In recent years, there has been growing awareness of mental health in the workplace (and for good reason). Employees experience stress and burnout from work, their personal lives, or both. In addition to the daily stressors of our personal and professional lives, 15% of working-age adults were reported to struggle with mental health issues in 2019.
Under such conditions, it can prove difficult to juggle the competing priorities our lives require. We’re not always equipped with the resources or mental space to bring our happiest, most productive selves to work. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports an estimated 12 billion working days are lost annually to employees struggling with anxiety and depression. This is where mental health days at work have become a growing trend, working to reduce employee burnout and better support valued employees.
Mental health days at work are time-off or leave periods granted to employees as a chance for workers to rest and come back to work healthy, refreshed, and focused. In addition to supporting employees, mental health days can have an impact on the overall productivity, profitability, and innovation within your organization. Let’s review the importance, benefits, and strategies for implementing mental health days in any organization.
Understanding Employee Mental Health
When we discuss mental health in the workplace, we advocate for the right of each worker to feel safe and healthy in their environment. It encompasses a positive and inclusive culture, a platform that promotes structured routines, and heightened livelihood, purpose, confidence, and achievement.
But how can mental well-being reflect on your workplace?
It’s crucial to the maintenance of work-life balance, which, in turn, prevents burnout, debilitating stress, and over-exhaustion. That means more employee engagement, long-term productivity, motivation, and resilience in the face of a stressful situation.
When employees request mental health days at work, the challenge that they’re dealing with may be one of the following:
- Recurrent Physical Illness
- Difficulty in Concentration
- Poor Sleep
- Increasing Exhaustion
- Increased Stress
Whatever the challenge, it’s important to remember HR teams are not medical professionals. If your employees express difficulty with mental or physical health, point them in the direction of a healthcare professional to ensure they receive the care they need.
Offering mental health days at work gives employees the space and break they need to recharge and tackle any health concerns head-on before they become unmanageable.
The Benefits of Mental Health Days at Work
Some people may view mental health days at work as inconvenient or harmful to workflow and productivity. While having employees out of the office may seem detrimental to productivity in the short-term, prioritizing mental health has great benefits in the long-term health of your organization and workforce.
According to a 2022 survey, 92% of employees endure mental health challenges that affect their work. Allowing employees adequate rest and a chance to relax helps promote a more energized, focused, concentrated, and productive workforce.
In the long run, their good mental health will reduce absenteeism and presenteeism. The former refers to the frequent absence from work (beyond what’s acceptable). The latter refers to the physical presence of employees coupled with their inability to function properly.
Increased Morale and Engagement
Over 35% of US-based employees name engagement as a main reason for companies to establish an effective mental health strategy.
Mental health days at work illustrate an employer’s investment in their employee’s wellbeing, promoting the feeling of being valued and boosting morale to further employee engagement. While offering time off allows employees the time they need to rest and recharge so they might return to work more refreshed and focused on their work. These factors boost job satisfaction and motivation levels as well as promote a sense of loyalty and belonging within your company.
Enhanced Creativity and Innovation
When you allow employees to prioritize their mental health, you increase the likelihood of renewed energy and high spirits, 2 components of an innovative employee.
With reduced stress levels, workers can focus their energy on creativity and free up mental space to become deeply engaged with their work, boosting innovation. Mental health can be a window for self-expression, team members that are immersed in a positive work environment work well together, resulting in new ideas and innovative problem-solving.
Lower Employee Turnover
Deloitte states that 64% of managers have considered leaving their jobs for one where their well-being is a top priority. Mental health days at work can be a useful tool to aid in increasing job satisfaction and reducing turnover rates.
Employee turnover is a costly factor for organizations, with costs averaging at about 20% of a former employee’s salary to replace them. Whatsmore, turnover is a disruptive element for existing employees and injures the overall organizational culture.
Improving employee retention through prioritizing mental health builds stronger teams, and deepens the knowledge that exists within your organization which directly contributes to the bottom line.
Healthier Work Culture
Establishing mental health days at work fosters a healthy company culture. Employees who are able to prioritize their mental health are likely to resolve disagreements peacefully with their colleagues using a supportive and empathetic approach. The solidity of this workforce also lies in the reduced stigma around mental health discussions.
A recent survey found, 2 out of every 5 respondents admitted that mental health discussions aren’t common in the workplace. They added that they prefer not to be the first to bring up the topic of mental health, with over a third of respondents stating this is because of the existing stigma and potential discrimination around mental health.
Supporting mental health days at work directly contributes to reducing the stigmatization of mental health struggles, particularly in professional settings. Talking openly and without judgment about mental health, employee burnout and employee wellbeing fosters an environment in which employees feel comfortable speaking up, knowing that their managers will support them.
Implementation and Best Practices
It’s clear that addressing mental health has its benefits for the workforce, but how exactly should organizations go about implementing these practices into their culture? Here are 3 effective practices to implement in your workplace to reap the benefits of a healthy work environment.
Introducing and Promoting Mental Health Days at Work
We might be stating the obvious, but it all starts with raising awareness and establishing mental health days at work.
Define what mental health days look like in your company. Are they paid, separate from sick leave and vacations, mandatory? Check your local laws, and make sure your business is compliant with any existing regulations. If your company already offers unlimited paid time off (PTO), raise awareness about the possibility of using them for mental health days. Frame and explain the policy you have for mental health days at work, including payment, duration, and eligibility criteria and ensure that this information is readily available to all employees. A great place to start is my including this information in your employee handbook.
Encouraging Open Communication and Reducing Stigma
Encourage open communication around mental health within your organization. This is best championed by leaders such as HR teams, CEOs, and managers vocalizing their own mental health struggles whether that’s being open when an individual needs to tap into their mental health days at work or simply sharing that they’re feeling overwhelmed by a project or world event. By beginning the initiative with leadership, organizations can create the psychological safety necessary to champion mental health conversations and encourage employees to be open and forth-coming about their mental health.
Promote open communication and listening in the workplace so that your workers can receive the support they need. Additionally, your mental health policy should enforce appropriate workplace behavior and equality.
Providing Resources and Support
How can your work environment offer mental health resources and support? Get workers trained in mental health awareness and literacy, which helps alleviate the stigma often surrounding the topic.
Don’t forget to train managers to notice and help individuals struggling mentally, learn to listen empathetically to employees, and understand how work can affect their well-being.
Last but not least, your mental health policy should incorporate counseling benefits. It should outline mental health guidelines and access to helpful literature and resources for employees to get the care they need.
Champion Employee Well-being Within Your Organization
Mental health days mean better employee engagement, productivity, innovation, retention, and collaboration. Overall, an effective mental health policy is crucial for a good work-life balance.
It’s never too late (or too early) to introduce mental health policies to your organization. Start drafting your workplace’s mental health policy and actively promote mental health days at work today and begin to see higher employee satisfaction levels, increased productivity, and more cost savings!
Omni’s all-in-one HR software makes it easy to inform employees about important culture initiatives with automated onboarding and centralized documents, implement policies with our customized controls and unique employee profiles, and administer benefits through payroll, performance management, or time and attendance management for your teams.
From automated onboarding to employee-self service, Omni makes it easy for organizations to provide their teams with the tools and benefits they need to thrive. Book a demo with our team to learn more about how Omni can help you engage and champion your workforce today.