Coping with mental health issues like anxiety or stress is a common problem we all face in our lives, some more than others. One major contributor to mental health issues is workplace stress which often leads to employee anxiety and burnout.
As businesses look for ways to ease the stress on their employees, many are utilizing mental health days as a key benefit to support both employee health and retention.
Why Creating Awareness Is Important
It’s estimated that 1 in 3 people view their job as having a negative impact on their mental health and general wellbeing. This in turn can lead to problems such as:
- A decline in productivity.
- Conflict between employees.
- Mental detachment from work projects.
According to research conducted by the World Health Organization, stress and anxiety disorders, like depression, cost more than a trillion dollars in lost productivity globally. This shows that paying attention to the mental health of your employees isn’t just good for their wellbeing, it also has a direct impact on your business.
Giving employees a mental health day off is a one way to help them deal with work-induced stress. These are days that are specifically geared towards stress relief and burnout prevention. While one or two days off will not solve severe underlying issues, they can still offer workers with that much needed break to pause, recharge, and come back with a fresh new perspective.
Here are some best practices for implementing mental health days at work for your employees.
Remove the Stigma by Encouraging Mental Health Days
While the movement to destigmatize mental health at work is growing, many employees still don’t support mental health as a legitimate reason to miss a day of work.
Encourage employees to take a sick day whenever they feel like they need it. However, keep in mind that employees may be more reluctant to take a mental break if they would have to give up a sick day to do so.
Another way to promote mental health is to require employees to use their full allocated vacation time each year. This not only creates more opportunities for self-care, but it also eliminates the pressure some employees experience when they use all of their vacation time. And make sure your managers properly plan for employee vacation time, ensuring coverage and minimizing the mountain of work that an employee will face upon their return.
Regardless of the route you’re planning to take, any changes in your company’s policies must be clearly communicated to your team, so people know what they can expect and that they won’t be penalized for focusing on their mental health.
Put Your Managers Out Front but Give Them the Right Guidance
If your company is supported by a healthy corporate culture and has a management team working closely with their employees, it’s important to give your managers the authority to grant time off for mental health. Managers are in a better position to monitor the well-being of their team and to know when they may need a mental break.
Make sure that your managers know how to communicate about mental health to avoid stigmatizing language. Although they’re in the best position to know when employees may need a mental health day, keep in mind that leaving this decision up to your managers can produce uneven application of your policy. That’s why it’s important to provide your managers with tools they can utilize as well as basic policy guidance, such as:
- Requiring that time off requests be in writing.
- Defining the number of days your company allows employees to take off for mental health.
- Only applying the benefit to employees, not contractors.
- Offering employees access to an EAP program, if available.
Offer Company-Wide Days Off
Company-wide mental health days are usually the safest option, especially if some workers might be hesitant to admit to needing a break. Allocate two or three days a year for employees to take off, with no questions asked. Encourage them to spend their free time focusing on family and friends, or relaxation, but leave the decision, and details, up to them.
Monitor the Progress
Checking in with your employees to make sure they’re benefitting from their mental health day off is key to developing an effective policy. Using employee feedback surveys will not only show if your approach is working but it’s also a great way to get new ideas for improving mental health in the workplace.
Remember that employees may be hesitant to complain about workload and stress to their boss, so consider providing HR support. An HR team focused on the mental well-being and overall performance of your employees can be a great asset. Create a safe space between HR support and the employee so they can openly discuss the need for mental health support or request additional resources. Think about articles, podcasts, or seminars that can help employees with stress management and resilience. While your HR team can take the lead, keep in mind that everyone has a role to play when it comes to creating and maintaining a safe and supporting work-environment.
Need More Help with Mental Health Days and Employee Support Programs?
Setting up a mental health day off benefit is one step in helping your employees take their mental health seriously. Are you looking for other ways to help your team stay mentally strong through tough times? Monster offers free advice from professionals on the latest trends for business management and recruitment.