Leadership Lessons: The Right Way to Respond to a Mental Health Day Request

Leadership Lessons: The Right Way to Respond to a Mental Health Day RequestHave you ever taken a sick day because you were stressed, burnt-out, had some difficult personal issue arise, or just needed a mental respite? Likely you have, but you probably told your manager that you were feeling ill or a bit under the weather, instead of mentioning what it was really about.

According to a report by the American Psychological Association, roughly one-third of employees report feeling chronically stressed by their jobs. Yet despite this fact, there’s still a palpable stigma around taking mental health days. The problem is two-fold – employees don’t feel safe enough to say they need a mental health day and often HR doesn’t have policies in place to support people when they do ask for this time to recuperate. You can find stories on the web of passive-aggressive snipes from management or HR telling employees to just say they’re sick to compensate for outdated policies and avoid backlash from management.

However, change may be in the air. And as is often the case, it starts with the courage of an individual and the support of an empathetic leader. A developer at the tech company Olark named Madalyn Parker wrote the following message to her fellow team mates and subsequently received a positive reply from her company’s CEO, Ben Congleton:

This supportive response was met with almost overwhelming positivity on the web, with over sixteen-thousand retweets and more that forty-five thousand likes at the time of writing. Moreover, it sparked a flurry of personal stories and dialogue – some from people with positive experiences, others with negative ones.

Though stigmatized, this is a major issue in today’s workforce as a full one-fifth of workers surveyed found their place of employment hostile or threatening. So, twenty percent of the workforce is stressed out on a daily basis at work. Even at organizations where the stress isn’t constant, there can be difficult periods that really wear on a person’s psyche. Not to mention more tangible effects, such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and a weakened immune system. Stress makes workers sick.

While there may have been an old-school mentality of leadership which promoted “toughing it out”, most progressive leaders have realized that this is not a sustainable option. Sure, you might have a few people able to eke it out during the rough times, but you might be losing a lot of great talent when employees look for better work environments elsewhere. Prioritizing employees’ wellbeing is a strategy that has paid off for numerous companies that reside on both the Fortune 500 and Best Places to Work lists.

Leadership at these firms understand that creativity and strategic thinking don’t thrive under the shroud of constant pressure. A number of our clients seek out team building programs as a way to help alleviate the inevitable stresses of a dynamic business. This is progressive thinking – an understanding that it’s not just about fun, it’s about giving people’s brain’s a break, and keeping employees healthy, happy, and engaged.

Doug Ramsay

Doug handles the marketing and web presence for Adventure Associates. If he's not geeking-out with the latest, greatest web marketing tools, then you'll find him swirling and sipping his way through wine country.

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