This Thursday 9th September, employees all over Australia will be checking in with one another and asking “R U OK?” R U OK? is an Australian not-for-profit suicide prevention organisation that advocates for people to have mental health and wellbeing-related conversations with others.
Every year on the second Thursday of September, there is a swell of peer and colleague support focused on connecting, checking in and asking the all-important question “are you okay?”
We can probably agree that there has never, in our history, been a more important time to bring the topics of mental health and wellbeing to the surface and engage in meaningful, supportive conversations and dialogue, than now.
But there’s a problem – and it’s a big one
Well two actually:-
- Regardless of where you look (we researched Australia, UK and USA), many employees fear talking about their mental health to their leaders
- Many leaders feel uncomfortable talking to their people about mental health – so in some cases, we potentially risk R U OK Day remaining a ‘one day a year’ event – and that’s a dangerous thought to consider.
What the Data tells us
A study from the US of more than 1,000 employees called Mental Health at Work During COVID-19 discovered that more than half (54%), said they felt uncomfortable talking to their managers and supervisors about mental health. Even worse is that 30% of respondents feared that discussing their mental health could lead to being fired or furloughed, and 29% thought that discussing their issues could cost them a promotion. Staying silent could cost lives.
From a recent McKinsey and Company article – “It is crucial that leaders value their colleagues’ and peers’ wellbeing just as much as their technical skills, and it is their responsibility to model positive behaviour and prioritise supporting their colleagues’ own efforts. Forward-thinking companies will embrace wellbeing not as a vague concept, but as an index of learnable actions and daily behaviour”.
And our final important selection of data comes from the newly released 2021 Atlassian and PwC ‘Return on Action’ Report** where wellbeing was identified ‘as the top priority for people entering the 21st Century workforce’. Interestingly, just one year prior, wellbeing ranked fourth.
**We have a condensed version of this report if you would like a copy, please email Clare on email@example.com
Creating a Psychologically Safe Environment
At the foundation of these conversations is the concept of Psychological Safety, creating an environment where people feel safe to speak up about what’s really going on for them and feel comfortable being themselves, without fear of judgment or repercussion.
Wide-ranging studies on creating a culture of Psychological Safety point to significant benefits including increased confidence, creativity, trust and productivity. There is also the now famous study conducted by Google ‘Project Aristotle’ where they identified Psychological Safety as the key indicator of high performance in teams.
Where can we start now? Creating Safety in Conversations
Being able to talk with team members about sensitive topics such as Stress, Change and Resilience is extremely important and can be challenging if this is not part of everyday culture and conversation. Add the layer of complexity of teams working remotely, and the challenge becomes even greater.
In our experience, individuals often don’t know how to express themselves and leaders can feel like they are prying. This often means that these meaningful conversations don’t happen at all.
Our ‘Dealing with Change and Building Resilience’ Programme has been designed to give people knowledge about their brain and how they are likely to react to change and stress. This enables them to think about and manage their own wellbeing from an objective perspective. When a team goes through the programme together, it creates a shared understanding of the Neuroscience underpinning mental health and wellbeing and a common language to explore and discuss how to apply this information to themselves, their team, the organisation and the stakeholders they serve.
The programme focuses on the ‘whole’ person, both inside and outside of the work environment and participants have reported significant progress in their sense of wellbeing and behaviour (using before and after self-assessments) e.g. the ability to regulate emotions, reframe challenges as opportunities and change perspectives.
Enabling the Conversation – a Leader’s Support Kit
Following the end of the programme, we are often asked “where to now, how do we help leaders embed this in their team culture?” and this is where we can help.
We have developed a Leader’s Support Kit as a programme enhancement, to support people leaders in keeping the conversation and momentum going. For every module, we have developed a selection of questions team leaders can use to facilitate dialogue and discussion on the many topics covered.
Module 1 – The History of Change and our Brains and Change
Module 2 – Understanding Stress
Module 3 – Strategies for reducing Stress
Module 4 – Understanding Change
Module 5 – Strategies for dealing with Change
Module 6 – Building Resilience
We have carefully chosen the questions to range in depth of enquiry from ‘easy starters’ to appreciative enquiry, with leaders being able to choose what first feels most comfortable before going deeper.
If you would like to know more about the programme and the Leader’s Support Kit, please get in touch with Clare on 0408 736 994
If you are looking for general workplace resources to begin the mental health and wellbeing conversation then the R U OK website is jam packed with helpful guides for work, school and community.
For specific R U OK resources please click here
We also deliver a ‘Leading Teams through Change’ programme as part of our ‘Lead Better’ and ‘Build Great Teams’ series, focused on leading change in this new post pandemic environment.
Organisations are in a privileged place to support the mental health and wellbeing of their employees by helping their people to build the skills and tools to manage their own wellbeing.
Leaders, Managers and Supervisors also need to feel confident and equipped to facilitate and guide the wellbeing conversation. When organisations exercise their duty of care in this area, they are also positively impacting performance, productivity and engagement
In signing off we’d like to ask “R U OK today?” and if not, we are here to listen and talk.