29 Great R U OK? at Work Ideas

Woopi Wears Yellow 2
(Image: Lisa Nichols, Woolgoolga)

As September 12 approaches, many people have been asking me for some ideas to celebrate R U OK? at work. Below are some ideas that have come from a number of sources, including entries in the 2019 Barbara Hocking R U OK? at Work awards, ideas I have put together, and what I have heard from others. I hope it provides some inspiration!

The basics

  1. Download the helpful range of posters, online banners, and work resources here
  2. Stock up on great R U OK? Merchandise here

Maven Dental Group

Maven Dental

Maven Dental is a national organisation with over 117 locations. We undertook a number of initiatives that support and promoted R U OK? in the workplace.

3. Lunch and Learn Sessions – to provide team members the tools to recognise when someone might be struggling and how to have these conversations. Also to understand their own mental health and how to self-care.

4. Share a Cuppa – speak to someone you don’t normally spend time with over coffee to create connection. Each team member was given a coffee cup and had to take a ‘mate’ for a coffee. They were given an R U OK? Day conversation starter to connect with someone they haven’t spoken to.

 5. Where’s Wally? -We created a group activity for team members to complete a ‘Where’s Wally?’ activity to promote conversation among team members. Teams who found all the character were given the R U OK? merchandise.

 6. Most Creative Conversation Starter – All teams were tasked with coming up with the most creative conversation starter initiative which saw a great range of ideas including: Fear Box – see video, Affirmation Walls, Getting to know you board games.

7. Wellbeing survey -We undertook a survey for all team members at our support centre and then put together a plan to address the main health challenges.

Sydney Trains – a male dominated industry

Sydney Trains R U Ok

In an organisation consisting of 12,500 employees, which is predominantly male (80%) with an average age of 46 years, it has taken hard work and dedication to shift the stigma and increase awareness around mental health related issues. Mostapha Kourouche, a key catalyst, has organised many events over the years at Sydney Trains. The following has worked well with their predominantly male employees:

8. BBQ’s and morning teas

9. Conversation corners,

10. Therapy dogs,

11. Mental health awareness sessions,

12. Pass the footy competitions and entertainment.

They have managed to significantly change perceptions around having a conversation by creating an inclusive environment for all attendees.

13. Organise an R U OK? guest speaker

R U Ok Guest Speaker

R U OK? have a number of ambassadors who are available to speak at your workplace. You can find more information here. Beyond blue also have mental health speakers.

Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service

Gold Coast Hospital

R UOK? Day is a major event on the GCHHS calendar. The event is organised by Team Health and provides staff with access to a range of information and support services. Last year’s event was held at Robina Hospital and attracted over 650 staff. R UOK? Day generates the most interest from our workforce out of our entire Team Health event calendar. Ideas include:

14. Assemble an R U OK? Tribe – there were representatives at these events from Lifeline, EAP, Black Dog Ride and GCHHS’s own mental health support service.

15. R U OK? Champions – 22 staff from across the GCHHS also lead their own R UOK? Day activities, including morning teas, staff awards, and fun team-building activities. These wellness champions were rewarded with an official R UOK? t-shirt and label pins.

The Experience Group Sydney Venues

Soda Factory

The Experience Group manages 3 Sydney venues. They:

16. Organised a community event – brought together the wellness community in Surry Hills to highlight the importance of RUOK? through live music events, yoga, meditation etc.

Energy and Water Ombudsmen Victoria

Energy And Water Ombudsman

R U OK? at EWOV is kind of a big deal. Our staff are responsible for helping people to resolve complaints and so as an organisation, EWOV incorporates an R U OK approach year-round, across many different areas of work. Some really successful initiatives include:

17. Broadcasting video messages from senior leaders – The Ombudsman, the General Manager Operations, the Finance Manager and a Team Manager shared their views on why asking R U OK? is always important, to share a time when they personally have helped someone by asking the question (to show staff there’s no repercussions for letting their manager know if they’re struggling) and to share a time when they personally have been helped by someone asking them how they’re going. The video was an incredibly vulnerable and personal step from EWOV’s senior leaders to declare the importance of R U OK (yes, there were tears).

18. Tailoring a wellbeing plan – The People and Culture Team crafted the annual health and wellbeing program around the areas EWOV staff are most at risk of feeling not-so-OK. The Team surveyed all staff, got some really honest answers and then put together a program for this year that covered each and every area.

The uptake of the employee assistance program has increased, and people are openly talking about instances where they have reached out to get professional help and encouraging their peers to do the same.

Ideas for managers to use in team meetings

More Productive

The Green Zone (positive mood) video series is designed to provide practical suggestions to build the resilience, mood, and performance of your team. Each video promotes discussion, and encourage action.

19. Introducing the moodometer – and why it matters (see video)

Length of video

11.44 minutes

Allow 5 – 10 minutes for discussion

Facilitation suggestions

  • Most videos have a place where it suggests you pause the video and discuss a question.
  • To help the discussion flow – it is often helpful if you offer your insights and reflections first and then invite others to do likewise.
  • At the end of the video ask if it has prompted any desired actions.

20. Ask team members what their one thing is? (see video)

This video encourages people to think about one or two things that are incredibly important to keeping them centred in the busyness of life.

Length of video

6:46 minutes

Allow 5 – 10 minutes for discussion

Facilitation suggestions

  • Nominate what you think your one thing is and explain how it makes you feel when you do it.
  • Invite others to nominate their one thing – and how this makes them feel.
  • Ask if you think it would be helpful if you kept a record of everyone’s one thing? This way you can encourage each other to do something regularly that is really important to them.

21. Psychological safety: The surprising secret to Google’s best teams (see video)

In 2012 Google began a quest to understand how to build the perfect team. They followed 180 teams around the world and monitored 250 different factors. They ended up identifying 5 norms in their best teams: Psychological safety, Dependability, Structure and clarity, Meaning of work, Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we are doing matters?

Whilst all 5 factors were shown to be important, by FAR the most important element was psychological safety.

Length of video

6:02 minutes

Allow 5 – 10 minutes for discussion

Facilitation suggestions

At the end of the video it is proposed that you introduce 3 team rituals into your weekly meetings.

Each team member:

  • Shares a risk they have taken in the last week;
  • Speaks approximately equally;
  • Shares and welcomes ideas;

Ask your team if you think it is practical to include these suggestions into your weekly meeting?

23. How to combat team change fatigue (see video)

Some ideas to increase connection and support in a team. Would this work for your team?

Australian Veterinary Association

Aust Vet Assoc

The Australian Veterinary Association has been involved in R U OK? for several years. We coordinate staff wellness activities throughout the day and provide a presentation to all staff in our interstate offices, as well as a morning tea.

23. Membership Promotion of R U OK? – We promoted to our 7000+ members via our social media channels, using staff images and messaging.

24. Mindfulness sessions – Last year we had a meditation session at lunchtime in a nearby park as well as colouring activities for those who needed a quiet space. Staff were encouraged to wear yellow and wear their RUOK bracelets.

It has helped to destigmatize mental health concerns in our workplace. Staff were experiencing high levels of anxiety due to significant workplace changes and opening up the dialogue for this has improved workplace morale significantly.

True Protein

True Protein

As a business working with athletes and parathletes who frequently come up against adversity, we decided there was no greater cause than to raise awareness of the help available to those in need. Some things that worked well for us included:

25. Interviews with athletes – We interviewed a number of athletes about the mental health challenges of sport including some who had lost friends to suicide.

26. Turned our website yellow – We turned our website yellow with R U OK? banners and featured dedicated R U OK? content every day of the week on our social channels and blog

27. Q&A with an expert – We had CEO Brendan Maher answer questions about improving mental health and how to ask ‘Are You OK?’

28. Donate 10% of profits to R U OK? – During the week of R U OK? Day, we decided to donate 10% of our profits to the R U OK? and were thrilled to donate $11,388 to the charity.

It has made a huge difference in the way we as a business communicate with our athletes and our customers. Not only did we receive wonderful positive feedback from our customers, as a team we all felt uplifted and more inclined to check our friends and colleagues were OK, not just in that week, but beyond.

29.   How to eTrain thousands of employees to be better at asking R U OK?

Wecare365 Shop Front


WeCARE eLearning is a scalable solution to improve workplace mental health support. This 20-minute course can be accessed on an organisation’s Learning Management System and is designed to:

  1. Show you care,
  2. Ask R U OK? with empathy and confidence, and;
  3. Feel confident guiding the person to the right help

It also has a number of pdf resources that are easily accessed later when required – For example – ‘How to have an R U OK? conversation’, ‘How to find a mental health savvy GP’.

In eLearning pilots, we recently completed with the University of Sydney and Ernst & Young, and 53 other people from 21 organisations:

  • 94% said they were more confident they could help a mentally distressed colleague, and;
  • 96% rated it 7/10 or above– in how likely they would recommend it to a colleague or friend (Net Promoter Score)

 It has just been awarded 3 top LearnX awards for this training program, and is a finalist for a 2019 Worksafe Victoria Invention of the Year.

The course is easily customised for each organisation to include their specific resources, e.g. your EAP phone number etc.

READ MORE: How to eTrain thousands of employees to be better at asking R U OK? in 20 minutes

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