Your mental health matters, even when working from home.
The alarm bell rings and you hazily pull yourself out of bed. You wash, hit the kitchen, grab a coffee and sit down at your table to work. But this is unlike any other day. You don't feel well. You feel mentally unwell, in fact.
Whether you're feeling low, anxious or burned out, mental problems are a major obstacle, and they can happen even when you're working from home. So, can you ask for a mental health day if your kitchen table is doubling as a desk? Here's what you need to know and how to broach the topic with your boss.
What is a mental health day?
First, let's deal with the central question: What is a mental health day? Here in the UK, there is no legal difference between a sick day and a mental health day. In 2018, 12.4 per cent of the sick days recorded by the Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey were for mental health reasons, such as anxiety and depression. Put simply, you can take a day off for reasons like these, at your company's discretion.
You may feel cautious about taking a mental health day due to the stigma attached to it. However, with one adult in every six having a common mental disorder, there's nothing to be ashamed of. Taking the time to care for your mental health is paramount. Should you feel unwell due to your mental health, speaking up is the only way to go. Whilst it may feel like a difficult conversation, your employer has a responsibility to hear you out.
Note: Under UK law, you can take sick leave for up to seven days before you have to provide proof of your illness. After that point, you need to provide a doctor's note.
Mental health days whilst working from home
When working from home, you might think that the different circumstances blurs the lines when it comes to your rights. It doesn't. If you are in full-time employment, you have the same rights at home as you would working on site. In simple terms, that means that you can take sick days when you are genuinely ill.
What's more, working from home may actually increase your chances of needing a mental health day. According to a report from the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, 41 per cent of remote workers experience high levels of stress, compared to 25 per cent of on-site workers. When you're working from home and managing your own time, you may struggle with feeling obligated to stay online or drawing lines between work and home life, both of which lead to stress, burnout and general anxious feelings.
If you are affected by mental health problems currently, the NHS has a wealth of handy resources you can use. Of course, if your mental state is affecting your day-to-day life, you should talk to your GP or have a phone consultation about the next steps. At this point, you may certainly need to request a mental health day from work.
How to tell your boss you need a mental health day
When you need a mental health day, the first step is talking to your boss or manager. You should approach this as you would any other sick day and follow your company protocol. Many people find the idea of broaching this conversation difficult though. To get you started, here are some simple tips.
1. Consider what you want to say
Before you pick up the phone or start typing that email, take a moment to consider what you want to say. How much information do you want to disclose, and how do you want to phrase it? It might be helpful to make some notes or bullet points ahead of having the conversation. That way, you can avoid over-explaining the situation or getting emotional when speaking about it.
2. Be clear about the issue
It's OK to need a mental health day. Remember that fact and this conversation will be easier. If you feel comfortable doing so, speak with your manager about the issue and be clear about what the problem is. For example, you share that you're feeling stressed at work, as well as anxious, overworked or are experiencing other mental health problems. Before you have the conversation, make sure you're 100 per cent clear on your reasoning.
3. Keep things brief
If you're nervous, you may fall into the trap of over-explaining. You don't have to tell your manager your entire life story when asking for a mental health day. Instead, keep things brief. Think of it this way: If you had a cold, you wouldn't recount the story of your first childhood sniffles to your boss. Treat this situation the same way. Only give your manager the information that they need right now to understand why you need the day away from work.
So, do you need a mental health day? Whether you're burned out, stressed or working through a larger mental health issue, asking for a day to focus on your mental wellbeing is perfectly OK. Rather than trying to ignore the problem, approach it head-on and speak up; don't be afraid to ask for what you need. Both you and your manager should take mental health concerns seriously.
If a mental health day is not enough to help your stress and anxiety, you may need to search for a new role. Get a free CV critique to get started with your job search.
Everything you need to know about maintaining mental health at work