If you’ve been hit with the winter flu, pulling a sickie to recover instead of overexerting yourself at work makes sense. But when it comes to taking time off to look after your mental health, many hesitate. Why? Because of the stigma – and because many people believe physical health is more important.
Marni Amsellem a Psychologist at Smart Health Psychology believes that it’s just as important to look after your mind, “Regardless of the reason, when you’re recognising that your resources are running low, your fuse is shorter than usual, your focus is diminished, and attention feels borderline non-existent, it’s time to take a step back from the situation.”
Every year, 300,000 jobs are lost because of mental health, which costs the UK economy £99 billion each year, according to the Stevenson-Farmer ‘Thriving at Work’ review.
Even though there is no legal difference between taking a day off for the flu and a day for your mental wellbeing, the taboo is still looming over employees around the country.
It’s important to know when to ask for a mental health day off work and what the difference is between feeling low and suffering from a mental health disorder, Amsellem explained, “If you’re feeling like your resources are running low, it may mean taking a day off from work as a mental health day, though it doesn’t have to mean that a mental health day (per se) is necessary, of course. It is not always realistic,”
Amsellem added, “Provided there are not significant consequences from taking the day off (e.g. skipping out the day you’re supposed to give the big presentation), taking a mental health day can actually be a very good thing for you, and indirectly, for your job.”
Asking for a day off work due to mental health reasons can be an uncomfortable task as a study from Start Pulsing showed that only 9% of UK employees feel comfortable talking to their colleagues about their mental health.
Meagan Healey, a Client Relationship Director at OnePulse occasionally suffers from panic attacks which results in her taking time away from work, “On those days, very few questions are asked and it’s left up to me when I feel comfortable coming back into the office.”
Healey added, “I do sometimes feel guilty but, I recently took two days off for mental health reasons and my boss said that if anyone had a problem with it, the company would have a problem with them.”
Taking time away from your desk to focus on your mind will ultimately recharge your batteries, Amsellem said, “If you are returning to work with reclaimed focus, attention and restored resources, you’re that much better able to achieve success.”