Should your Business Encourage Employees to take Mental Health Days?

by Alan Hickley, Associate Director of Peninsula Ireland.

Mental health is in the news, and on the public conscience, more than ever before.

And with more businesses now looking to support their employees on this matter, understanding work-related stress, anxiety issues, and depression is a key part to ensuring positives steps can be made.

One popular approach to alleviating mental illness issues at work is for employees to take mental health days. Should your business allow this? We explain the advantages.

What’s a mental health day?

It’s where one of your employees takes sick leave so they can manage their mental wellbeing.

As is now more widely appreciated, whilst some members of staff will look physically fine, they may have issues burning away within.

As the charity Mind puts it: “Our mental health is just like our physical health: everybody has it and we need to take care of it.”

Employees who take one will typically be looking to alleviate issues such as:

  •  Stress.
  •  Anxiety.
  •  Depression
  •  Burnout
  •  Insomnia
  • Serious conditions such as bipolar disorder.

It’s important to remember mental health days aren’t just a chance for employees to bunk off and ignore their duties.

If they’re, for example, struggling with depression it allows them to see their doctor.

Or just to focus on a day off away from stressful situations, allowing them to return to work rejuvenated.

But by allowing them to focus on their overall wellbeing, there are many ways in which you can also receive positive returns.

The benefits of mental health days for your business

You’re under no legal obligation to provide these for your staff, but the long-term benefits are already proven.

The concept has particularly taken off in America and in England it’s also on the rise. And with good reason, here are some of the benefits you can expect:

  • Business strategy benefits: By allowing them, you’re offering a major perk to your workforce—it shows you value their work-life balance. You allow them the chance to recharge in an otherwise stressful and relentless business world.
  • Prioritising employees: By understanding the needs of your staff you can help them thrive at work.
  • Improve workplace culture: With an open and progressive policy such as this, you can improve the morale of your employees. Knowing they can take time off is welcoming enough, which in the long-term can alleviate stress.
  • Removing the stigma: Some business owners still debate whether mental health is a real issue, or a fad. By taking a firm stance, you can make it clear what your stance is. Again, this is a long-term benefit that will support your employees towards personal wellbeing (and better productivity).
  • Improve profits: A culture of care will only ever boost office morale, ensuring everyone is giving their all. As a productivity boost, that’s going to ultimately ensure your business is functioning as efficiently as possible.

Other ways to support your staff

The issue is still considered “taboo”, as the BBC confirmed in 2017. But that shouldn’t stop you from looking to support your employees.

This can include with small, but effective, tactics you can employ around your working environment. Some of these techniques can include:

  • Stress busting tactics: Around your workplace you can include rooms for relaxations sessions, chill-out zones, games rooms, a café with lots of healthy food. Whatever helps them to unwind.
  • Encourage active lifestyles: Suggest your employees leave the building during their break. Offer an hour for lunch so they can stretch their legs and properly socialise with their colleagues (or solve any personal errands to save time later).
  • Offer flexibility: Flexitime starts, working from home, unlimited holidays etc. There are many approaches you can take to alleviate the issues of stress to help your staff balance out their life issues better.
  • Employee Assistance Programme: You can introduce an EAP to provide professional support to your employees at any given team. These are becoming increasingly popular and help free up a lot of spare time as everything is essentially managed in-house.
  • Office pets: It’s becoming common for cats and particularly dogs to grace working environments. The latter can really boost the state of mind of many people in an office environment, although ensure no other employees have an issue with the animal’s presence.

Ultimately, it’s down to your business whether you use mental health days. But remember it’s a progressive and caring approach, rather than simply ignoring the issue or pretending it doesn’t exist. Taking the opposite approach can reap many rewards.