Mental Health Days Should Be Mandatory For All Companies

by Jerriann Sullivan
Mental Health days
Image via Shutterstock.

Mental health days are good for companies, employees

Despite showering, dressing, and getting to work sometimes you just can’t summon the enthusiasm necessary for the daily grind. All you can think about is running home and curling up in bed. We’ve all been there. Stress, anxiety, and even bouts of depression are a natural part of life, and it’s time we’ve treated them as such by providing mental health days for everyone.

Who doesn’t need a break sometimes? Through time off from work, we’re giving ourselves time and permission to focus on our mental health. Stepping away from the relentless rat race (looking at you, 24/7 email) allows us the chance to rest, recharge, and shift our perspective. Mental health days also prevent us from burning out or worse flipping out and smashing a fax machine “Office Space” style. “If you don’t attend to your stress, anxiety, or depression, it can affect your work performance and composure in the workplace—which could result in a layoff—and even cause physical ailments, which can obviously damage your career and life,” leadership and workplace communication expert Brandon Smith told Shape about mental health days. The less glamorous parts of life aren’t anyone’s fault but by denying people the chance to handle these phases we’re hurting ourselves.

Joel L. Daniels wrote a powerful essay for The Huffington Post in support of mental health days, and we couldn’t agree with his sentiments more. “Everyone should be allotted, not just sick days, but days we are given to cope, and rest; days offered because your emotional health does not feel up to par with how you, as an individual, normally function,” he wrote. We’ve all been there, we’re exhausted and need a break but as Daniels says, “there is work to be done. There are to-do lists waiting to be completed, clients to appease, copy to write. There is no time for feelings. Feelings are not figured into payroll strategies. Feelings do not pay bills, do not feed babies.” He perfectly described the stressful situation we put people in by demanding they juggle work and mental health without supportive programs like mental health days.

“You should be able to take this day, or days, without having to describe what emotional state you reside in,” he shared. “Every employee should be given the opportunity to take the day to say ‘no,’ and with that ‘no’ be allowed to avoid the ridicule of colleagues and management for not ‘sticking it out.’ It should not only be an option, but a mandate.” Daniels is 100% correct. By making mental health days mandatory, you create a positive way to handle stress in your workplace, which in turn makes employees happier. I know what you’re thinking, “sure, I’d love a day off just to rest. But why would my company support it?” It’s simple – mental health issues cost companies a lot of money. The annual cost of mental illness is more than $300 billion for U.S. businesses, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Mental health days can help people cope and care for their mental health before doctors, prescriptions, and additional health care costs add up.

It’s time we helped ourselves and our coworkers and pushed for mental health days. We have sick time for the flu and bereavement time for deaths in the family. It just makes sense to add mental health days to the calendar. Because as Daniels explained, “We, as a society and a people, need to create room for those who need the room; to allow space to and for those where space is so often not given. That is how a village flourishes, how a community thrives.”