We all know that 2020 will be remembered as one of the most difficult years we’ve all had to grapple with; Co-vid has made it stressful and anxiety-inducing. Now more than ever, employers need to help lead their team members to better mental wellness.

This requires bravery. In my opinion, the level of courage needed to truly embrace a holistic wellness program is currently uncommon in Australia. Why? Because it takes the leadership team to be truly vulnerable, open and empathetic for a mental wellness program to work.

Thankfully, I work with leaders who have never been afraid to do things differently.

Brave leaders understand that this year has been a year of prolonged stress for many people and they need to lead their organisation by being honest, sharing their feelings, telling their stories and opening up. Brave leaders also know the importance of investing in holistic workplace wellness programs. These programs broadly consist of:

-       Creating an environment of trust

-       Developing proactive programs that build resilience and offer real-life skills to deal with stress,

-       Promoting “circuit-breaking” campaigns that can prompt people to ask for help,

-       Offering reactive support, usually in the form of an EAP.

Most large organisations have become comfortable in providing reactive support. It’s to their credit that they offer professional EAP services. However, there is a sharp need in 2020 to address every aspect of a holistic wellness program. It’s more than a yoga class and a set of values put up on the wall; it’s about creating a compassionate way of working.

One of the healthiest steps an organisation can take to support mental wellness is to create an open, empathetic and trusting environment. Some of the steps we have taken at Half Dome include:

-       Leading with empathy. We believe that building trust and relationships with people is reinforced through every initiative and action. This is where the bravery comes in; your team need to be comfortable sharing how they’re feeling, ask for support, reach out, be vulnerable and encourage others to do the same.

-       Inviting open and safe discussions and taking action to improve individual situations.

-       Offering daily or weekly personal support from leaders.

-       Building skills, awareness, language and actions that reward a growth mindset.

-       Creating an environment for proactive and early help-seeking.

-       Encouraging and rewarding the bravery for individuals to come forward and share their experience.

Once a trust environment is created, it makes participation in important circuit-breaking campaigns like R U OK Day on 10 September more powerful. By simply asking this question, it can stop some people from disappearing into a negative self-talk state, further increasing their anxiety levels. Breaking this circuit by showing you care can be extremely helpful.

If you have the right environment, lead with empathy, show support, give your team the skills to deal with stress and have professional help to hand, asking “RUOK?” becomes more meaningful. It means people will be happy to come forward and tell the truth. If their answer is, “I don’t think so” your holistic wellness program will ensure your team can navigate through to the right help.

Now, more than any year in living memory, we need to make sure our employees are OK. We need them to know that their wellbeing is important – not because it makes us more money but because we’re all human and doing our best.

At Half Dome, we treat every day as RUOK Day. Our team needs to be OK in order to use their impressive minds every single day. We work really hard to proactively support each other, encourage open conversation, break the “anxiety self-talk” circuit and be there whenever needed.

This year, more than ever before, ask your team if they are OK.

Not only is it the brave thing to do; it’s the right thing to do.