How to Tell Your Boss that You Need Time Off for Mental Health

Look after yourself

We all know that we’re totally entitled to take the day off work when feeling ill, but what if your symptoms aren’t physical? You deserve days off to look after your mental health as much as you do to look after your physical health. After all, your mind is the one doing all of the work, right?

Mental illness is a hard topic to discuss, especially when there are still so many people who don’t understand it or appreciate the effects poor mental health can have on some people’s lives. If you are suffering, there’s no reason for you to have to do so in the discomfort of your office. Here are a few tips to bring up your mental-health issues with your boss:

1 Know that your reasons are legitimate 

It might be tempting to simply say you’ve got the flu, but there’s no need to lie when you tell your boss what is wrong. It is just as valid to ask for a mental-health day as it is to ask for a regular sick day, so don’t feel ashamed or weak for taking some time off.

2 Plan in advance 

It’s a good idea to have a chat with your boss about mental health and days off before you actually need one. Request a meeting on a day when you’re in a good space and share the information you feel is necessary with them. Ask what the company policy is regarding mental-health days. It’s possible there is no policy in place, but if your boss cares about their employees (which they should do), this could be a chance for them to put a policy in place which will help you in the future.

3 Consider your boss’s reaction 

Because of how little people know about mental illness, some people just aren’t going to understand or sympathise with you. You can probably assess whether your boss is the kind of person who will be empathetic or will scoff at the idea of taking a mental-health day (ugh). If your boss is the former, then be honest with them about your condition and exactly what is happening with your mental state at the moment. However, if you know their reaction won’t be supportive, it could be less stressful and awkward for you to simply state you will be taking time off for ‘personal reasons’.

Either way, you are entitled to 30 days of sick leave every three-year cycle (if you’re permanently employed, full-time), and mental-health issues can fall into this category. That said, like any other sickness, your company can require a medical note if you’re absent for several days at a time.

4 Explain how this is going to benefit both you and the company 

Your boss might need you to explain the bigger picture to them, which is that your performance will be better if you are able to look after your mental state. If your boss is a sensitive and approachable person, appeal to that side of them. If they aren’t so empathetic, stress the point that you will be a better worker for it.

5 Wording is key 

Approach your boss with as much confidence as possible – if they sense you are uncertain about what you are asking, they might be less inclined to take you seriously. Use the tone of voice you would when making a statement so that they know you will definitely be taking the time off, but phrase it as a question so that they don’t feel undermined.

5 Use your time wisely 

Utilise your day off in the best way so that it contributes to your mental health. This means catching up on sleep, spending time with a friend and/or doing some exercise, not bingeing on junk food and cutting yourself off from the world.

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