Benefits Strategy

Mental Health Days Boost Company Culture

Written by Amber

Over the summer, Madalyn, a software developer at Olark sent out an email to her company, letting everyone know that she would be taking a few days off to focus on her mental health. CEO, Ben Congleton responded, “Hey Madalyn, I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health — I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.” Madalyn posted the response on Twitter, and the story became viral. CEO’s response did something that isn’t too popular: prioritize employee mental health. Mental illness is pretty common, yet why is it so rare to hear it addressed at work?

Employees Are Afraid

Many employees are deathly afraid of informing their employers of their mental illness for several reasons. In a 2014 survey by Ispos SA, over 70% of employees diagnosed did not feel comfortable disclosing their illness to their supervisor. Some cite workplace stigmas at work, and others are worried that they won’t be taken seriously. Many have expressed concern that it may affect their promotion opportunities. However, the fact is that one in five Americans are diagnosed with a mental illness a year. It is much more common than many of us think.

Supporting Mental Health is Beneficial to Your Business

Encouraging staff to take mental health days is beneficial to the company. According to the World Health Organization, lack of productivity due to mental illness costs businesses close to $1 trillion dollars a year. Furthermore, untreated mental illness can lead to stress-related physical health issues. When you encourage your employees to take days off, you are showing that you have an interest in their welfare. This not only reduces turnover, but helps employees become more engaged in their role.

Employees are so afraid of revealing their diagnosis, yet untreated mental illness only makes these concerns worse. By encouraging your staff to take mental health days, you are allowing them to take breaks that are only beneficial to the organization. You are creating a supportive corporate culture that will build trust, increase retention and workplace engagement.