Mental health check: how to ask employees if they’re really ok

Stressed and overworked businesswoman crouching in the office

It’s clear the pandemic has had a significant and wide-reaching impact on people’s mental health, the extent of which cannot yet be fully known. As a result, it is becoming increasingly important for employers to focus on creating a psychologically safe workplace for their employees to ensure they are supported during this time. Notwithstanding the pandemic, taking definitive action to significantly bolster employee mental health and job satisfaction has been shown to be good for business: international research estimates a return of 4.25x ROI for every dollar spent. 

In light of R U OK Day on September 9, we’ve consolidated a range of articles and podcasts relating to employee mental health that Bayside Group has published since the beginning of the pandemic. These include information on everything from creating psychologically safe workplaces for employees returning on-site, to understanding factors that can lead to employee burnout. 

As well as this, we’re sharing R U OK Day’s simple advice on how to ask employees if they’re really ok. Because while organisational design, building resilience and early help-seeking programs are indeed crucial for creating healthy workplaces, sometimes a simple question posed in the right way can make all the difference. 


How to ask employees if they’re really ok 

R U OK? has developed four steps to help you navigate a conversation with someone you’re worried about. Though these steps can be applied in any environment, employers and managers can use these as a way to begin a more open conversation about mental health, which can be challenging in the workplace. 


Step 1: Ask are you ok? 

  • Be relaxed, friendly and concerned in your approach.  
  • Help them open up by asking questions like “How are you going?” or “What’s been happening?” 
  • Mention specific things that have made you concerned for them, like “You seem less chatty than usual. How are you going?” 
  • If they don’t want to talk, don’t criticise them. Simply tell them you’re still concerned about changes in their behaviour and that you’re there to support them if needed. 

Step 2: Listen with an open mind 

  • Take what they say seriously and don’t interrupt or rush the conversation. 
  • Don’t judge their experiences or reactions but acknowledge that things seem tough for them. 
  • If they need time to think, sit patiently with the silence. Once they do speak, encourage them to explain: “How are you feeling about that?” or “How long have you felt that way?” 
  • Show that you’ve listened by repeating back what you’ve heard (in your own words) and ask if you have understood them properly. 

Step 3: Encourage action 

  • Ask them what they’ve done in the past to manage similar situations, and how you can best support them. 
  • If they’ve been feeling really down for more than two weeks, if appropriate, encourage them to see a health professional by saying something like: “It might be useful to link in with someone who can support you.”  
  • If they do not already seek support from a health professional, you could refer them to your EAP, or recommend a service such as Lifeline or Beyond Blue

Step 4: Check in 

  • Pop a reminder in your diary to check in with the person in a couple of weeks. If they’re really struggling, follow up with them sooner. 
  • Ask if they’ve found a better way to manage the situation. If they haven’t done anything, don’t judge them. They might just need someone to listen to them for the moment. 
  • Stay in touch. Remember genuine care and concern can make a real difference. 

You can access more information and resources on R U OK Day here. 


You may also find these articles relating to employee mental health and wellbeing useful: 

General Workplace Mental Health Articles 

Industry-Specific Mental Health Articles 

Mental Health Podcasts 

Health and Safety 


If you’re looking for staff or require guidance on ensuring you’re compliant with workplace best practice, contact Bayside Group today

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