Mental Health Day Policy: When and How to Give Your Employees a Break

Mental Health Day Policy: When and How to Give Your Employees a Break

It’s no secret that workplace stress is a contributing factor to a variety of issues.  In fact, according to a recent American Psychology Association’s Work and Wellbeing Survey, 59% of workers experience negative impacts on work performance due to work-related stress.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and other disorders often go undiagnosed and untreated due to the stigma that surrounds them. This leaves workers vulnerable to performance issues, excessive absences, and simply not feeling well overall.  Mental health days have become viewed as an attractive benefit. Some organizations even go one step further to support their staff by implementing a Mental Health Day Policy, which can be beneficial to employees and employers alike.

What is a Mental Health Day?

Similar to a sick day with the absence of physical symptoms, a mental health day is a term used for when employees need to take a moment for themselves.  This could be because they need to address diagnosed mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression.  However, it can also mean they simply need a break from stress and burnout — work-related or otherwise.

 Mental health is just as important as physical health. In fact, leaving mental health concerns untreated can lead to a host of avoidable issues within the workplace.  For this reason, many employers are beginning to implement mental health day policies into their organizations in an attempt to help employees maintain their wellbeing.

Signs Your Employees Need a Mental Health Day

Chronic Fatigue

Increased stress and anxiety can be extremely draining on the brain and body, leading to sleep issues or simply being exhausted in general. Feeling tired once in a while is normal for most people, but having zero energy on a regular basis is a big red flag.   If a particular employee appears tired more often than not, it may be because they’re not giving their mental health enough attention.  Offering a mental health day policy can be helpful in cases like these.  Plus, it takes the stigma away from mental health disorders and allows your employees to feel comfortable asking for time off to address how they’re feeling.

Performance Issues

Mental health plays a key role in focus, productivity, and motivation.  Failing to address issues like burnout, general stress, and other mental health concerns can easily result in changes to any or all of these, depending on the individual. The longer an employee’s mental health goes unattended, the more their performance will decrease.

Everyone has “off” days, so if this is only happening occasionally it’s not usually a  cause for alarm.  However, if a previously well-performing employee begins having issues that get worse over time with no signs of improvement, a mental health day may benefit them.  This gives them a chance to take a step back, address the struggles they may be facing, and come back with a clear mind.

Excess Caffeine Intake

To combat feeling tired, fatigued, or unmotivated, many workers choose to increase their caffeine intake.  This may help to cover up the fact that they’re chronically fatigued in the short term, but it’s a band-aid solution to a larger underlying problem.  While the additional caffeine offers a quick burst of energy and alertness, it won’t last long; and it won’t solve the real issue.   If you notice the coffee supplies disappearing faster than usual, it’s possible your employees are feeling the effects of burnout or other mental health concerns.  While it might seem like increasing your company’s monthly coffee order will fix this issue, it won’t. Implementing a mental health day policy is a long term solution, which will yield better results.

Lack of Interest

Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and chronic stress can feel all-encompassing to the person experiencing them. This can make normal daily activities feel less interesting than they used to.  It can also have an effect on anything from social engagements to home life, and of course, work-related tasks.  While it’s not realistic to expect employees to be excited to come to work every day, an employee with a lack of interest in daily activities can be a surefire sign something more is going on beneath the surface.  A mental health day could be just the thing to help them reset, refresh, or reevaluate what they need to feel more like themselves again.

Visible Frustration

Just as lack of interest can be a sign that a mental health day is in order, the same can be said for an obviously frustrated employee. Feeling overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, or other mental health issues can affect the problem-solving areas of the brain, making it more difficult to complete daily tasks.  Everyone gets flustered on occasion but observing this regularly — or in otherwise well-composed employees — calls for further investigation on your part.  Frustration generally begets further frustration. So, offering a mental health day could be the perfect opportunity for them to break the cycle and figure out what’s really bothering them.

How to Create a Mental Health Day Policy

1 – Make it All-Inclusive

Your mental health day policy should include all workers, if possible.  Making the policy applicable to certain workers and not others is problematic for several reasons, including the potential for discrimination accusations.

2 – Create a Detailed Plan

To offer a mental health day policy, a detailed plan is essential to avoid confusion; both on the employees’ part and the employer’s.  Your plan should cover how you’ll handle essential elements of your policy, such as whether mental health days are paid or unpaid, how many are allowed, and how they can be requested.

3 – Implement a “No Work” Rule

Discouraging — or even outright banning — work-related activities and communications on mental health days is a way to show your support for employees’ recovery. It also makes mental health days more about what they were initially intended for: a break from work.  Taking time away can be harder for some employees than others, so making this rule is helpful in ensuring they actually get the rest they need.

4 – Offer Ongoing Support

Aside from mental health days, offering ongoing support for employees’ mental health can be a true asset to your organization.  Mental health days are helpful for the occasional break from the daily routine, but regular mental health check-ins — and treatment, if necessary — can do more to address real issues employees may be facing.  Feeling supported (including in regards to their mental wellbeing) is a real motivator for workers, which results in a happier, more productive workplace overall.

Moving Forward

An organization is only as successful as its workers.  This makes supporting your employees even more important.  Mental health day policies can be a helpful addition to your company as they encourage employees to care for their own wellbeing, while feeling supported by you to do so.

This information is provided with the understanding that Payroll Partners is not rendering legal, human resources, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from a lawyer, HR consultant or other professional.