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employee enjoying their mental health day off from work

The ideas surrounding mental health in corporate America too often prove self-defeating and counterproductive. Scientific American published a research-based analysis that indicates upwards of 55 percent of employees fear retribution for taking a mental health day off. Compounding that problem, studies point to 83 percent of Americans suffering work-related stress, with 29 percent saying the levels were high to extreme.

Although perceived prohibitions surrounding self-care such as a mental health day off persist, corporate attitudes appear to be changing in seemingly small ways. At least 43 percent of workers surveyed reported they believe employers care about them enjoying a stable work-life balance. While there’s still certainly plenty of room for increased compassion, the importance of taking a needed mental health day off cannot be understated.

What is a Mental Health Day Off?

A mental health day off doesn’t necessarily have to be formally linked to quantitative scientific studies. In mindfulness and self-care circles, the practice is routinely called a mental wellness day off. It’s not uncommon for leadership teams and rank-and-file workers alike to call in sick when they are physically healthy to relax and regroup mentally.

At its core, a mental wellness day off is time for yourself because stress, anxiety, and other factors have become overwhelming. A mental health day off is simply an unscheduled escape from the stress that might otherwise hamper your ability to remain productive and enjoy the quality of life you deserve.  

[Read More: Mental Therapy for Employees]

Why do Employees Need Mental Health Days from Work?

If you stop and think about it, the mental health day off may have its roots in the age-old practice of playing hooky from school. Pupils at their wits end with study, tests, and rules surrounding being quiet and behaving sometimes take a day off. The analogy tends to be a fair one, given students who don’t show up in school find themselves in hot water. And that’s precisely how workers feel.

Upwards of one-third of the workforce reportedly visits a doctor regarding stress-related issues. Wide-reaching studies point to pain points such as the boss (35 percent) and lack of communication (80 percent), as driving reasons approximately 63 percent of people are on the brink of quitting their job due to burnout.

How to Help Employees Take Successful Mental Health Days Off

As an increased number of business professionals reach out for mental health and wellness support, the heightened stress of the workplace may have become more tangible. Decision-makers would be well served to create an open dialogue about the impact of stress on team members and adopt a corporate policy that supports a mental wellness day off when needed. These are policies that support valued employees taking a mental wellness day off.

  • Facilitate an open dialogue about stress and mental health in the workplace.
  • Schedule meetings to discuss reducing stress and improving communication.
  • Create a mental health day off policy that does not require a reason to take one.
  • Supervisors can check in with people after a mental wellness day off.  

Communication and compassion are necessary building blocks for a healthy business environment. When employees no longer feel pressure they will be punished for unscheduled time off, only then can they feel fully supported.

[Read More: Stress Reduction at Work]

How to Make the Most of Your Mental Day Off

It’s essential for workers not to use a mental wellness day off to run errands and complete tasks that would ordinarily be relegated to personal time. Such practices do not achieve the stress-reduction goal. They also may result in companies walking back mental health day off policies because they are misused. The following rank among ways everyday people successfully utilize this valuable time.  

  • Unplug from technology linked to work or stressful input.
  • Get away from home life and social stressors.
  • Binge-watch a series as a mental escape.
  • Engage in activities that make you happy.
  • Immerse yourself in nature for the day.
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation.

Everyday people cannot predict the forces around them that negatively impact their emotions. When workers feel a rising tide of stress and anxiety, mindfulness remedies cannot wait. Taking time away allows you to regain your emotional footing and move forward.  

How to Ask Your Boss for a Mental Health Day Off

How you approach asking for a mental health day off largely depends on the corporate environment. Supervisors who understand the issue can generally handle a straightforward conversation or email message. Without going into great detail, you can simply say words to the effect you need a day off. In less-than-compassionate environments, it’s okay to straddle the language by saying something along the lines of “I’m feeling under the weather.” Keep in mind that your physical and mental health information remains a private matter.

Dealing with Stigma of Mental Health Days

Although stigmas such as mental instability and lack of reliability have not yet been extinguished, a positive and inclusive trend appears to be growing. Employees are finding their supervisors share similar experiences. That’s why it’s essential to work toward an open dialogue about mental health needs and the improved workplace engagement that follows.

Mental Health Day Off Policies Need to Be the New Normal

The feeling of being unfairly treated for needing mental wellness breaks has no place in the modern work environment. The stigmas that include workers lacking the mental toughness to complete tasks on time and at a high level are pure myths. Studies indicate that an overwhelming majority of workers and employers alike have an inherent need to take an unscheduled break to firm up their determination, abilities and return with renewed vigor. Including a mental health day off will either become part of an organization’s compassionate footprint, or its staff will be looking for other opportunities. 



Caring For Remote Employees

Many organizations continue to work in remote and hybrid models as the pandemic winds down, but many employees, when given the option to return to work, would actually prefer to continue working remotely. Our new guide, Taking Care of Remote Employees: The Key To Business Success Beyond the Pandemic, gives you actionable steps to ensure that your employees feel supported no matter where they are working. 

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