Q: What are your thoughts on “mental health days”? What should employers do about people who want to take these?
A: Mental health days are a great way to keep sharp and utilize benefit time for reasons other than illness.
As a very healthy child, I never was sick, and my mother would let me take mental health days from school (planned in advance) to recharge and get caught up on whatever life was throwing my way.
Similarly, in the workplace, a personal day to recharge, refocus, and get caught up on personal matters, planned ahead of time, can bring tremendous benefits to the work place.
Surveying some friends and relatives, I notices a trend among many companies and people working at them; less people are using sick days out of fear of losing their job, where more companies are cutting back on sick time and giving people “comp days” or “paid time off” in greater increments or in different forms.
Generally, a mental health day can be a very good thing, if both parties use it responsibly. Planning a mental health day ahead of time rather than just calling in because you are too stressed out to work is the responsible way of taking a mental health day. Likewise, for the company, it can be a great way to prevent burnout and reward people with time off (paid or unpaid) that can hopefully starve off any possible illness that is related to burnout.