Benefits of mental health days: three hidden reasons you didn’t know about
Benefits of mental health days aren’t just about employees. They are also good for co-workers, management and team productivity.
Benefits of mental health days for employees
Three hidden reasons you didn’t know about
Ten years ago most workers had never even heard of “mental health days” let alone understanding the benefits of mental health days.
There were sick days, sure, but the concept of taking a day off for mental health to recover before your physical health suffered was an alien one. Back then, the awkward conversation about mental health and stress was one that nobody wanted to have at work.
Fortunately, nowadays, that’s changing, albeit slowly as employers and employees recognize the benefits of mental health days.
An increasing number of workplaces are allowing, and even encouraging, their employees to look after their mental health by taking days off when necessary.
But not every boss is completely sold on the benefits of mental health days for employees despite many companies embracing remote working during the Covid19 pandemic and beyond.
For many managers, the fear of losing “control” over their employees far outweighs the benefits of mental health days. Many still do not understand why mental health days are important and how they improve productivity.
If you need to convince your boss of the benefits of mental health days, here are three compelling arguments that you can make:
Mental health days prevent sick days
According to the American Psychological Association, stress-related illness costs U.S. businesses up to $300 billion per year in health care and lost work.
Another study estimates that the total cost of work-related depression alone in the EU is nearly €620 billion per year. Add the fact that 77 percent of people in the U.S. regularly suffer physical symptoms due to stress, and it’s evident that the problem is a huge one.
Research also confirms there are elevated risks of depression amongst employees experiencing work-related stress.
Mental health days for employees are a simple beneficial intervention that allows staff to take time off in a controlled, planned, agreed-upon way, before they burn out completely, and end up having to take unplanned sick days instead or worse.
Tackling mental health problems early is important for preventing them from getting worse. This is why taking a mental health day to care for yourself, de-stress and re-group can be useful.
Mental health days result in increased overall productivity
It has been shown over and over again taking breaks and ensuring that you’re well-rested increases overall productivity. This might seem counterintuitive, but an employee who’s struggling with their mental health or buckling under the weight of stress isn’t likely to be a productive one.
The phenomenon of presenteeism – poor performance due to being unwell while at work – is well documented. Allowing mental health days for employees so that they can have some time off to rest, recover, and self-care from stress will help them return energized and on point when they return to the workplace.
Not only are improved levels of psychological and physical well-being associated with increased productivity, but they can also help enhance employee-employer dialogue, staff retention, and encourage higher levels of innovation, which is vital to the success of many organizations.
Benefits of mental health days include happier employees
A rarely mentioned – but still equally valuable – reason for bosses to let employees take a small number of mental health days at their discretion is that it shows that they are trusted.
By empowering employees to take care of their mental health, and proactively manage their stress levels, supervisors demonstrate they respect their workers, trust them to understand their own needs, and are willing to give them independence and control. The result? Employees who are happier, more productive and more engaged in the work that they do.
Although the benefits of mental health days are clear, it is essential to remember a single day off for mental health is not a panacea.
A mental health day is not a replacement for medical care, nor is it a cure-all for anxiety, depression, or other mental health symptoms. This is especially the case for individuals already diagnosed with mental illnesses.
Improving overall health. Mental health days help employees heal and bring their best selves to work daily.
Preventing burnout. 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 employees' mental health with paid time off allows them to better cope with stress and focus on their responsibilities.
“If people feel they need more than a single day to reset their thinking and behaviors, they should talk to a doctor.”
Brendan McDonald is a former Australian Army Offer and humanitarian aid worker with the United Nations.