The Importance of Providing Mental Health Days to Employees

Have you ever taken a mental health day? A day where you woke up, didn’t feel “right,” and called off work for something other than a physical ailment? With no fear of judgment or professional repercussions? If you haven’t—why not? And if you have, then you are in the minority and are likely working for an employer who already knows the importance of building a culture that supports mental health. Although the pandemic isn’t the only factor causing strain on employees, it increased the mental and emotional toll for many. Providing mental health days is one important way employers are supporting employees through increasing levels of burnout and mental health concerns. A sanctioned break from work responsibilities allows employees to rest, recharge, and care for themselves. But is taking one day off enough to move the needle on mental health issues for employees? Probably not — however, creating a work culture where taking mental health days is allowed and encouraged could make a difference for many employees.

Remove The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health Days

In Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work report, 31% of respondents shared that the resource they most desired for mental health support is a more open culture around mental health. Consider these ways of opening channels of communication to create a healthier workplace culture:

  • Provide access to mental health care and make that information easily accessible for all employees
  • Create wellness support groups where employees can connect around mental health issues
  • Train managers to recognize and respond to early signs of overwork, burnout, and mental distress
  • Build a culture of caring, where employees know their well-being is as valued as their productivity. One way to do that is by performing frequent check-ins where managers not only ask, “How are you?” but also follow up with, “How can I help?”
  • Encourage management to “practice what they preach” by taking mental health days when needed.
  • Offer company-wide training on the importance of taking care of your mental health.
  • Treat mental health as a workplace priority, not as an individual challenge for an affected employee to face and conquer alone.

Understanding the Impact of Workplace Stress on Mental Health

The ramifications of continuous workplace stress are profound and multifaceted, directly influencing an individual's mental well-being. 

High levels of stress can exacerbate mental health conditions including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Burnout—a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress

The mechanics of this impact lie in the body's stress response, which, if perpetually activated, can wear down the body and mind over time.

Stress undermines one’s ability to:

  • Think clearly
  • Make decisions
  • Maintain emotional balance

Recognizing the early signs of stress, such as irritability, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating, is pivotal in taking timely measures to mitigate its effects. As workplace stress continues to be a significant concern, understanding its potential to harm mental health is the first step in crafting strategies to combat its negative outcomes effectively.

For more information check out HelpGuide’s resource, Stressed at Work, which covers:

  • How to identify when workplace stress has gotten to be too much
  • Top tips to beat workplace stress
  • How managers and employers can reduce stress at work

Create A Sustainable Mental Health Day Policy

A day off here and there provides temporary ease for employees experiencing mental health challenges, but a well-communicated cultural change is necessary to sustain progress. Consider creating a plan to cover unexpected gaps by employees using their mental health days so that those employees won’t feel guilty for causing more work for their team and productivity won’t suffer due to strained resources. 

Read more of our blogs on mental health and company culture.

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