Here in Australia, while we are lucky enough to have paid sick leave, our workplace culture is usually at odds with the law—who amongst us hasn’t had to get a doctor’s certificate to prove they’re under the weather, or worse just ‘do a few things from home’ while we’re wrapped up in bed surrounded by tissues? So when it comes to taking a day off for your mental health, no doubt you’re wary of even broaching the topic, let alone asking for leave for a health issue that can’t be seen, heard or treated by a quick trip to the chemist.
But with mental health more important than ever, it’s time to use that personal leave to put yourself, and your mental wellbeing first, whether you’ve got a workplace that prioritises the mental health of their employees or not. We asked Lysn psychologist Noosha Anzab how to go about telling your boss you need to take a mental health day—and we challenge you to do it the next time you feel like you need it.
Remember That It’s Ok To Be Selfish
Whether there’s one or many reasons you need some time to look after your mental health, one thing is for sure—your mental wellbeing really is important, and not something to be pushed aside for a hectic workload. Anzab says, “You need to be a little selfish and do what’s right by you. Whether that's taking a mental health day to tend to important and impacting matters, to attend mental health related appointments or to restore via rest and time out—it’s important to do just that if that's what you need.”
When it comes to letting your boss know, you don't have to give too much detail. Just saying "I'd like to take a mental health day to address some things—I'm feeling really flat and tired” should be enough. You don't have to overshare or go into detail about why you’re feeling flat, and you don't have to cross any personal or professional boundaries either.
Have A Conversation
Even though you don’t need to provide any details or justify your request, a text message or a passing comment in the staff room isn’t the way to go about your request. Set up some time to specifically have a conversation about your need for a day off if you can, or make a phone call or send an email if you can’t. Anzab also suggests that whilst you don't have to give them too much information, you should let them know that having a day off for your mental health’s sake is going to be beneficial to your performance and productivity—music to any bosses’ ears. Simply letting your boss know you aren't feeling well and need the day off so that you can feel better in order to smash out the rest of the week should be enough.
Whether or not you think your boss is going to be understanding of your mental health needs or not, one thing is for sure—they’ll appreciate knowing you’ve planned ahead. In the middle of a project? Tell them where you’re up to and what you’ll address as soon as you come back. Need someone to cover your shift? Let them know so they can make sure they're not short-staffed while you’re getting the break you need. As Anzab says, there’s no right or wrong way to let your manager know you’re taking a day or two off to support your mental health, but ensuring there’ll be no missed deadlines or last-minute calling in a replacement will mean they’re less likely to push back—and probably be better for their mental health as well.
Noosha Anzab is a clinical psychotherapist & psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.
Image credit: Clarisse Meyer