2020 has been a year unlike any other. With the shift to working from home and the way we interact with friends and colleagues is changing, now it is more important than ever to stay connected and support those around us. At MetLife Australia we’ve organised lots of activities to make sure people aren't isolated, like virtual cooking classes, wellness sessions and social events. We’re encouraged to check in with colleagues and ask, ‘R U OK?’.

We asked the MetLife family, with COVID-19 changing the way people interact, what difference does it make to you when colleagues ask R U OK?

Lee Gallagher, Account Manager, Client Partnerships & Growth, and Chair MetLife Australia Heath, Wellbeing & Safety Committee:

Our entire framework of engaging with our friends, family, colleagues shifted within days due to COVID-19. We needed to rethink how our normal interactions could work in the new environment. I have found MetLife have really transformed the way we socialise by embedding online social interactions ranging from lunch with the CEO, department virtual birthdays and online cooking sessions. Each time we have a regular check-in either in a group or individual format it has really encouraged me to take a step back and think how I am feeling. In some cases, this triggered me to take some additional time out to invest in my personal wellbeing and just stop and unwind. Also being able to talk with others and share my feelings has made me realise that we are not in this alone and we can lean on others experiences to get us through the difficult times.

Mark Raberger, Head of Health:

Living in Melbourne, there has certainly been a palpable change in people’s demeanour. I think that the second lock down has impacted myself and a lot of people more significantly than the first. The support and awareness of this change has also been great from our northern cousins with a lot of the Sydney team checking in regularly and showing genuine empathy and care. There has also been a lot more emphasis on remaining connected with our colleagues in the same state and particularly through regular check ins both work and social. I recall one morning recently being on a call and having a bad morning. A colleague texted me afterwards to see if I was ok as it must have been noticeable on the screen. It certainly changed the day and made me feel personally a lot better. It does help. Also, using Webex or Microsoft teams with the video on does give us the ability to see body language and other signs to hone in on to make sure our teams and colleagues are ok – use the video when you can and smile when you are happy but also share when you are not. There will often be someone that notices and hopefully reaches out to you to ask if you are ok. His gesture certainly made me more aware and was a reminder to me to ask the question more often. I certainly found it a help on that day.

Maria Raso, Office Manager:

Reassuring, sense of worth knowing my colleagues are in engaging and taking the time to connect.

Pauline Stupavski, Account Manager:

Someone asking whether I’m okay, and then having them take a sincere interest, makes me feel like they care about my wellbeing. The sporadic (important) Microsoft teams check-ins, walk and talks throughout the day or a quick coffee catch up has worked wonders for me. It’s given me the energy boost I need on days when I may be feeling a little flat. It’s incredible how some casual banter and a giggle can really lift my mood – it’s contagious.

Kate Taylor, R U OK? Ambassador:

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of human connection and the need to find ways to communicate virtually while we are physical distancing. Now more than ever the importance of connecting with colleagues and checking in is vital for us to get through this time together.

You don’t have to be an expert to keep the conversation going when someone says they’re not OK. By knowing what to say you can help someone feel supported and access appropriate help long before they’re in crisis, which can make a positive difference to their life.

Learn what to say after RUOK and make a difference to someone’s life.