What is a mental health day?
A mental health day is when employees take sick leave to manage their mental wellbeing.
People who take a mental health day may appear physically well enough to work, but they know that their mental health is suffering and are at risk of becoming ill unless they take some time out.
It could be that employees need a mental health day to relieve stress levels that are building up, often causing physical effects such as anxiety or trouble sleeping, or it could be that they are struggling to manage their stress and emotions.
Taking a mental health day isn’t about avoiding responsibilities at work or taking liberties, it’s about taking control and being proactive when it comes to minimising the risk of physical illness that can be caused by rising stress levels and ongoing mental struggles.
Allowing staff to take mental health days also helps to reduce presenteeism, which means that people are less likely to turn up to work when they aren’t necessarily well enough to work productively and effectively.
Mental health days are all about employees taking a day off from work as sickness absence in order to do something good for their mental health and wellbeing to prevent their mental health from deteriorating which may affect their ability to work.
Is it okay to take a mental health day?
The question that employees find themselves asking when considering whether to take a sick day to look after their mental wellbeing is whether this is acceptable to their employer.
We don’t hesitate when taking a day off to rest and recover from physical illnesses such as the flu, so why should we think twice when our mental health is suffering and hindering our performance?
There are days when stress can overwhelm us all, where taking a day off to collect ourselves and rejuvenate in order to function normally is essential.
However, it’s important not to abuse a mental health day and only take them when you really need it. Taking regular mental health days can have a snowball effect, allowing stresses and workload to build up if they are not taken properly.
Why do employees need a mental health day?
A mental health day can work wonders when things become too much and we just need the time to collect ourselves in order to return to work at our full potential. However, if you are constantly feeling overwhelmed this may indicate something more serious and it’s important that you reach out for the correct support.
Physical health and mental health should be treated equally in the workplace and it’s essential that line managers are able to spot the signs in their staff who might be struggling with mental health.
It’s vital that there is a company wide positive approach towards mental health in place, with the precedent set from the top down.
This means that employees are able to comfortably discuss any potential mental health issues without fear of discrimination, and that employers are able to offer the right support and opportunities for self-care.
Offering mental health days is just one way that employers can support their staff, and here we outline 5 ways to support employee self-care in the workplace in addition to allowing staff to take time off to rejuvenate:
If you’re an employee, ask your line manager or HR department about the health and wellbeing services available within your organisation, and what procedures and policies are in place to help you deal with stress and mental health issues if things do get too much.
Our free Health & Wellbeing Toolkit contains all the information you need to start creating your company’s strategy, featuring help and advice on everything from building the business case and exploring supplier options, to implementing and evaluating the process.