‘Got any spare undies?’: Why we need to get more personal at work

RUOK at Work UndiesOverwork and work life balance were key themes from Mumbrella360 this week. Here Rebecca Lewis, campaign director of mental health charity R U OK?, explains why it’s important for colleagues to be close enough to support each other.

The idea of handing over a pair of undies (even if freshly laundered) to a workmate is a pretty horrifying prospect. I’m not even sure HR would have this type of question in their manual.

But the fact that it’s so outrageous is the point.

We need to grab the attention of people at the office.

We know that countless emails flood your inbox and there’s only a small window to get your attention amongst all the spam, daily alerts and work emails that bombard you daily.

And that’s why we are asking the unaskable.

Thanks to OgilvyOne’s creative, SuperFriend’s support and input from some of the nation’s biggest employers, we want to help workmates start conversations with people they spend the most amount of time with.

People who work in offices see the same people for 8 hours a day (or more), five days a week, 48 weeks a year. That’s more time than we spend with our best friends, grandparents, parents and probably partner or children. Yet we feel awkward or embarrassed, even uncertain, about our right to ask about someone’s personal wellbeing.

How we talk to one another has changed over the years. In many cases, this is great news. More and more people now know labels can be offensive and that undermining the dignity and value of another person cannot be tolerated. On the other hand, the conversation has become quite stilted. People are afraid of being offensive and overstepping the boundaries of ‘politically correct’.

People often don’t act on their instinct to help someone in need in case it’s interpreted the wrong way.

R U OK? wants to change that. The new R U OK? at Work campaign is all about reminding people that while there are some questions you shouldn’t ask at work – ‘are you ok?’ isn’t one of them.

We’re asking businesses to send this out and promote it because the case for doing so is sound. Mental health issues are likely to affect almost half of the Australian population at some stage in their lives and colleagues are one of the most important sources of encouragement and support for good mental health.

There’s also a legal imperative. Workplaces have a duty of care to their staff and this campaign is one easy thing you can do to help meet that requirement. And on top of that, it’s the right thing to do.

So… we’re asking you to ask others: ‘Got any spare undies?’

Rebecca Lewis is Campaign Director of R U OK?; a not-for-profit organisation that aims to encourage and empower all Australians to ask ‘are you ok?’ to support anyone struggling with life.


  1. WTF
    7 Jun 14
    7:20 am

  2. Great cause, but terrible campaign idea.

  3. Dana
    10 Jun 14
    11:34 am

  4. I have to agree with WTF – the cause and message is great – the execution and campaign is horrible.

  5. night woman
    10 Jun 14
    1:50 pm

  6. Great cause gross idea -what a turn off.

  7. Dave McCaughan
    16 Jun 14
    1:44 pm

  8. when you have the moniker ” Mr Underwear” as I seem to have accrued over the years it’s hard not to like this. I have had grungies thrown at me in conferences, boxers and briefs sent to me in the mail by seeming fans and followers, couriered and hand delivered after giving talks and I have indeed given pairs of undies from my stock pile I keep in my office to colleagues in need. Have to admit I don’t remember ever loaning a pair of my own Y-fronts to any one in the office. But I can remember one guy who got caught out after an all nighter scrubbing his boxer’s in the men’s room and using the hand dryer on them. and yes he was pant less as he did it. I would gladly have handed him a clean pair if id had them on me that time.

  9. Jame
    17 Jun 14
    10:35 am

  10. The message here is very confusing, I get the brand and their purpose, but the headline doesn’t make me think about the issues more than incontinence.