Practical tips for R U OK Day

It’s the national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone that every day is the right day to ask “Are you OK?” and support people who may be struggling with life’s ups and downs.

Given how much time we spend at work, there are plenty of opportunities when a simple question could make a world of difference.

If you’ve noticed someone on your team has been behaving out of character or seems to be struggling, trust your gut and give them a chance to talk.

As HR practitioners, we get plenty of practice encouraging open conversations, and we’re the first to acknowledge that sometimes getting the conversation started is the biggest hurdle.

Here are a few tips -

- If you feel awkward asking ‘are you okay?’, maybe ‘how are you travelling?’ or ‘what’s been happening?’ will roll off the tongue a little more comfortably. Find something that works for you.

- If you have baulked at the question before because you don’t feel confident you’ll know what to say next, have a plan for a follow up. Perhaps ‘it’s just that you haven’t seemed like yourself lately’ or if they share what they are finding challenging, try ‘what would take the pressure off?’ or ask how you can help.

- If you are worried that you might uncover a problem beyond your scope or experience, remember that sometimes the most important thing you can do, after listening, is encourage taking action. That might involve talking to a professional or someone better positioned to provide support. You don’t have to have the answers. Maybe just make a mental note to follow up in a few days.

- And if you are concerned you might ask someone who really is okay and just having an off day, chalk it up to having one more person who knows you care enough to ask!

The R U OK? Webpage has lots of great tips encouraging you to trust your gut and start a conversation. There’s even resources and tips specifically aimed at making these conversations easier in workplaces.