ARE YOUR EMPLOYEES REALLY OK?
Why R U OK? Day is just the start for organisational wellbeing
R U OK? is an incredible initiative that most organisations in Australia and New Zealand get behind every September.
As a national day of action, we are encouraged to ask our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues how they are doing, and remind ourselves that we should be having these conversations every day.
Organisations run morning teas, host VIP speakers and put-up posters around the office to show their support, and reiterate the company’s EAP program is available.
While these are all great initiatives, come the following week, the only thing left from R U OK? Day will be some fading posters and a couple of half-eaten stale cupcakes in the back of the office fridge.
While these R U OK? Day initiatives are still a positive step in showing employees you care, without a supportive wellbeing strategy in place they can feel a bit tokenistic.
Talking about mental health for one week of the year will do little to make a difference for your people if wellbeing is shoved to the side the other 51 weeks.
So, how can organisations show their employees they care, every day of the year?
1. Destigmatise mental health
While we all remember to check in on each other around this time of year, we can get so busy and forget to do it regularly.
Talking about mental health more often creates a safe space for employees to open up and feel valued.
As a leader, schedule in 5 minutes at the start of your team meetings to check in on each other, open up about what things you do to manage your mental health, and pay attention to any changes in your team members and regular ask if they are ok and how you can support them.
2. Wellbeing strategy
Having a robust workplace wellbeing strategy in place can help support your employees mental health.
This should be aligned with your organisational goals and be considered in all business decisions.
This will help create a culture of care all year that has a meaningful strategic approach, instead of a collection of benefits that don’t align with their needs.
A mental health workplace policy should be part of this, and include both prevention and intervention strategies to proactively prevent issues as well as support them where needed.
3. Prevent burnout
It’s vital to understand the structures in place that may be leading to employee ill-health.
You can provide your employees with all the mental health resources in the world and encourage them to look after their wellbeing, but if you’re expecting them to work 60-hour weeks with poor job design, they’re still going to experience burnout.
If a job requires people to be working unsustainable hours or creates stress inherently, you need to rethink the job design of the role to prevent stress and burnout at the source.
You may need to review workloads and adjust job responsibilities to ensure roles are healthy and sustainable.
4. Promote flexibility
While not every job role or industry is able to offer flexibility with working from home or differing hours, organisations that can adapt see great benefits in offering flexibility to their staff.
A global workforce study has shown that 89% of employees worldwide prefer to have the choice between working remotely and working in the office, allowing for greater work-life balance.
Encourage staff to take breaks, focus on output and productivity over hours, and ensure your managers lead by example.
Remember that flexibility and work-life balance looks different for everyone, so leaders need to build a culture of trust and care to ensure all staff members feel valued.