Workers too scared to take mental health leave

Mental health leave is becoming increasingly common yet more than half of workers are too scared to take it.

Two thirds of jobseekers surveyed by SEEK feel society has become more accepting of workers taking a mental health day to deal with conditions such as depression, burn out or anxiety.

Still, 55 per cent have avoided taking leave despite needing it, worried there may be repercussions.

Psychologist Sabina Read said this figure was concerning.

“Workers may feel taking a mental health day will result in judgment or being labelled as incompetent, weak or less than,” she said.

“We have a long way to go until mental health and physical health are viewed through a similar lens.”

Lifeline Australia chief executive Bob Gilkes said a worker might also worry that taking a mental health day would only lead to work further piling up, or might underestimate how widespread workplace stress is and feel they were the only one not coping.

Workers are too scared to take mental health leave, a survey has found.

Just 41 per cent of surveyed jobseekers had taken a mental health day despite 72 per cent believing their workplace had a negative effect on their mental health.

Common causes for this were extra effort going unrecognised (40 per cent agree), lack of job security (38 per cent), harassment or bullying (37 per cent), having a negative relationship with managers or colleagues (37 per cent), and the expectation to work longer hours (37 per cent).

Jobseekers felt more comfortable talking about their mental health with an external counsellor (63 per cent) or colleague (61 per cent), rather than their boss (49 per cent) or human resources department (45 per cent).

Ms Read attributed this to the unavoidable power imbalance at play between a boss and their subordinates.

“When leaders and senior staff are open about their own mental health challenges, they can help foster a culture of non-judgemental trust and invite all employees to follow suit,” she said.

“Mental health issues don’t discriminate based on where a person sits on an (organisational) chart or how much they earn.

“In a healthy workplace culture, all humans feel able to talk to one-another about mental health concerns without the fear of stigma.”

The research found employers could improve their staff’s mental health by introducing flexible work arrangements (sought by 53 per cent of jobseekers), a dedicated team to support mental health (44 per cent) or free exercise programs (40 per cent).

Mr Gilkes said there were many benefits for employers who took the lead in helping employees manage their wellbeing.

“We know that just under 7 per cent of workers in any organisation will develop clinically-significant depressive symptoms in any one year, and a total of 3.2 days per worker are lost each year through workplace stress,” he said.

“Employers who put measures in place to prioritise the wellbeing of their workforce by encouraging staff to exercise, eat well, (and) ensure their work is manageable and their hours healthy … will achieve greater productivity and become employers of choice.”

Originally Published by The Daily Telegraph, continue reading here.

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