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Amid Pandemic Stress, Some Companies Are Providing Mandatory Mental Health Holidays

  • Workers have been under increasing stress during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a disruption of normal routines, anxiety over the economy, and other factors
  • Some companies are responding to worker fatigue by providing holidays for employees to recharge
  • Mandatory time off helps eliminate employee concerns that they will be stigmatized or penalized for taking mental health days

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, an emerging trend in workplaces saw employees using sick time for “mental health days.” Rather than staying home to recover from an illness, a worker taking a mental health day would use the time to avoid burnout and take a breather from the stress of their job.

Some companies even offered optional mental health days to their workers, but employees were often reluctant to take advantage of them. Surveys showed that workers worried that they might be penalized for using this time, or that there was a certain stigma attached to the benefit.

During the pandemic, however, worker stress and burnout have become more pronounced. The disruption of normal routines, social isolation, child care pressures, anxiety over the virus and potential unemployment, and other factors have all created an environment that is more taxing to mental health. Many workers, especially women, have contemplated reducing their hours or quitting altogether.

In an effort to alleviate some of this stress, many employers have introduced mandatory time off for workers to de-stress. Rather than offering extra time off, they introduce regular occasions where the company shuts down for the day. Making the holiday a company-wide occasion helps remove the stigma of taking a day off for mental health, while also giving workers a chance to avoid work stress for the day, focus on their family, or do something they enjoy.

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