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One of the biggest questions – Are You Ok?

As business owners it’s important that you create a culture where people feel confident asking and answering this simple yet important question. “Are you ok?”.

Besides our legal responsibility of providing a safe and healthy workplace, these conversations can make a real difference to employees going through a tough time. Remember mental illness does not discriminate; it can affect any one of us at any time.

MIND recently did some research around mental health in the workplace and found:
• More than one in five (21%) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them.
• 14% agreed that they had resigned and 42% had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them.
• 30% of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’.

So what can you do?
Firstly before you do anything – Be prepared
• Are you in a good headspace? You need to manage your own emotions by staying calm and not taking things personally.
• Are you willing to genuinely listen? Show them that you’re interested by actively listening to all they say, being a good listener is one of the best things you can do for someone when they are distressed.
• Can you give as much time as needed? Ideally try and put aside at least an hour so you have ample time to have a meaningful chat If they can’t talk when you approach them, ask them for a better time to come back.
• Remember that you won’t have all the answers (which is OK)
• Allow the person to express their emotions fully (i.e. let off steam) and deal with the emotions first, you can then discuss the issues more rationally once emotions have been addressed.

Be relaxed
• Choose somewhere relatively private and informal
• Help them open up by asking questions
• Make an observation. Mention specific things that have made you concerned for them, like “I’ve noticed that you seem really tired recently” or “You seem less chatty than usual”. “Are you ok?”

Listen
• Take what they say seriously
• Don’t interrupt or rush the conversation
• If they need time to think, try and sit patiently with the silence
• Encourage them to explain
• If they get angry or upset, stay calm and don’t take it personally
• Let them know you’re asking because you’re concerned

Encourage action
• Ask them: “Where do you think we can go from here?”
• Ask: “What would be a good first step we can take?”
• Ask: “What do you need from me? How can I help?” Good options for action might include talking to family, a trusted friend, their doctor or Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Check in
• Remember to check in and see how the person is doing in a few days’ time
• Ask if they’ve found a better way to manage the situation
• If they haven’t done anything, keep encouraging them and remind them you’re always here if they need a chat
• Understand that sometimes it can take a long time for someone to be ready to see a professional
• Try to reinforce the benefits of seeking professional help and trying different avenues
• You could ask, “Do you think it would be useful if we looked into finding some professional or other support?”

If you need help and support in creating a workplace ‘are you ok?’ campaign then please speak to us, we can support you with your wellbeing policy, procedures and training.

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