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The case for mental health days

Supplier: Mitrefinch Australia By: Katrina Hall
09 February, 2016

‘Relax, you’ll be more productive’. This is the title of Tony Schwartz’ opinion piece published in The New York Times, in which he somewhat controversially puts forward concepts such as slacking off and just relaxing a bit more as productivity tools.

And as stigmas decline, and awareness grows about mental health related issues, workplace stress, and mental illness, the case for employers allowing, and employees taking, ‘mental health days’ has never been stronger.

So what is a mental health day? It has been described as an extra day you might need to take off work to recharge your batteries, feel fresh, and get back up to the top of your game in terms of productivity.

Here are a few reasons why employers might need to reconsider their 'no way' position on staff taking mental health days…

  • Many medical experts now believe that we should be taking up to three mental health days per year to maintain productivity.
  • AIHW data indicates that in 2013-2014, Australians spent approximately AUD 8 billion on mental health services. Workplace stress is a significant factor to consider in mental health.
  • Many employees are hesitant to take mental health days or even 'duvet days' as they fear it will be perceived negatively. The alternative is turning up to work while unproductive.
  • Mental health costs Australian businesses an estimated AUD 11 billion per year because of increased absenteeism (AUD 4.7 billion) and reduced productivity (AUD 6.1 billion). Presenteeism is a major contributing factor to reduced productivity.
  • Mental health issues result in around 12 million days of reduced productivity p.a for business in Australia, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • OECD data suggests that employees with a mental disorder take sick days more often than other employees (32 per cent, compared to just under 20 per cent). They tend to stay away from work longer too, (six days versus 4.8).

With an estimated one in five Australians suffering from mental health issues at some time in their lives, is the solution to enhanced productivity and reduced absenteeism a more tolerant approach to mental health days? The answer, like many things, largely depends on unique situations, but this new research definitely provides some food for constructive and insightful thought.

Mitrefinch offers absence management technology, that can track absence rates and help employers get to the bottom of any productivity of sick leave problems.