HYDERABAD: Google asked its employees to take September 4 as a paid holiday for ‘collective wellbeing’ ahead of the Labour Day weekend in the US and everyone wanted their bosses to take a leaf out of Google’s book. The holiday was to support Googlers’ wellbeing in light of Covid-19 and urged: “Please take the time to do whatever you need for yourselves.” Companies, both big and small in the West have been encouraging their employees to take extra-paid leaves for ‘mental wellness break’ when needed.
“It is a welcoming change in terms of employee engagement as mental health plays a major role in a person’s life, and thus affects their performance,” says Sailaja Vissamsetti, psychologist and founder, Sahaja Foundation. “With remote work, employees’ physical and mental health is important. An issue to be addressed is online fatigue. Also, it is natural for employees to feel stressed out and emotionally drained during such times,” commented Subramanyam S, founder, president and CEO, AscentHR.
While a paid holiday for ‘mental health day’ is still a dream for many in our country, companies have been introducing programmes that engage their employees to deal with stress and fatigue. These range from fitness and relaxation programmes, childcare allowances and office allowances. Salesforce India (with 2,500+ employees) for instance, provides flexible working arrangements such as compressed working week and reduced working hours, to help employees prioritise their physical and mental wellbeing. Deepa Narayan, senior director, employee success, Salesforce India, says: “Today, 100 per cent of our workforce are working from remote locations, and in this ‘always on’ world the lines between work and life are blurring. We have always looked at employee wellbeing in a holistic way, and have been measuring, analysing, and investing in programmes that build a healthy culture around the wellbeing of our employees.”
Taking a mental health day off
Working when one is depressed can actually be counterproductive to work, say experts. “If a person feels like they are drifting in the direction of a break down, not doing well emotionally, their mental peace is disturbed and their mind is wandering and they cannot concentrate, it is okay to take a break,” says Natasha Kothari, founder, Studio UnGap and millennial entrepreneur.
“Over 3,00,000 distress calls were received during the past three months on the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) helpline, showing that Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on people’s mental health,” tells Geethika Agastya, life coach, United We Care. She adds, “With such a vast range of and an increase in the number of stressors, it is even more important to take a mental health day off and spend it on yourself.”
Should I ask my boss for a mental health day off?
This year, especially, taking a holiday for tending to mental health shouldn’t be a taboo. However, if the bosses do not understand, asking for one can become anxious-ridden. “Sometimes few people might take these breaks in a negative way, that mental health day-offs are unnecessary, raising flags of concern towards continuity of work. In my opinion, it is a reasonable and good thing to ask for,” suggests Natasha.
However, if asking for it is stressful, then it is okay to just call-in sick, weigh in the experts. After all, you would call in sick if you had a flu, migraine or food poisoning even if WFH, so why should you not for mental wellbeing? Let’s be honest, while we might love our jobs, we do need a break from time to time.
- Create a routine and follow it regularly
- Connect with family and friends
- Physical activity
- Catch up on your social causes
- List things you love to do and get around to doing them
- Indulge yourself
- Go through your photo albums
- Give in to worrying or negative thoughts
- Look at work-related tasks, email
- Read news excessively
- Hesitate to call for help if you think you need it
— Geethika Agastya
Combating work stress
- If you are a part of a team, then choose to delegate responsibilities
- Be open to communication
- Take a break, especially while WFH
- Remember to prioritise yourself and your mental health needs before work
Things to do when taking a mental health day off
- Have some ME time
- WE time — spend time with your parents, friends, spouse or kids
- Watch a movie or read a book
- Social work or volunteering
- Complete long pending tasks
— Sailaja Vissamsetti
— Tamanna S Mehdi, email@example.com, @tamannamehdi