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R U OK?: RMIT Online's check-in

Checking in with your friends and colleagues has never been more important

Today is R U OK?Day. This date brings awareness of mental health issues within our communities, families, and workplaces. As a business that is proactively in shaping the nature of the workforce, we understand that it's important to be compassionate and flexible while we all are navigating prolonged lockdowns and working from home.  

 "The mental health and wellbeing of our staff and students is a top priority for RMIT Online. We believe that people work and live well when they feel well.  As COVID-19 continues to affect our daily lives, looking after our community has never been more important," said Rachael Francis, HR Director at RMIT Online. "Life is challenging at the moment and it's important that we check-in and seize these small opportunities to connect with our colleagues. By checking in, we're able to establish a connection to remind them that they're valued and important to us. We know that a simple ‘How are you doing? How can I support you?’ can go a long way." 

"While some people may want to connect over Zoom, others may prefer a digital chat over Slack or a phone call to take a break from their computer screen"

As we all know, people have different ways in which they go about in connecting with one another at work. While some people may want to connect over Zoom, others may prefer a digital chat over Slack or a phone call to take a break from their computer screen and some may not be open to engaging at all. Learning how to engage with staff in a way they feel most comfortable is fundamental in creating a sense of community during these challenging circumstances. 

If you’re looking for some great resources and ideas on how you can talk to your colleagues and team members, R U OK?Day has put together some fantastic resources here for workplaces on how to have the conversation asking “R U OK?”

As part of RMIT Online's ongoing commitment to the mental wellbeing of its people, Helen Souness, CEO of RMIT Online recently announced five “wellbeing leave days' for staff to use this year in addition to their regular leave entitlements, to give people some time away from their screens and the stresses of 2021.

With all this in mind, we sat down (virtually) with some of the leaders from across RMIT Online to see how they are staying in touch with their teams during extended lockdowns and spending their ‘wellbeing days’. 


What are some initiatives you are working on to stay connected to your team remotely?


Will Calvert, Technology & Enablement Director


As a tech team we stay connected regularly in our squads as part of our regular ceremonies/meetings, but after this and many other meetings we've not had a lot of energy for more Zoom meetings as an entire team, so these have been a little less frequent this lockdown in favour of a very active set of Slack channels!  We have our regular fortnightlies and other specific Tech and Enablement meetings which blend work with a bit of fun where we can (timing is everything...meetings in the late arvo mean drinks and food are very welcome!!!). 

Personally I strongly recommend moving as many meetings as possible to an old school phone based meeting, so the participants can 'walk and talk'.  It also feels less formal compared to Zoom/Teams meetings.  I'm amazed how organising some catch ups together in the diary and doing them this way can break up a day, decrease screen headaches, and help with cognitive function.


Anshu Arora, Marketing & Student Acquisition Director


As a team, we recently completed an online “escape room” as a bit of fun to break away from the usual “zoom catchups”. Seeing the wider team break away into small groups and focus on a goal that wasn’t work focused or ‘Covid-19 chat’ was a real highlight. Within our regular working rhythms, I’m also conscious to allow space to connect and check in with the team, and also allow flexibility for social catchups to adapt where things aren’t working. (No one wants to be forced to go to “team drinks” after all!)We have also found that setting clear goals and OKR’s allows the team to develop initiatives and ideas to drive them through these challenging times.


Claire Hopkins, Chief Student Experience Officer


Creating formal (team meetings, vision development) and informal spaces (zoom drinks, trivia quizzes) to connect as a team has been important for us to connect over these last few months, as well as ad-hoc outreach over slack and one-on-one catch ups focused on professional development planning to help keep the motivation up!Where possible, some team members have also been able to catchup for lunchtime walks and see each other in real life (within the 5k zone of course!)


Joyce Seitzinger​, Director SX Innovations


We have realised we are all zoomed out and need more focus time together. So one thing we want to do is institute an “untouchable day” as we read in an HBR article. A day or part of a day the four of us keep with no meetings, so we can work together on initiatives. The co-creation that was so easy in the office, needs dedicated time and attention in Zoomland.


"We have realised we are all zoomed out and need more focus time together. So one thing we want to do is institute an “untouchable day”"


How are you planning on spending your wellbeing days? And why do you think wellbeing days are important? 


Joyce Seitzinger​, Director SX Innovations


Well-being days are important for two reasons. The first is that obviously everyone needs some extra downtime in these extraordinary times. But the second is that they give us permission to talk about well-being.   It opens conversations by giving us a shared vocabulary. And it is inspiring to hear from others what they did on their day away, and how it has energised them. I couldn’t stop raving about my newfound love of audio books, after not having had the focus to read a crime novel since the beginning of 2020. Having a day to reconnect with my inner bookworm was a pure joy. 


Claire Hopkins, Chief Student Experience Officer


I’m planning on using the days individually to get a stream of long weekends over the next few months in the run up to Xmas. As I tend to spend my workdays in meetings with others, I love using these days off to banish the feeling of being scheduled - no alarm to wake me up, going for a longer walk later in the morning, sitting on my front verandah in the sun having a coffee. It’s all about slow time for me on those days.

I’ve long been a big believer in disconnecting in order to refresh. We spend so much time focused on work, and tech has just made that more pervasive so it requires discipline to create some necessary boundaries. I no longer have the notification indicator on my email or Slack (when there’s no number, you can’t get freaked out when it keeps going up!), and I don’t check emails or Slack when I’m not at work, whether that’s during a work week or when I go on leave. It’s important to value our time away


Anshu Arora, Marketing & Student Acquisition Director


For me, I’m planning on feeding the soul with some good food and trying some new recipes, watching nostalgic re-runs of shows from the 90s and catching up on the lives of the Hilton Sisters, Erika and Lisa (the real housewives) plus lots of walking and park plays with my kids.

Context switching from work mode to time off is hard and it’s a thousand times harder in lockdown! Similar to how I use focus time at work to take time to do the thinking and doing without any distractions, Wellbeing days are days for me to focus on me and my family without work and life distractions.


Will Calvert, Technology & Enablement Director


For me weekends and wellbeing time is about family/food/footy/ garden and ...exercise (sadly its in that order....and sometimes exercise doesn't get the attention it needs!).  In these Zoom heavy times, where we aren't commuting or walking around the RMIT campus and City (which is often sprinkled with little social interactions and mental breaks throughout the day). So we need a circuit breaker and some times I feel like a weekend just isn't enough.  We don't know how much time off helps until we do it.  I've heard so many people in recent weeks say "wow I didn't realise how burnt out I was feeling last week - that time off really helped".  It's such a generous and progressive thing for RMIT to do, I'm really grateful for it and hope everyone is making the most of it.

Fortunately, a check-in does not cost anything, and these small acts of kindness go a long way. They’re a good reminder that we all can make a difference by having regular, meaningful check-ins about today's ups and downs. Visit for resources for workplaces on how to have the conversation asking “R U OK?”