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R U OK? 6 ways to instantly improve mental health in your workplace

Here's how to navigate those R U OK? Day conversations. (Source: Getty)

The future of work will be a key topic at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit on the 26th of September 2019 in the Shangri-La, Sydney. Check out the full line-up of speakers and agenda for this groundbreaking event here.

It can be difficult to know how to meaningfully approach your peers at work about their mental health – or to open up about any struggles of your own.

R U OK? Day is designed to give Australians room to broach these topics – but how do you actually start those conversations?

According to workplace experts, it’s important to be proactive with these conversations. Here are their tips on how to reach out to your co-workers on R U OK? Day:

1. It starts with you

Every member of your team has a role to play in supporting each other, said recruitment firm Robert Half Australia director Nicole Gorton.

“With the right attitude, we all have the ability to create an inclusive workplace where people feel comfortable speaking up,” she said.

Take this into your own hands by engaging with the people around you: take an interest in your colleagues’ work or personal lives (where appropriate) and recognise the great work they’re doing, Gorton added.

“Every small action can help to strengthen the company culture, build a sense of community, and create a more positive workplace for all.”

2. Reach out and ask: R U OK?

Check in with your colleagues, and trust your gut – you’ll know which ones are feeling especially stressed or anxious.

“Go out of your way to ask them what you can do to help them,” independent workplace expert Conrad Liveris told Yahoo Finance.

“We all appreciate people giving us support when we need it, and we should do the same. This will lower their stress and also build a commitment to the team.”

Gorton added: “If you notice they’re particularly stressed, or withdrawn, or out of sorts, asking this simple yet powerful question shows them that you care about their wellbeing.

“By starting a conversation, you could help a workmate open up about what they’re going through.”

3. Help them take action

What do you do after starting that conversation? You don’t have to provide a solution to their problems so much as help them open up with what they’re going through and make the most of the resources at your disposal, Gorton said.

“It’s about having strategies in place to support your workmate manage their situation. Some conversations are too big for one person alone so familiarise yourself with the corporate Employee Assistance Program and the resources available to your team.”

4. Lead by example

Just as it’s important to reach out to your colleagues, showing that you’re involved will have a positive effect on colleagues, Gorton said.

“As more companies introduce wellbeing offerings to support their staff, such as healthy food, physical exercise, or counselling services, lead by example and actively participate in the initiatives on offer.

“Not only are they intended to benefit to your health, by taking part you encourage others to do the same and utilise the resources that can help them to manage their own health and wellbeing.”

5. Laugh when you can

Don’t take yourself too seriously, Liveris says – work is work. Where you can take a load off by laughing at yourself or at a situation, take the opportunity.

“Work is hard and stressful enough, and there are already plenty of egos around so if you can have fun and make people laugh then you should,” he said.

“Being self-deprecating is a good start to this. We need to chill out at work – for most of us, it isn't the end of the world. We should definitely be having more fun at work.”

6. Make meaningful relationships

This one is more long-term, and requires getting to know your colleagues better on a day-to-day level.

“Work is hard and everyone wants to be somewhere else, so take the time to learn about your colleagues and what you have in common,” Liveris said.

“This could mean having lunch and coffee together, taking a more light-hearted approach to work itself or even starting a sports team together.

“It is often small things that build a team.”

Now send this to a colleague and ask them: R U OK?

The Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit will take place on the 26th September 2019 at the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney. Check out the full line-up of speakers and agenda here.