Why You Should Offer Mental Health Leave

Mental health, like physical health, impacts an individual’s ability to perform at work. It impacts morale, energy levels and productivity. This is why it is important for employees to take some time off to tend to their mental health when they need it.

Unlike with physical health, the request for mental health leave can be put in as a preventative measure. One needn’t wait until they are feeling very sick to take the leave. In this article we discuss more reasons why companies should offer mental health leave.

It lowers stress

Stress is a common part of work but it shouldn’t be ignored, nor should it be left to become chronic. Employees may feel stressed out when dealing with an unusually large work load or a challenging task. Taking mental health leave gives them a chance to rest, recharge and come back to work feeling better.

Lowered stress also benefits the company. It improves engagement levels, contributes to better interpersonal relationships and can even positively impact performance and productivity.

It helps to combat burnout

Unlike stress, burnout is a much longer term feeling. People who are burnt out may feel disengaged, numb towards their work, they may say that they are just going through the motions.

Burn out results from continued exertion without taking the time to rest and replenish yourself. Once it has set in, it will take a longer time to resolve. Taking mental health leave is a smart way to ensure burnout doesn’t show up.

It increases staff retention

Employees might continuously leave a workplace because there are no avenues for them to handle stress and their mental health. Mental health leave can help to increase staff retention at your organisation.

According to research, poor mental health did not just reduce productivity, it led to some employees leaving. 60% of the respondents said their productivity was affected by mental health with several stating they were likely to leave a job because of their mental health.

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Make an assessment of yours and other organisations in your field. You might be surprised to learn that employees who take mental health days regularly stay at their jobs for longer.

Stress and overwhelm are not uncommon, employees just need to know that management has mechanisms in place to mitigate them and help employees cope.

It will help to attract top talent

In the competition for top talent, what sets you apart might just be your company’s attitude to mental health. A benefits package that includes mental health support is appealing. It will show prospective employees that yours is an organisation that prioritises mental health.

Go a step further and break down what your mental health support includes. Mentioning that you have a counsellor on site or that you offer counselling for not just the employee but also family members can put you ahead of competitors.

It’s good for brand reputation

In addition to attracting top talent, having mental health support will improve a brand’s reputation. Brand reputation is hard to buy but customers, clients and other stakeholders will be happy to associate with a business that takes the mental health of their employees seriously.

Treating employees well will signal that you are a caring company and likely win your business from people who think care and compassion towards people is important.

It can result in physically healthier employees

Mental health affects many areas of our lives. An issue arising from home can have an impact on work. In a similar way, mental health impacts physical health.

Chronic colds, back ache and chest pain can all be side effects of a mental health issue. If someone is depressed for instance, it will make them more vulnerable to physical conditions.

Offering mental health leave will give employees a chance to rest, take care of themselves and in the process prevent some physical conditions. This will reduce the company’s expenditure on medical care and will also reduce cases of absenteeism.

It can boost employee morale

The world health organisation acknowledges the importance of mental health. They also recognise that there is a gap when it comes to people receiving care. For many people, mental health care is expensive.

Being one of the organisations that provides access to mental health care alleviates the worry about cost of treatment that employees might have. Knowing that an organisation has their back in this way will improve morale.

In addition to knowing the organisation will support them to get care, taking mental health leave will allow employees to rest and return to work with a boost in morale.

We all need to de-stigmatise mental health

Unfortunately there is still stigma around mental health. This prevents people from seeking help when they need it, for speaking up when they are facing a challenge and for some, it creates a barrier in recognising that they might have a challenge.

Availing mental health leave is an important step in addressing this issue. As already discussed, mental health has an impact on productivity. If employees have the means to address it, companies can see an increase in productivity.

Employees should know that it is normal to struggle and that just like with a physical ailment, they can seek medical assistance for mental health.

In Summary

Medical leave is a right for all employees. And as the mind is part of the body, mental health leave should be available to all employees as well.

Offering mental health leave ensures that businesses do more than just meet their legal obligations, it ensures employee wellbeing. This will result in employees who are healthy and engaged enough to bring their best to work.

To encourage employees to take mental health leave, companies need to invest in mental health education. This will remove any stigma employees may feel around asking for mental health leave. Having clear policies and channels to request for leave is also essential.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.