RU OK? Mental Health Matters in the Tech Sector

Modis Posted 14 September 2022

RU OK? Mental Health Matters in the Tech Sector

Are you okay? No really, are you okay? What if that one question, those three words, could change the life of a coworker?

That’s the premise behind RU OK?, Australia’s leading harm prevention charity. With 1 in 8 Australians taking their lives every day, asking this question is vital to supporting the mental health of your employees and coworkers.

And it’s especially vital for the tech industry. With more than half of all tech workers reporting having been diagnosed with a mental health issue, checking in on workers’ mental health is critical for establishing a safe and productive working environment. Keep reading for a breakdown of mental health matters in the tech industry and effective resources on how to spur conversations for those who struggle.  

Why Mental Health Matters to Tech

An estimated 20% of Australians have experienced a mental health disorder. This number jumps to 52% when looking at tech workers. In addition, according to an OSMI survey, an overwhelming 70.8% of tech workers said that their productivity is impacted by a mental health issue. However, the same number of people also reported that their employer has never formally discussed mental health in the workplace.

Now’s the time to start having conversations like “are you okay?” in the tech industry. Here’s why:

  1. Tech fosters a “crunch culture”

    Whether working for a start-up or an established company, tech workers are all-too familiar with the tech crunch culture. A study of 36,200 IT professionals even found that two in five workers are at high risk of burnout thanks to longer hours worked.

    Just how many hours are tech professionals working every week? On average, those working in tech are spending 52 hours a week at a desk or on a computer, a full 17 hours above what is considered full-time work in Australia. 18% even say they work more than 60 hours per week.

    With these numbers, it’s easy to see why so many tech workers struggle with maintaining a work-life balance. Asking your employees and coworkers how they are can open up a dialogue about the struggles to turn off and encourage them to actively seek a better balance.

  2. Tech workers are largely remote

    According to the same OSMI survey, 77% of tech professionals reported working from home. While remote working has its benefits, it’s hard to ignore that those working from home are more isolated than those working in an office, leaving little room for chit-chat over a cuppa. That means important conversations about mental health are not happening as they should.

    And remote workers are even more likely to suffer from burnout than the general tech population. 1 in 5 say they experience problems with “not being able to unplug” while on average remote employees work 28 hours more per month than their in-office counterparts. If you have remote workers and coworkers set aside time to have personal conversations with them. They’ll not only feel more part of the team but will have the channel to disclose any problems they’re experiencing with burnout and their mental health.

  3. Tech workers are still mostly male

    While the tech industry has made great strides in reaching gender parity we can’t overlook the fact that only 28% of tech workers in Australia are female.  Men are not only disproportionately affected by mental health problems, but they’re also less likely to seek help: Despite making up more than three-quarters of deaths by suicide in Australia, only a quarter of men report that they wouldn’t seek help from anyone, even colleagues, for mental health concerns.

    It’s important to pose important questions about mental health as a basic conversation like “are you okay?” to help men (and everyone) feel more comfortable discussing mental health. If you’re a manager make sure to model these conversations in front of your workers to make these conversations more commonplace in the office.

  4. COVID has compounded mental health issues


The pandemic has had an impact on virtually every industry- especially technology. In our whitepaper Resetting Normal, we examined the pandemic’s impact on mental health globally and found that Australians have been experiencing more burnout than any other country. 53% of Australians reported experiencing burnout during the pandemic- a full 15% higher than the global average.

As we’re working towards a new normal post-pandemic, it’s necessary to address how COVID has impacted workers’ mental health and any lingering effects the pandemic has had on work-life balance. Open-up dialogue with employees and colleagues about how they’re doing, how they’re really doing, post-pandemic and discuss how to handle any difficulties they’re facing.  

Can a Conversation Really Change a Life?

Yes, it can. According to RU OK? 96% of those who participated in the campaign took action to support someone experiencing mental health distress and were 6 times more likely to reach out to someone they thought needed help. Conversely, a recent study found that the majority of Australians who reached out to a mental health professional in the past 12 months were aware of the RU OK? campaign. Having a conversation like “are you okay?” has been proven to not only drive more important conversations about mental health but has resulted in more people seeking treatment.

How to Ask RU OK?

Participating in the RU OK? campaign can take place in the office or at home and requires four simple steps:

  1. Ask RU OK? – Be relaxed when starting a conversation and ask simple, open-ended questions like “How’s it going?” or “What’s been happening?”. Add in an observation about changes in their behaviour to show your concern: “I’ve noticed you haven’t been as chatty lately- is everything ok?”.
  2. Listen- Let them talk about any issues without any interruptions or judgement. If they get angry or upset stay calm and explain that you’re asking out of concern. If they say little, encourage them to open-up without rushing any conversation.
  3. Encourage Action- Ask “What could be a first step we can take” and how you can help them. A good first place to look is if your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
  4. Check in- It’s important to check in with your colleague after a few days’ time to see how they’re doing. Ask if they’ve found any solutions and if they haven’t, encourage them to keep searching.
For more information on how to participate in the RU OK? campaign check out their workplace resources, including guides you can distribute to colleagues and a pre-made presentation to give to leaders to encourage adopting their practices in the office. And for more information about Modis workforce solutions, read here for how we can help. A simple conversation really can make a difference in the tech industry so why not ask a colleague “are you okay?” today?
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