The Huffington Post Australia
June 6, 2016
With the cost of absenteeism to the Australian economy estimated to be around $32.5 billion, it’s safe to say Aussies are well and truly familiar with the concept of chucking a sickie.
While the practice may seem harmless enough, it can also be safely assumed not rocking up to work because you can’t be bothered or because you’re sporting a ripping hangover is hardly an example of professionalism.
However, is there a difference between ‘chucking a sickie’ and taking a mental health day?
According to Mental Health Australia CEO Frank Quinlan, the answer is yes, and indulging in the latter can be a great way to reset and recharge.
“I would have thought in this day and age, people have a much greater appreciation of looking after themselves,” Quinlan told The Huffington Post Australia.
“People who are able to look after themselves — so, for instance, those with flexible working arrangements, where possible, or who are able to effectively balance work life and family life — tend to be more productive and healthy and happy employees.”
Quinlan argues if employers are happy for an employee to take a day off if they are feeling under the weather physically, the same standard should apply for mental health.
“Employers don’t require everybody to have a doctor’s certificate for every single day off they have,” he said. “Some things are obviously more serious than others.
“And so the same should apply to mental health. If someone needs a day to assist them in managing stress, dealing with personal issues and so forth, then I think occasionally taking a day for themselves [should not only be allowed] but that most reasonable employers would understand that’s part of maintaining a healthy happy life.”
Of course, that’s not to say people should start having days off left, right and centre.
“You wouldn’t want that to be exploited,” Quinlan continued. “It’s easy to see how people might easily exploit that opportunity.
“But I think in most workplaces that are really trying help promote healthy and trustworthy relations with their employees, to have an employee put their hand up to take some time off for themselves in order to manage some issues, they should be trusted to do that.
Sometimes that day off will be enough just to reset and get people up on track.
In saying this, Quinlan also points out an individual feeling the need to take multiple mental health days may have an underlying issue that needs addressing.
“If people are finding that they are constantly in need of that time off, maybe it’s time for them to take additional steps,” Quinlan said. “This may include talking to their employer about the amount of workload or the stresses they are experiencing.
“Additionally, talking to a GP or mental health professional about the management of mental health issues may prove beneficial.
“To put it quite simply, we can’t take all our days off. We have to learn to cope and have to learn to manage our issues. A mental heath day might be just what the doctor ordered, but it might also be a sign that someone might want to think a bit more about managing their mental health.”
We are used to the idea that sometimes our body needs a rest to avoid getting really sick, and we take a day off in the early stages of a cold so we don’t progress to something more severe. The same is true of mental health.
As for what is to actually gain from a day at home, Quinlan said depending on the situation, it could be as simple as resting and rebooting away from the busy and often stressful workplace environment.
“I think there can be all manner of benefits depending on people’s circumstances,” Quinlan said. “It’s an opportunity to step outside of a potentially stressful or crisis-ridden environment in order to reassess priorities and goals.
“It can also be about the business of resting. We are used to the idea that sometimes our body needs a rest to avoid getting really sick, and we take a day off in the early stages of a cold so we don’t progress to something more severe.
“The same is true of mental health. It’s about reading your own warning signs and potentially recognising it’s time to step back.”
This page reproduces an article on The Huffington Post Australia website.