Mental Health Days: Why Companies are Adding Them to Their Policies
Mental health days are gaining traction in the modern workplace, reflecting a broader understanding and appreciation of holistic employee wellbeing.
As conversations surrounding mental health become more mainstream, companies are taking note and evolving their policies to support the mental wellness of their staff.
This transition is not merely a fleeting trend but a response to the growing body of evidence underscoring the interlink between mental health and overall productivity.
In this blog, we’ll delve into what mental health days are, their significance in the contemporary work environment, and how they are mutually beneficial for both employees and employers.
Moreover, we’ll explore the adoption of mental health day policies among companies and provide insights on how to implement them effectively.
As a wellbeing speaker, I will also shed light on other strategies companies are employing to foster a mentally healthy workplace culture.
Through a deeper understanding of these topics, employers can better comprehend the value of mental health days and how they contribute to a thriving, resilient, and inclusive workplace.
What are Mental Health Days?
Mental health days are designated days off that employees can utilise to focus on their mental wellbeing, separate from sick days or personal days.
Unlike traditional sick days, which are typically used when an employee is physically ill, mental health days cater to the psychological stress that might arise from the workplace or personal life challenges.
They offer a respite, allowing individuals to step back, rest, and regain their mental composure before diving back into their work week.
In an ever-demanding work culture, the lines between professional and personal lives often blur, leading to heightened stress and, in severe cases, burnout.
Mental health days act as a buffer, providing employees with the opportunity to disengage, reflect, and address their mental health needs.
This might include relaxation, engaging in hobbies, exercise, attending therapy sessions, or simply catching up on sleep.
The concept of mental health days stems from an evolving understanding that mental health is just as crucial as physical health.
They are part of a broader initiative to cultivate a supportive work environment that recognises and values the holistic wellbeing of its workforce.
In recognising the importance of mental health, companies are not only adhering to a modern standard of care but also fostering a workplace culture that promotes self-awareness, self-care, and ultimately, enhanced productivity and job satisfaction.
Through mental health days, employees are better positioned to manage stress, maintain focus, and contribute positively to their teams and the broader organisational objectives.
The Importance of Mental Health Days in The Workplace
The recognition of mental health days in the workplace is a reflection of a more evolved and humane approach to employee wellness.
Here’s why these days are crucial:
Work-related stress is a common ailment in modern workplaces.
Deadlines, high expectations, long hours, and a fast-paced environment can take a toll on employees’ mental health.
Mental health days provide a breather, allowing individuals to step back, relax, and return with a rejuvenated spirit and clearer mind.
Prevention of Burnout
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.
By taking a mental health day, employees can break the cycle of stress that could lead to burnout, ensuring they remain productive and engaged in their work.
Promotion of Work-Life Balance
Mental health days encourage a healthy work-life balance by allowing employees the time they need to attend to personal matters or simply rest.
This balance is essential for maintaining good mental health and overall life satisfaction.
A well-rested mind is more creative, focused, and efficient.
When employees return from a mental health day, they are often better able to tackle challenges and contribute positively to their workplace.
Over time, chronic stress and unresolved mental health issues can lead to increased absenteeism.
By addressing mental health proactively through designated mental health days, companies can reduce unscheduled absences and the associated costs.
Attracting and Retaining Talent
Prospective and current employees value companies that care about their wellbeing.
By offering mental health days, companies can attract top talent and retain valued staff members, creating a competitive advantage in the job market.
Fostering a Positive Workplace Culture
When a company supports mental health, it creates a more positive, open, and supportive workplace culture.
Employees feel valued and understood, fostering a sense of belonging and a positive work environment where individuals are more likely to thrive.
Reduced Healthcare Costs
Over the long term, promoting mental health can contribute to lower healthcare costs by reducing the incidence and severity of mental health issues among staff.
Legal Compliance and Risk Mitigation
In some countries, mental health in the workplace is also a legal compliance issue.
By proactively addressing mental health, companies can mitigate risks associated with legal liabilities.
In the UK, employers have a “duty of care” to support their employees.
This means employers must support the health and safety of their employees which includes their mental health.
Incorporating mental health days is a step towards creating a more compassionate, understanding, and productive work environment.
It’s an investment in human capital that pays dividends in enhanced productivity, reduced employee turnover, and a positive company culture.
Through this lens, the importance of mental health days in the modern workplace becomes undeniably clear.
What Are the Benefits of Mental Health Days?
Mental health days offer a range of benefits that contribute to a healthier, more positive, and productive workplace.
The advantages can be viewed from two perspectives: benefits for employers and benefits for employees.
Benefits for Employers
1. Increased Productivity
When employees take the time they need to manage stress and recharge, they often return to work with increased focus, creativity, and enthusiasm.
This uplift in morale and energy can lead to a notable increase in productivity and overall work quality.
2. Reduced Absenteeism
Offering designated mental health days can reduce the frequency of unscheduled absences.
When employees have the option to take a mental health day, they can address their mental health needs proactively rather than reaching a point of crisis that results in unexpected time off.
3. Talent Attraction and Retention
A supportive mental health policy reflects positively on the company’s brand and culture.
It can be a significant draw for prospective employees and a reason for current employees to stay, thereby aiding in talent attraction and employee retention.
4. Cost Savings
Over the long term, promoting mental health and wellbeing can contribute to lower healthcare costs and reduced turnover, which are significant cost savings for any company.
6. Positive Company Culture
A company that cares for its employees’ mental health fosters a positive culture of trust, openness, and support, which, in turn, boosts morale and employee satisfaction.
Benefits for Employees
1. Improved Mental Health
Mental health days provide a necessary break to manage stress, anxiety, or other mental health issues, promoting better mental health and wellbeing.
2. Better Work-Life Balance
Employees can use mental health days to attend to personal needs or simply rest and rejuvenate, contributing to a healthier work-life balance.
3. Prevention of Burnout
Taking time off to manage stress or anxiety before it escalates can prevent burnout, enabling employees to maintain a consistent level of performance over time.
4. Increased Job Satisfaction
Working for a company that supports mental health can lead to increased job satisfaction and a stronger sense of loyalty.
5. Enhanced Performance
With improved mental health and reduced stress, employees are likely to experience enhanced performance, better problem-solving skills, and higher levels of creativity.
6. Personal Development
Mental health days can provide the time and space for self-reflection, personal development, and engaging in activities that contribute to personal growth and happiness.
The mutual benefits of mental health days underscore why they are an essential component of modern workplace policies.
They represent a win-win scenario, where both employers and employees reap substantial rewards, culminating in a more harmonious and productive work environment.
Why More Companies are Adopting Mental Health Day Policies?
The shift towards adopting mental health day policies in the corporate world is a testament to the growing awareness and understanding of mental health issues and their impact on the workplace.
Here are some of the driving factors behind this change:
1. Increased Awareness
The conversation around mental health has become more mainstream, thanks to advocacy from mental health organisations and individuals sharing their experiences.
The Covid-19 Pandemic was also a great highlighter in the importance of employee health and wellbeing.
Companies are now more aware of the mental health challenges that employees might face and are taking steps to address them.
2. Evidence of Benefits
Numerous studies have underscored the benefits of supporting mental health in the workplace.
From increased productivity to reduced absenteeism, the advantages of mental health days are becoming hard to ignore for forward-thinking employers.
This study published in the National Library of Medicine found that there was clear evidence poor mental health was associated with lost productivity.
3. Talent Attraction and Retention
As the modern workforce values a supportive work environment, companies that prioritise mental health are likely to attract and retain top talent.
Mental health day policies can be a significant selling point for prospective employees looking for a healthy work-life balance.
4. Lower Costs
By investing in mental health, companies can reduce healthcare costs, decrease turnover, and mitigate the costs associated with absenteeism and loss of productivity.
It’s a proactive approach that, in the long run, saves money and resources.
5. Legal Compliance
With evolving legal frameworks around mental health in the workplace, having a mental health day policy can help companies comply with legal requirements and avoid potential liabilities.
6. Positive Company Culture
Mental health day policies contribute to a positive company culture that values the wellbeing of its employees.
It fosters a supportive atmosphere where employees feel comfortable discussing and addressing their mental health needs.
7. Employee Satisfaction and Morale
Employees who feel cared for and supported are likely to have higher job satisfaction and morale.
This positive outlook can ripple through the organisation, creating a more harmonious and productive work environment.
8. Corporate Responsibility
Corporate social responsibility extends to the wellbeing of employees.
By adopting mental health day policies, companies are living up to their responsibilities as employers to provide a safe, healthy, and supportive work environment.
9. Competitive Edge
In a competitive market, having a mental health day policy can set a company apart from its competitors.
It’s an indicator of a progressive, modern, and employee-centric organisation.
10. Adaptation to Modern Work Demands
The nature of work has evolved, often demanding more from employees.
Mental health day policies are an adaptation to these modern work demands, providing a buffer to manage the stresses associated with contemporary work environments.
By understanding and acting upon the importance of mental health in the workplace, companies are not only creating a more supportive work environment, but are also positioning themselves as leaders in a modern, empathetic, and responsible corporate world.
How to Implement Mental Health Days
Implementing mental health days requires a structured approach.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get started:
1. Understand Legal Responsibilities
Familiarise yourself with the legal obligations regarding mental health in your country to ensure compliance.
Consult with legal professionals if needed, to understand the implications and requirements of implementing mental health days.
2. Engage with Employees
Have open discussions with employees to understand their needs and concerns regarding mental health.
Collect feedback on how mental health days could be structured to provide the maximum benefit.
3. Draft a Clear Policy
Create a clear and comprehensive mental health days policy that outlines eligibility, the process to request a mental health day, and any other relevant details.
Ensure the policy is easily accessible and understandable to all employees.
4. Communicate the Policy
Communicate the “mental health days” policy to all employees through various channels such as email, company meetings, and the company intranet.
Ensure managers are well-versed in the policy and can answer any questions employees may have.
5. Train Managers and HR Personnel
Provide training to managers and HR personnel on how to handle mental health day requests, and how to engage with employees around mental health issues sensitively and confidentially.
This could involve providing training for staff to become Mental Health First Aiders.
6. Offer Additional Mental Health Resources
Besides mental health days, consider offering additional resources such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), wellness workshops, and access to counselling services.
7. Ensure Confidentiality
Establish a system to ensure the confidentiality of employees’ mental health information.
Make it clear to employees that their privacy will be respected.
8. Regularly Review and Update the Policy
Regularly review the effectiveness of the mental health days policy and make necessary adjustments based on feedback and changing needs.
Keep the conversation on mental health ongoing, and be open to making improvements to better support employees.
9. Promote a Supportive Environment
Foster a culture of understanding and support around mental health.
Encourage employees to take the time they need to maintain their mental wellbeing without fear of stigma or repercussions.
10. Measure the Impact
Collect data on the usage of mental health days and their impact on employee wellbeing, productivity and workplace culture.
Run surveys and get feedback from employees to hear the impact these days have on them.
Although gathering data is great, it’s not always possible.
It’s not always easy to measure the impact mental health days can have on employee wellbeing.
Therefore, companies have to believe in this strategy and understand that data may not always be able to show the positive impact it’s having.
By following these steps, companies can create a structured approach to implementing mental health days that benefits both the organisation and its employees.
The process requires a blend of clear communication, education, and a genuine commitment to supporting employees’ mental health needs.
Additional Ways Companies Are Supporting Employee Mental Health
In addition to offering mental health days, companies are exploring a variety of other initiatives to support the mental and physical wellbeing of their employees.
Here are some additional ways organisations are fostering a mentally healthy work environment:
1. Wellbeing Workshops
Companies are organising wellbeing workshops that cover a range of topics, from stress management and healthy living to Gratitude and creating new habits.
These workshops can provide employees with the tools and knowledge they need to support their mental health effectively.
At Loving Life, we deliver a range of wellbeing workshops to support the health and wellbeing of employees.
Get in touch for more info.
2. On-site Massage
Offering on-site massage services is another way companies are supporting employee wellness.
A quick massage during a break can help reduce stress, promote relaxation, and rejuvenate employees for the rest of the day.
With just a 15 minute session employees can feel relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to return to wrok.
3. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
EAPs provide support for personal and work-related issues, offering confidential counselling and referral services.
They can be a valuable resource for employees dealing with stress, anxiety, or other mental health concerns.
4. Flexible Work Arrangements
Flexible work hours and remote work options can provide employees with a better work-life balance, reducing stress and promoting mental wellbeing.
5. Mental Health Insurance Coverage
Providing insurance coverage for mental health services makes it easier for employees to seek the help they need without worrying about the financial burden.
6. Mindfulness and Yoga Sessions
Offering mindfulness meditation and yoga sessions can help employees manage stress and maintain a positive mental outlook.
Yoga and mindfulness have both been shown to be fantastic ways to support mental and physical health.
7. Supportive Management Practices
Training managers to recognise signs of mental health issues and to provide support in a sensitive and non-judgmental manner can create a more supportive work environment.
Mental health course can offer great insight in supporting the workforce.
8. Physical Fitness Programs
Encouraging physical fitness through gym memberships, on-site gyms (if possible), or organised group activities can also contribute to better mental health by promoting physical wellbeing.
Companies can also arrange corporate fitness challenges to motivate and encourage employees.
9. Healthy Work Environment
Creating a pleasant and comfortable work environment with good lighting, ergonomic furniture, and a clean, well-ventilated space can contribute to employees’ overall wellbeing.
A well-lit, clean, and comfortable environment can support the mental health of employees.
Nobody wants to work in a dark, and dirty office environment.
10. Regular Check-ins and Surveys
Conducting regular check-ins and surveys helps companies understand employees’ mental health needs and gather feedback on existing wellness initiatives.
This continuous insight allows companies to improve their support for employee mental health steadily.
Embracing mental health support in the workplace is a hallmark of modern, forward-thinking organisations.
The implementation of mental health days, along with other wellness initiatives, significantly contributes to a positive work environment and overall organisational success.
At Loving Life, we are committed to fostering this positive change through our tailored employee wellbeing services, aiding companies in nurturing a supportive and mentally healthy workplace.
As the narrative around mental health advances, adopting such supportive practices is not just a passing phase, but a meaningful stride towards holistic organisational excellence.
Tyler Lowe – Health & Wellbeing Speaker
BSc Sport & Exercise Rehabilitation