R U OK? Building a positive workplace culture

7th September, 2015

Bosses who connect their employees and bring people together don’t just improve employee wellbeing, but also boost the productivity of their business, according to recent research by The University of Queensland (UQ). The study, led by UQ’s School of Psychology, shows that bosses and managers have an important role to play in fostering a shared workplace identity. Employees who feel part of a group show increased positivity, motivation and overall health. Lead researcher Dr Niklas Steffens says: “Our results show that mental health and performance are mutually dependent and can be improved through effective leadership.”

Why is this important?

This Thursday 10th September is international World Suicide Prevention Day. It is also R U OK? Day in Australia.

The 2015 international theme of World Suicide Prevention Day is Preventing Suicide: Reaching out and Saving Lives. It is about being self-informed and aware of support and services available to all those touched by suicide. In Australia, R U OK? is an organisation that aims to empower and encourage people to ask ‘are you ok?’ and respond sensitively and appropriately if someone says ‘no’.

Over the next week, across all our offices at MYOB, we will be reminding our employees that conversations can change lives, and continuing to educate our Managers and Team Leaders about mental health in the workplace. We will be bringing people together to start conversations at work that will help us:

  • Provide a safe and healthy workplace for our team members
  • Promote the support networks available in the community to provide assistance when required
  • Make a real difference to employees going through a tough time by knowing that they have the support of their peers

As part of World Suicide Prevention day and R U OK? Day, we’ll be:

  • Promoting the day through our social networks and social media channels
  • Putting up posters around the offices to raise awareness
  • Setting up conversation corners and encouraging colleagues to check in with each other using conversation cue cards
  • Providing team members with helpline contact lists
  • Providing managers and team leaders with resources to help them ask their people R U OK? and respond accordingly

What can I do?

If you’re a small business, besides your legal responsibilities to provide a safe and healthy workplace, you also want a culture where your staff feel well supported and cared for. Here are some simple things you can do:

  • Ask everyone to bring in old photos of themselves (for example, as babies, as school kids, doing their favourite thing) and display them on a wall. Invite others to guess who’s who.
  • In your staff newsletter, include a story by an employee about how one of their colleagues helped them through a tough time or how a conversation changed their life.
  • Organise a morning tea or sausage sizzle where staff members can connect with each other over a bite to eat.
  • Partner with an organisation such as R U OK?, RESPECT or beyondblue and download some of their free materials and posters to promote awareness in your office or workplace.
  • You’re the boss – what about giving every employee 15 minutes off to call their family interstate or overseas?
  • Make these useful helpline numbers available on bulletin boards and fridges at work:

13 11 14                 Lifeline: Crisis support and suicide prevention.

1300 78 99 78     MensLine Australia: Help, support and counselling services for men.

1300 22 46 36     beyondblue: Advice and support for anxiety and depression.

1800 73 77 32     RESPECT National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service

By following just one of these simple suggestions, you can connect your employees, make them feel cared for and supported, and encourage them to have conversations that matter with their colleagues or seek appropriate support. This in turn helps build a positive workplace culture, boosts your business productivity, and helps you retain great staff!

To find out more, visit the World Suicide Prevention Day website and the R U OK? website.