Mental Health Days
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What Are Employee Mental Health Days?
Mental health days are paid or unpaid days employees can take off to focus on their well-being. Mental health days may be used for a variety of reasons, but the main purpose is to support an employee’s productivity and retention by encouraging them to care for themselves.
Mental health benefits are structured in different ways.
- Crisis response. Employers may give benefits to employees in response to a crisis or a one-time circumstance that will not be repeated.
- Regular benefit. As part of your Employee Value Proposition (all the benefits offered to employees every day they are employed), benefits like an Employee Assistance Program or mental health days are offered to employees for use at any time.
The Benefits of Offering Employees Mental Health Days
Many companies find the value of mental health days outweighs the costs. They include:
- Improving overall health. If someone on your team is suffering from depression, they are more likely to be vulnerable to physical conditions like heart disease or cancer. This will result in the company paying more health care premiums. Mental health days help employees heal and bring their best selves to work each day.
- Preventing burnout. Burnout can cause absenteeism and employee turnover. Allowing employees to take mental health days helps retain your workforce by sending a clear message that you understand their worth to the company.
- Increasing productivity. Supporting an employee’s mental health with paid time off allows them to better cope with stress and focus on their responsibilities.
Signs An Employee May Need Mental Health Support
If you are observing many of the signs described below in your employees, they may need time off for their mental health. Before you encourage them to take time off, check in with them. Mention that you notice changes in their behavior, and ask if you can help in any way.
They Are Sick a Lot
Symptoms of coughing, sneezing, stomach problems, frequent bathroom breaks, and chest congestion all point to the employee overstretching themselves.
Poor Dress and Appearance
Employees who dress business casual and then suddenly come to work in t-shirts and jeans with no attention to their hair may need time off.
Signs of Exhaustion
Struggling to stay awake during meetings, withdrawing from social gatherings or conversations, and consistently filling their mug with coffee to “make it through the day.”
If an employee’s productivity drops to the bare minimum, take the time to understand if they are facing challenges and how you can help. The critical part is to express your gratitude for them and all the work they do.
Every Day Is a “Bad Day”
These employees will not seem happy or positive even when given positive feedback or news. The employee may need a day or two to rest up and think about anything but work.
Examples of Companies Giving Employees Time Off for Mental Health
Read on to learn more about how specific companies protect their employees’ health.
During the health crisis of 2021, senior leadership gave all 15,900 full-time employees a paid week off to recharge. Leaders mentioned how inspiring it was to see everyone come back happy and motivated to get back to work.
The coffee titan encourages employees to use their time off for mental health to combat the stigma surrounding mental health.
The pandemic took its toll on everyone in 2020. Struggling to keep employees motivated, Bumble decided to introduce a new company benefit and give all employees a paid week off to help them recover from exhaustion and burnout. Leadership stated this benefit is to show employees they are valued and Bumble wants them to stay around.
In 2021, this social media management company introduced Wellness Week. The company shut down for a week and told employees to disconnect completely during that time. Leadership was happy to see motivated and energetic employees return after the company resumed normal operations.
The web browser company shut down for an entire week to show their appreciation for their employees. The company has not announced if this will be a new permanent benefit.
Leadership extended the time off for three holidays—Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day—by three days. These extra days were deemed as Take Care Days. The company has not announced if this will be a new permanent benefit.
Should Your Company Offer Mental Health Days?
Implementing mental health benefits such as paid days off requires a big cultural shift that begins with the leadership at the top.
The mental health of the workforce needs to become a company priority, not just a program handled by Human Resources. Company leadership should be transparent about their history of mental illness to set an example and inspire employees to be willing to discuss their own stories.
All leaders should be trained on all new policies, processes, and benefits related to mental health and days off. Simply announcing employees can take time off for mental health will not stick or be sustainable.
Current practices work until they no longer add value to the organization. Employees who work extended hours, compromising their health, are no longer a competitive advantage to a company. The more flexible you can be, the healthier and more productive your workforce will be.
Creating boundaries that promote more autonomy will create a safe culture for mental health. An example includes no emails after normal business hours or taking vacation hours—actions that must be modeled by leadership to be effective.
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Ryan is an HR Director with four years of experience and three masters degrees. One accomplishment he is proud of is the design and launch of a learning and development program for 800+ employees.
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