Money & Career

Why Taking A Mental Health Day From Work Is Actually A Brilliant Idea

Rethink the traditional sickie

It’s cold, you’ve already pressed the snooze button on your alarm three times, you’ve worked late for the last two weeks and the thought of dragging yourself to work is unbearable. You phone the office to say you’re sick and spend the day zoned out on the couch.

Sound familiar? If you’ve ever felt guilty about taking a sickie as a mental health day, don’t. When you need a break from the demands of your job, a sanctioned day off can make all the difference, according to HR leadership specialist, Karen Gately.

“Improved productivity is more likely when people are mentally healthy,” says Gately. “One in five Australians experience mental health issues. When mental health days are employer endorsed, they provide a legitimate avenue through which people can take time out to de-stress. They are a great way for businesses to support their employees and promote mental wellbeing.”

Mental health disorders are estimated to cost the Australian economy $20 billion a year. So when companies nurture the mental health of their team they’re not only saving money, but are creating a compassionate culture that inspires people to look after themselves and one another.

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Taking a mental health day to recharge isn’t just something to do when you’re feeling a bit fed up though; you need to have a valid reason, says Gately. “Look for the signs of stress, such as losing the ability to concentrate or being unable to tolerate people,” she says. “Learn to recognise when your body and mind is telling you to take a break.”

The key to a successful mental health sickie is being upfront. “Have an honest conversation with your manager about how you’re feeling,” says Gately. “Help them understand the pressures you’ve been experiencing and allow them to work with you to resolve the issues that cause you to need time out. Remind them that you’re more able to focus your efforts when you’re mentally strong.”

You need to consider team commitments, too. “Asking for a mental health day when you’re due to deliver work probably won’t be received well, but if you’ve reached a point of exhaustion your manager might support the request.”

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to listen if someone in your team asks for a mental health day. “Give consideration to the circumstances in which the request is being made,” says Gately. “Allowing two or three mental health days a year would be reasonable. The occasional day off is unlikely to be reason for concern, so do all you can to allow the time. “When people are surrounded by colleagues who care, they are more likely to be committed to the organisation – which is better for everyone.”

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