The case for offering mental-health days

Mental health is a growing concern both in and out of the workplace, and employees with these issues often need days to deal with them.

Paula Allen, vice-president of research and analytics at Morneau Shepell Ltd., suggests employers provide employees with workplace flexibility because “we’re not robots.” Specifically, she supports and encourages mental-health days, though she believes the real promise and change can come from a more flexible workplace.

“Any kind of flexibility that you can build in is helpful. In certain types of jobs, it can be can be very flexible, like your start time. And other aspects of flexibility could be working from home or in the office or occasionally in different locations.”

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Employers can also allow employees to work a little bit longer on certain days so they can have other days to take off when required. “And then the other aspect of flexibility is to have these extra days you can use in order to just take the pressure off your life,” said Allen. “So I do think mental-health days are part of this whole scheme of a flexible workplace and it’s probably wise for organizations to think about it.”

The benefit to employers is the employee engagement and commitment that results from recognizing and allowing employees to be human, says Lawrence Blake, a certified psychological health and safety advisor for the Canadian Mental Health Association in Ontario. “Certainly, we advocate that employers think about utilizing [mental-health days] or providing them as a form of benefit to staff.”

These days are important for overall well-being, he adds, noting that offering a working structure that has a bit of flexibility built in is helpful because people will do what they need to do regardless. “But if you have a flexible system, at least you have some accountability around that.”

Read: Editorial: Employers, flex your flexible working muscles