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Mental Health Days For Employees: Benefits For Your Team And Business

by Karen Pereira on Aug 25, 2022 1:45:57 PM

With over half of workers experiencing burnout, and symptoms ranging from exhaustion and depression to a lack of focus and reduced work performance, you’re probably looking for ways to add programs or benefits that can reduce your employees’ stress levels. Mental health days for employees are an increasingly common option. But are they right for your company?

Here we’ll discuss what mental health days are, their benefits, how they differ from other employee leave, pay issues, and more. After reading this, you’ll understand everything you need to know about mental health days at work to decide if you should implement them at your business.

What is a mental health day?

A mental health day is a paid or unpaid day off of work for employees to take care of themselves and address a variety of concerns related to their well-being, including anxiety, depression, exhaustion or work burnout, or a panic attack.

Whether these issues arise from work demands like excessive pressure, hostile workplace conditions, or work-life imbalance or are outside of an employer’s control, mental health days can be an important way to recognize and address the pressures that can contribute to them.

What are the benefits of mental health days for employees?

Mental health days allow employees the opportunity to focus on their mental well-being by giving them:

  • A chance to go to yoga, on a hike, or engage in other exercise
  • Adequate time to rest
  • The opportunity to work with a mental health professional
  • Time to spend with friends or family
  • The ability to enjoy a hobby

By offering this dedicated time off, employees may be able to reset and stave off burnout or debilitating stress.

Your business may also reap rewards from mental health days. Since stress can cause a drop in productivity, conflict between employees, and mental detachment from projects, offering mental health days can be the much-needed break workers need to recharge and return to work refreshed. This can translate into improved performance, increased motivation, and greater satisfaction.

Do I pay employees for mental health days?

There are several ways to provide mental health days for employees at your company, some of which are paid while others are unpaid.

  1. Paid Time Off (PTO): You can provide paid time off for any reason, whether employees want to use their allotted time for vacation, sick days, or personal days.
  2. Paid mental health leave: Your business may decide to offer paid leave for mental health as an employee benefit. These days would be separate from sick days, PTO, and vacation time.
  3. Short-term disability: Your company may offer short-term disability as a voluntary benefit that offers paid mental health leave for workers who purchase the plans. Coverage can be as short as 30 days to as long as a year.
  4. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave: Employees can take unpaid job-protected leave under the FMLA to address serious mental health conditions. Conditions are considered serious if they require in-patient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider.
  5. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations: For those workers with mental health conditions who need accommodations under the ADA to perform their jobs, sick leave for reasons related to mental health is a frequently used one.
  6. Paid Family and Medical Leave: Some states have paid leave laws in effect that may provide time off for mental health issues. For example, in Massachusetts, most employees are eligible for paid leave that they can use to take care of a serious health condition, which can be physical or mental.

What should be in a mental health day policy?

If you decide to offer mental health days, you’ll want to clearly spell out the benefit in your employee handbook. The policy should address:

  • Who is eligible: It’s best to offer company-wide mental health days for employees. That way, you won’t have uneven application of your policy. But you may want to limit it to just full-time employees.
  • How many days are allowed: If you decide to offer designated mental health days, you’ll want to think about how many you’ll offer to employees such as 2 days a year and if they need to be used continuously or can be taken intermittently. It’s worth pointing out that the average American says they need a week’s worth of mental health days.
  • How to request leave: While there should be a ‘no questions asked’ policy when it comes to asking for a mental health day, you may want to require that the request needs to be in writing. Keep in mind that employees may not always be able to give adequate advance notice so be careful when specifying rules around timing.
  • Pay rules: You’ll want to spell out whether the days are paid or unpaid.
  • Behavior on days off: Don’t forget to specify that employees shouldn’t check email or voicemail during their mental health days since the whole point is for employees to take a break.
  • Additional support available: Be sure to include other options employees can take advantage of at your company such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or other resources you may offer.

Once you create your policy, be sure to communicate to workers about mental health days. And encourage them to take them. One way to do this is to lead by example. By having managers take mental health days, their employees may be more likely to follow suit.

How to Offer Mental Health Days at Your Company

Providing mental health days for employees can be an important way to show that you’re taking their health and well-being seriously. To ensure workers are benefitting from them, it’s a good idea to check on how they’re working. Consider surveying employees after the first year to ask whether they took the days and if they helped, or if there are other ideas for improving their mental health in the workplace.

For more ways to support your team, read our next article that provides 6 tips for helping with mental health in the workplace.

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