It’s estimated that one in three people view their job as having a negative impact on their mental health and general well-being.
Workers who have experienced this negative impact on their mental health are five times more likely to take on reduced responsibility at work, leaving a lasting impact on workplace productivity. While one or two sick days will not solve severe underlying issues, they can still offer workers a much-needed break to pause, recharge, and come back with a fresh perspective.
Here are five reasons why your company should offer employees mental health days.
Mental Health Incapacity = Less Productivity
Depression and anxiety disorders are the leading cause of long-term work incapacity. All told, the disorders are estimated to cost $44 billion a year in lost productivity in the U.S. alone. It might seem counterintuitive, but putting more resources towards mental health care in the workplace, especially mental health days, can actually help curb employee burnout due to chronic, unmanaged workplace stress.
Mental health days can help empower employees to report a mental health problem and spark helpful conversations with their managers. Managers should be trained on how to intervene, to minimize the damage to the organization and help employees return as quickly as possible to full health.
Sometimes a Day Off is Needed to Prevent Burnout
During the pandemic alone, burnout rates for Gen Xers rose from 40% pre-pandemic to 54% today. Long-term pervasive stress, coupled with maladaptive coping strategies, place a person at greater risk of developing a mental health condition such as anxiety and depression. These conditions often materialize on a physical level, meaning that whatever is causing them stress or discomfort, mentally, can actually become a physical issue.
While one or two days off will not cure severe mental health issues, they can still offer workers a much-needed break to pause, recharge, and consult a mental health professional.
Retain Higher Caliber Talent
We are, no doubt, in the middle of a work revolution, with corporate culture having an important impact on employee decision making. According to Ceridian’s 2022 Pulse of Talent survey, 61% of employees are a flight risk and 23% of employees are actively looking for better opportunities, often searching for companies with less toxic workplace cultures and increased wellness support.
By allowing employees to take mental health days, employers send a clear message that they understand an employee’s worth. Supporting an employee’s mental health with paid time off fosters a corporate culture that can compete in an environment where we are much more aware and empathetic of the importance of mental health.
Employer-Sponsored Mental Health Programs Actually Work
Research has shown that employer-sponsored behavioral health programs do actually help move the needle in a positive direction. The study, published in JAMA Network Open, found that a comprehensive, employer-sponsored online mental health benefit results in 25% fewer missed work days and a 24% increase in productivity. For example, nearly 70% of employees evaluated reported a reliable improvement in their mental health, and it only took an average of 5.9 weeks for patients to enter remission of their symptoms.
Disappointingly, 72 percent of workplaces have no mental health policy – the major reason for this being that mental health policies are often a hasty reaction to internal incidents or negative experiences within the organization, rather than existing as a proactive and preventative measure. In order to dispel the perception that anxiety, depression, stress, and other related conditions are private or shameful matters which employees should discreetly handle on their own time, organizations must make mental health in the workplace a shared concern, and have open resources and policies to act as preventative measures.
Our Communities Are the Most Affected
BIPOC communities suffer the most when mental health is not properly addressed in the workplace. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress, such as sadness and feeling like everything is an effort. At the same time, Black and Hispanic Americans used mental health services half as often as white Americans.
BIPOC communities experience particular, compounded, additional tensions, having to manage distress from events like Amaud Arbury while still carrying the burden of performing at work (also called race-based traumatic stress).
Because the needs for BIPOC employees can be quite different, care and intention from business executives is necessary to ensure these employees feel comfortable and supported exercising the benefits that should be allotted to them. Businesses that don’t support mental wellbeing initiatives, or have a negative track record for supporting previous employees, will find it even harder to attract, engage, retain, and develop diverse employees.
About the authors
As the cofounders of Options MD, Morgan Hewett and Kyle Pierce are on a mission to prevent thousands of deaths from suicide by addressing the $200 billion whitespace of severe and treatment resistant mental illnesses.
Having watched firsthand as family and friends struggled, Options MD is a telemedicine platform that delivers personalized care to the 32 million mental health patients who will be deemed “treatment resistant” by physicians, meaning that they will not respond to first-line medications. With the help of their medical research team, they have developed a treatment-matching software that allows patients and clinicians unparalleled access to innovative treatments, created access to specialist clinicians to create research-backed treatment plans focused on higher quality care, and built continued engagement through their private patient community.
Before launching Options MD, Morgan worked at Facebook, where she helped launch the company’s healthcare marketing division. In that role, she led disease awareness campaigns in partnership with the world’s largest healthcare and pharmaceutical firms.
Prior to Options MD, Kyle was a healthcare attorney leading caseloads for the largest payers and hospital systems in California. As an operator, he focused heavily on data privacy and financial safety.
As cofounders that are Black, queer, and Latinx they have broken barriers to be part of the only 2.4% of founders like them who have received VC funding in 2021. As a Techstars company, they have cultivated a waitlist of 6,000 patients who want access to their service.