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How to Ask Your Boss for a Mental Health Day

The events of the past year and the COVID-19 pandemic have changed how we shop, socialize, learn, and work. And while some of us are working from home and some of us are still commuting into the office, there is no denying that feelings of stress and anxiety are at an all-time high.

According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during the summer of last year in comparison to that same timeframe in 2019. Nearly 41% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition. Additionally, recent data from Prodoscore, a company that analyzes user data across platforms, showed that productivity increased 47% in 2020, despite the coronavirus lockdown . Finally, a survey conducted by the HR Exchange network showed that employee self-reports of burnout increased from 42% pre-pandemic to 72% in August of 2020. Thirty percent of respondents said that blurring work and personal life was a major challenge. These statistics paint a harrowing picture: people are working more and feeling increasingly stressed.

Feeling some level of stress related to work is normal, but if it begins to affect your everyday mood, your personal relationships, or your mental health, it may be time to take a closer look. If you’re feeling burned out, it could be time to ask your boss for a mental health day.

It’s important to remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so asking for a mental health day doesn’t have to be any different than asking for a regular sick day. Dr. Jesse Viner MD, CEO and Chief Medical Officer of Yellowbrick explains, “Taking a mental health day is totally your right, but the way you approach requesting it may depend on your particular workplace culture.” Familiarize yourself with your company’s leave policies before you request off – every company is different, and you want to make sure you’ve got the best chance to get your request approved. We’ve gathered some tips to help guide you through some viable options:

  1. Acknowledge that you deserve the day. This will make it easier to communicate your needs to your supervisor and make your intentions clear. There is power in naming your stressors, and you’ll have a concrete idea of what you need to address during your time off.
  2. Consider your workplace leave policies. Laura Handrick from Choosing Therapy explains, “If your employer has 50 or more employees or you’re under federal contract, you are protected by federal labor and anti-discrimination laws that prevent your employer from penalizing you for taking time off for a mental health.” Depending on your workplace, asking for a mental health day can be as simple as requesting a sick day. Familiarize yourself with your rights prior to requesting a mental health day.
  3. Share only what you’re comfortable with. If your workplace isn’t as receptive to employees taking time off for mental health, don’t feel the need to over-explain yourself. Simply saying you have to deal with a personal matter should do the trick. However, if you’re comfortable telling your supervisor or HR department why you’re taking the day off, you can! It helps to plan what you would like to say to your supervisor beforehand, so you are clear about what you’re asking. After your request is approved, you can start to think about what you want to accomplish or take care of on your day off.
  4. Remember that your day is for you. Once your request is approved, you can focus on what you need to decompress and take care of yourself. If you need to sit on the couch all day, do it! Getting outside is also a great option if the weather allows but remember that the day is specifically for you to recoup from the stressors of work.

If work is causing you more stress than usual or you’re finding it difficult to focus, it might be time to consider taking a mental health day. This past year has been anything but usual, so give yourself some grace. You deserve to take a breath and re-center yourself. Taking some time off to care for your mental health is a great way to #BeTheDifference, and you’ll return to work feeling refreshed and ready.

For more tips on how to manage burnout and other work-related stressors, check out our other blogs:

  1. A Practical Guide to Self-care When Working from Home
  2. Four Tips to Help Manage Burnout
  3. Why Workplace Wellness Is Important
  4. Four Ways Employers Can Improve Mental Health in the Workplace

 

Resources:

Bloom, N., Liang, J., Roberts, J., & Ying, J. Z. (2015, February). Does working from home work? Evidence from a Chinese experiment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 130(1) 165–218. https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qju032

Businesswire. (2020, May 19). Prodoscore research from March/April 2020: productivity has increased, led by remote workers. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200519005295/en/

Czeisler M. É., Lane, R. I., & Petrosky, E., et al. (2020). Mental health, substance use, and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic — United States, June 24-30, 2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 69, 1049–1057. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6932a1

Handrick, L. (2021, February 26). How to ask your boss for a mental health day off work. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/ask-for-mental-health-day-off/

Mental Health First Aid USA (MHFA). (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA for Adults Assisting Adults. Washington, DC: National Council for Behavioral Health.

Neal, B. (2018, May 3). Here’s how to talk to your boss about taking a mental health day. Bustle. https://www.bustle.com/p/how-to-request-a-mental-health-day-off-work-because-mental-health-is-just-as-important-as-physical-health-8970427

Rice, D. (2021, February 8). The factors driving burnout in 2021. HR Exchange Network. https://www.hrexchangenetwork.com/employee-engagement/articles/the-factors-driving-burnout-in-2021

Scott, E. (2020, March 24). When you should take a mental health day. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/when-and-how-to-take-a-mental-health-day-3144754

U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. (2016, December 12). Depression, PTSD and other mental health conditions in the workplace: Your legal rights. Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/depression-ptsd-other-mental-health-conditions-workplace-your-legal-rights