With nearly 1 in 5 American adults being diagnosed with a mental health condition each year, introducing Mental Health Days in the workplace could, in theory, benefit around 20% of your employees.
Although most workplaces agree that employee wellbeing is essential, there is still some uncertainty around the concept of ‘Mental Health Days’; from employers granting and embracing them, to employees feeling ashamed or embarrassed to request them.
For some, managers and assistants alike, bringing up the topic of mental health may seem like a difficult conversation to have at work. But, changing mindsets and reframing mental health days will begin to break down stigmas and overall create a more open dialogue and a more productive and healthy work environment.
Providing, and even encouraging, regular Mental Health Days could decrease extended periods of leave for employees, in particular Executives and Senior Managers. “Executives face unique stressors,” says Kayla Gill, Content Director at LuxuryRehabs.com. “With so many people depending on you, […] many executives feel like they don’t have the time or freedom to step away from work in order to begin recovery.”
Granting regular Mental Health Day’s could alleviate some of the pressure that leads executives to seek recovery help from work-related stress. This can result in many serious problems, such as anxiety disorders and even substance abuse and addiction.
In this article, we will define what a Mental Health Day is, discuss why they are so important and how they can help to reduce work-based stress and anxiety, and ultimately help to reduce burnout.
What is a Mental Health Day
Much like a traditionally accepted ‘sick day’, a Mental Health Day is taking a day off to recover. Having a cold, sickness bug or another physical sickness may seem easier to ‘prove’ as there are obvious visible symptoms. But, struggling with mental health is often harder to explain as many of the side effects are invisible to others, though felt strongly by the sufferer.
Mental Health Days could be scheduled in advance. For example, if employees are working towards a deadline, encouraging them to take a Mental Health Day after this has passed, to recuperate and de-stress following their hard work could see them returning refreshed.
However, mental health isn’t always something that can be pre-planned or prepared for. Sometimes severe anxiety or other mental health disorders can come on suddenly, and employees may need to request a Mental Health Day in the morning for that day.
Being accepting of all Mental Health Day requests is important to changing attitudes towards mental health in the workplace. Ensuring employees, of all levels, are aware of how to request them, in a safe space, will encourage uptake, contributing to employee wellbeing and overall company culture.
Why Mental Health Days are Important
While having just one day off may not seem revolutionary, and it certainly won’t make stress or anxiety disappear, it is an important step in avoiding complete burnout.
It encourages employees to recognize signs of stress before they become larger problems or contribute to developing anxiety disorders. But it is equally important for employers to look out for early signs of stress
If multiple employees in the workplace and working remotely are requesting Mental Health Days, or there is a noticeable increase of them within a team or coinciding with a project, it could be a sign that workload is too much, deadlines are too tight, or overall stressors need to be addressed.
How to reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace.
Mental Health Days could be counterproductive for staff if met with negativity or suspicion. Staff could be hesitant to request Mental Health Days through fear of how they will be perceived or feelings of guilt for prioritizing their mental wellbeing. This leads to them not being able to fully relax and focus on self-care on their requested day. Here it is vital that there is a company-wide positive approach to Mental Health Days, and a united mission to reduce stress across the board.
Although not all mental health days are impacted by work-related stress, it is still worth finding ways to reduce stressors for employees. Overwhelm and pressure are two key factors that contribute to stress and anxiety and could be a cause for staff to request mental health leave.
Managing tasks, good communication and regular check-ins will help gauge team morale and present a space for issues to be aired in an accepting space.
High performers and Executives are at a higher risk of burnout and more likely to experience workplace stress, finding it hard to say no at work and often having to manage multiple projects, teams and tasks. Noticing early signs of stress in these members, and all staff, will help to indicate where Mental Health Days could benefit, and where workload needs to be shifted.
With 40% of American workers finding their jobs stressful, implementing processes to alleviate stress in combination with scheduling Mental Health Days could have a huge impact on overall employee wellbeing and productivity.
Recognizing signs of stress in staff, opening conversations about mental health, and encouraging scheduled Mental Health Days, especially after high-pressure projects can positively impact stress levels.
This blog was printed with permission.
About the Author: Gemma Hart is a HR and Recruitment Specialist based in the South of England. Since graduating from Sussex University in 2016, Gemma has developed her skill set and knowledge around the future of recruitment and graduate education.