being ready- Are you the right person to have difficult conversations? Are you prepared to listen?
Being responsive- Some conversations can be challenging and complicated. How can you handle those at the workplace? What response can you offer? Do you have a support system they can reach out to?
It's not all on you- As a business owner, you often are responsible for everybody’s physical and mental health at the workplace. However, it does not mean it’s all on you. You can reach out to experts in the field or hire external support services to ensure you can focus on the business and yourself.
What can employers do?
The next step is to build an inclusive and supporting work environment for your staff. Here are ways you can support your staff or build a culture of inclusivity at the workplace:
Reach out- Sometimes support can mean asking someone, ‘Are you okay?’ It will mean asking your colleagues and staff about how they feel. You can start conversations about their job capacities, their stress, or their mental health. It can be as simple as having time for open and honest conversations with colleagues.
Have two-way conversations- Are you listening to your staff? What do they need? Is there space to have a two-way conversation? Your efforts maybe futile if your employees feel like you are not listening. Failure to communicate effectively can impact employee morale and productivity.
Plan next steps- Prepare next steps after having these conversations. You can put the steps in writing and share this documentation with your employee. This documentation should include time dedicated to the plan and the approach to be taken.
Follow up- Has the plan been actioned? How is the employee feeling? Is there any change or update? Do they need regular check-ins or time with you?
You can access important resources on the official website of R U OK and learn more about how you can participate in this day.
Employsure has worked with several businesses across Australia to support them with workplace relations and health and safety. Call our 24/7 Advice Line today to learn more.
The information in this document is intended to be general advice only. The advice within it may therefore not apply to your circumstances and is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional.