Give me a break! Why you need a mental health day

There's no shame in admitting you need a break

Give me a break! Why you need a mental health day

Taking a break is easier said than done – especially when your workload keeps piling up. But now, as we emerge from the pandemic, it’s more important than ever. Whether it’s scheduling a five-minute break away from your desk or taking the rest of the week off – making time to prioritise your own mental wellbeing is essential. You may think it’s a waste of time, or that you simply don’t need it, but it isn’t – and, trust us, you do.

Reduce stress and burnout

The pandemic acted as a catalyst for change. We went from working nine-five office hours, to suddenly having this flexible, remote model. And while the idea of working from our own homes sounded like a treat – the novelty soon wore off. Remote work has led to an increase in stress, burnout, isolation, and depression – as well as a whole host of other serious mental health concerns for employees. We’ve slipped into bad habits of excessive overtime, of poor dietary choices, and unhealthy sleep patterns.

Read more: How to safeguard mental health in a prolonged crisis

If you’re feeling overwhelmed it’s important you begin by figuring out the root cause. Are these feelings a one off? Are they the result of too many emails or video calls? Or are they prevalent continuously? If it’s just a case momentary anxiety – try stepping outside for a few minutes. Take a walk around the block, go grab a coffee. Relax and reset your mind. However, if these feelings have been building over time, it’s probably best you book in a personal day. Remember – there’s absolutely no shame in letting people know that you’re not 100% okay.

Taking time off, away from emails and calls, has been scientifically proven to significantly reduce stress and burnout. And it’s not just beneficial to you – your employer will also reap the benefits of mental health breaks. Recent research from World Health Organization (WHO), found that issues such as anxiety and work-related depression cost companies over one trillion dollars in lost productivity each year. So if you’re worried about telling your manager you need a vacation – don’t be.

Boost engagement

Have you ever begun your day with a sense of ennui laced with dread? The ongoing pandemic meant that employers were constantly overcommunicating to their teams – sending emails every hour, scheduling incessant catch-ups and unending town halls. And while it’s always best to keep employees in the loop – too much communication is leading to information overload.

People are tired – they’re overwhelmed with too much new data and exhausted with updates. If this sounds all too familiar, it’s time you took some time off. Lunch breaks (remember them?) have been found to drastically boost overall employee engagement. Now this was all well and good when we were in an office – but how many of us can honestly say we book an hour away from our home desk to eat a sandwich?

Read more: Can employers force staff to take the COVID-19 vaccine?

Recent research from Tork found that 20% of employees worry that bosses will think badly of them if they take a regular lunch break – with 13% scared that their colleagues will judge them too.  However, a report from The University of Illinois found that taking scheduled lunch breaks boosts productivity – with employees returning to their desks feeling more relaxed and more focused.

Reset and renew

The truth is that everyone needs some downtime. No one can run on empty for ever. A recent report from LexisNexis found that employees spend more than half their working days receiving emails and logging into meetings – rather than actually using the information they’re being given to do their jobs. This unending influx of facts and figures is killing our morale and our productivity.  

Want to know the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to reinvigorate your employees? Simply encourage them to take some paid time off by setting a good example. If your teams sees you working 15 hours a day, constantly online, then they’ll think that’s what’s expected of them. As employers, you really need to insist that your teams take much-needed breaks as and when they need them.

After all, how many times have we heard the old adage that ‘people are our most important resource’? If that’s true – start looking after them properly and taking mental health breaks seriously.

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