Wanting to take a day off is normal. We all have to deal with stress at work, and taking a step back to recharge is actually a great idea. But… Are employers required to give mental health days?

In some countries, giving a mental health day for employees is a legal request, but beyond that, they are a way for HR professionals and managers to promote work-life balance and prevent burnout within the company. Let’s discover benefits and strategies.

Mental Health Day Explained

Let’s start from the beginning. What’s the difference between holidays and a mental health day for employees? Well, a holiday is a legally required designated period of time when an employee is granted time off from their job duties. On the other hand, mental health days are a form of leave specifically designated for employees to prioritize their mental well-being. 

Unlike traditional sick leave or vacation days, mental health days for work focus solely on addressing emotional and psychological needs rather than physical ailments or leisure activities. And here’s the tricky part.

What would an employee do on a mental health day? Is it really different from a day of vacation? The truth is there’s no exact or correct answer. Everybody has the right to enjoy their time-off the way they consider it the best. 

For mental health reasons, one employee could benefit from a short trip to the beach, while another one could prefer staying home and resting. Either way, your concern as HR professional or manager is being able to provide this mental health day policy to your team.

Pros and Cons of Offering Mental Health Days

Companies offering mental health days have to face a challenge: compensating the time an employee is away. However, the benefits of having a mental health day policy are also significant. Take a look at the pros and cons of this initiative:

Improved Employee Morale: Employees feel valued and supported, leading to higher job satisfaction and engagement. Scheduling Challenges: Coordinating coverage during employee absences may pose logistical challenges, especially in small teams or high-demand periods.
Enhanced Productivity: Taking time off to prioritize mental well-being can lead to increased focus, creativity, and resilience upon return to work. Abuse of Leave Policies: Without clear guidelines and monitoring, there's a risk of employees abusing mental health days for reasons unrelated to their well-being.
Burnout Prevention and Stress Management: Mental health days can prevent burnout and stress-related illnesses, promoting long-term employee health and well-being, which could translate to fewer sick leave requests and absenteeism. Perceived Stigma: Employees may hesitate to take mental health days due to fear of being perceived as weak or incapable, perpetuating stigma surrounding mental health. That’s why Meditopia’s webinars and workshops could benefit your company.
Retention and Recruitment: This type of employee support can attract top talent and improve employee retention by demonstrating a commitment to their well-being. Legal and Compliance Issues: Ensuring compliance with labor laws and regulations regarding leave policies, including mental health days, requires careful consideration and implementation.
Healthy Work-Life Balance: Mental health days contribute to a healthy work-life balance, allowing employees to recharge and maintain overall mental and physical health. Potential for Disruption to Workflow and Timelines: Frequent absences, especially in key roles or during critical project phases, may disrupt team dynamics, delay deliverables, and impact overall productivity and performance.

If you notice carefully, the cons of having mental health days for work are actually quite manageable. You just need to develop clear policies and guidelines, consider the distribution of work to avoid overwhelming other employees, and work on a culture of open communication to avoid abuses of this benefit.

And if you aren’t fully convinced yet, consider the following stats from the World Health Organization:

  • Depression and anxiety cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year predominantly from reduced productivity.
  • 15% of working-age adults live with a mental disorder.
  • 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety.

Companies Offering Mental Health Days to Employees

Many companies of all sizes are promoting mental health in the workplace. Their time-off policy is, to our consideration, top notch, and we wanted to show some examples to inspire your organization to follow their steps.

  • Netflix: They offer one of the most complete and interesting mental health day policy. Not only do they allow their team to go on a holiday when they need it, this policy also includes mental health leave reasons, access to coaching services, and mindfulness resources for work.
  • Duolingo: The famous language app also pays attention to their employees’ well-being through a comprehensive policy, including: access to wellness programs, therapy sessions, unlimited sick time, flexible work schedules, and 20 days of PTO.
  • Nike: This brand is not only famous for their products and partnerships, but also for their work benefits. Some of them are: inclusive hiring processes, access to EAPs, free therapy and coaching sessions, workplace flexibility and generous time-off (they even let their US employees take a week off for mental health reasons!)
  • LinkedIn: In an effort to improve the well-being of their employees, LinkedIn not only offers the chance to take individual time off, but they also give a paid week off to their team to support their mental health and reduce burnout.

5 Reasons to Offer Mental Health Days

Now, to end this article, we want you to check 5 essential benefits of implementing mental health days for work.

  • Prioritize Employee Well-being: Offering mental health days demonstrates a commitment to prioritizing employee well-being, fostering a supportive work culture that values mental health as much as physical health. Evidence shows that organizations that prioritize employee well-being experience higher levels of employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention.
  • Prevent Burnout and Stress: Regularly scheduled mental health days provide employees with an opportunity to recharge, burnout prevention, and stress-related illnesses. Research indicates that burnout is a prevalent issue in today's workforce, leading to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher turnover rates.
  • Enhance Productivity and Performance: By promoting mental well-being, employers can enhance employee productivity, creativity, and performance. Studies have found that employees who take regular breaks to prioritize their mental health are more focused, motivated, and resilient in the face of challenges, leading to higher levels of job satisfaction and organizational success.
  • Reduce Absenteeism and Presenteeism: Offering mental health days can help reduce absenteeism and presenteeism by providing employees with a proactive means of addressing their mental health needs. Research shows that presenteeism, where employees come to work despite being unwell, can have detrimental effects on productivity and overall workplace morale.
  • Attract and Retain Talent: Organizations that offer mental health days are more attractive to top talent and have higher rates of employee retention. Studies have found that employees are more likely to stay with employers who prioritize their well-being and offer benefits such as mental health days, contributing to a positive employer brand and competitive advantage in the marketplace.
  • Legal and Ethical Obligations: Are employers required to give mental health days? Not everywhere, but they have a legal and ethical obligation to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees, which includes addressing mental health concerns. Failure to accommodate mental health needs and provide resources such as mental health days may lead to legal repercussions and damage to the organization's reputation.

Key Takeaways

  • Prioritizing employee well-being through mental health days fosters a supportive work culture and boosts satisfaction and retention.
  • Mental health days prevent burnout, stress-related illnesses, and decrease productivity, absenteeism, and turnover rates.
  • Promoting mental well-being enhances productivity, creativity, and resilience, leading to higher job satisfaction and organizational success.
  • Organizations that provide mental health days attract top talent, retain employees, and cultivate a positive employer brand and competitive advantage.
  • While not required everywhere, employers have a legal and ethical obligation to address mental health concerns, including providing mental health support and accommodations.

Offering Mental Health Days To Your Employees: FAQs

How do mental health days differ from traditional sick days or vacation days?

Mental health days focus on emotional and psychological well-being, unlike sick days or vacations, which primarily address physical health or leisure activities. Please note that a “stress leave” could be both considered as a traditional sick day and a mental health day.

How frequently should employees be allowed to take mental health days?

The frequency of mental health days depends on individual needs and organizational policies, typically granted on an as-needed basis. Our advice is to evaluate this frequency on all levels, and adapt it accordingly to both, the company and the employee benefit.

Are there any legal requirements employers should be aware of in terms of Mental health days?

Legal requirements for mental health days vary by jurisdiction, with some countries mandating provision and others leaving it to employer discretion.

Can employers require employees to provide documentation for taking a mental health day?

Employers may request documentation for mental health days if outlined in company policy, but excessive requirements can discourage employees from seeking support. Also, it is advised to develop trust and open communication to talk about these topics at work, so we would advise you to, at least, consider not requesting much documentation at the beginning (unless the requested time-off is particularly long).

What alternatives can employers support employee well-being besides mental health days?

Employers can offer wellness programs, flexible work arrangements, counseling services, and promote a culture of work-life balance to support employee well-being. Meditopia can support your employees with Meditopia For Work services, including coaching, mindfulness, yoga, and SOUL, our AI mental health assistant.