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Mental Health Gets Its Due as Companies Provide Employees With Paid Mental Health Days

Companies Show Support for Mental Health By Providing Employees With Paid Time Off
Photo: Shutterstock

As burnout and COVID-related stress continue to rise, some companies are recognizing the importance of mental wellness and giving employees paid time off to address their mental and emotional needs. Nike recently closed its offices for a full week to allow employees an opportunity to rest and reset.

In a LinkedIn post, Matt Marrazzo, a senior manager of global marketing science at Nike, said, “Our senior leaders are all sending a clear message: Take the time to unwind, destress, and spend time with your loved ones. Do not work.”

Companies Providing Mental Health Days

This sentiment is a growing one among leadership at many companies who are realizing that burnout, caused by chronic work stress, has been exasperated by the pandemic and the blurring of boundaries between work and home life.

As a result, Nike isn’t the only one providing paid time off. This past April, LinkedIn gave its full-time employees a week off of paid leave to address burnout. In June, Bumble, the company behind the women-led dating app, also gave its employees a week off to help combat burnout. It has since announced that the company-wide perk will expand to two weeks a year and become a permanent benefit. Other companies are providing employees with additional flexibility to help them deal with mental health issues. Fidelity, for example, gave employees five additional paid “relief days” for unexpected events. Marriott International also added three additional paid “Take Care Days Off” on the Fridays before several summer holiday weekends.

The Role of Burnout in Today’s Workplace

According to a Monster.com survey of 649 U.S. workers in June, 95 percent of workers were thinking of quitting their jobs, with burnout being the most commonly cited reason. In a Workplace Burnout Survey of 1,000 U.S. full-time professionals from Deloitte, the company found that 91 percent of respondents reported having an unmanageable amount of stress or frustration impacted their quality of work. The survey also revealed that nearly 70 percent of professionals feel their employers are not doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout within their organization. According to the report, the primary driver of burnout is a lack of support or recognition from leadership, which highlights the essential role leaders play in setting the tone.

Millennials appear to be especially impacted by burnout. The survey found that it is affecting retention rates of millennial employees. In fact, 84 percent of millennials say they have experienced burnout in their current jobs, compared to 77 percent of all respondents. And nearly half of millennials have left a job specifically due to burnout, compared to 42 percent of all respondents.  

Other Options to Address Mental Health

Not surprising, companies are looking for ways to improve corporate culture and recognize the mental health needs of employees. Workplace wellness programs do just that. Headspace for Work is a program offered by the science-backed meditation app that provides employees of participating companies with access to hundreds of meditations and exercises to relieve stress, improve focus, and encourage better sleep.

Myndful by Espyr addresses employees’ mental health by connecting them to qualified mental health professionals through technology. Companies such as Starbucks, SalesForce, and Target have all increased the benefits they offer to help employees deal with the emotional toll the pandemic has taken. For example, Starbucks announced earlier this year that it would provide employees who work more than 20 hours access to 20 free counseling sessions with a mental health therapist or coach through Lyra Health for them and their families. These are just some of the ways companies are expanding their mental health offerings as part of their existing employee assistance programs (EAP).

While wellness programs are certainly a start, additional paid time off to support mental wellbeing is a perk most employees can get behind. Collective weeks off in which the entire company shuts down are especially welcome as it alleviates the pressure many feel to keep up with the barrage of emails and work that continue to come their way when other colleagues are still logging on. Mandatory wellness days and weeks are a trend employees are embracing, as is an evolving workplace culture that encourages workers to take their allotted vacation days.

Marrazzo’s response to Nike’s week off is just one example of how employees are responding to such gestures. “It’s times like this that I’m so grateful to be a part of this team,” wrote Marazzo. “In a year, or two, unlike any other, taking time for rest and recovery is key to performing well and staying sane. This past year has been rough—we’re all human! And living through a traumatic event!—but I’m hopeful that the empathy and grace we continue to show our teammates will have a positive impact on the culture of work moving forward.”

Of course, it’s not only employees who are benefiting from these programs, companies, too, are reaping real rewards, such as improved productivity, higher retention rates, and happier and more loyal employees. 

For more on supporting workplace wellness, check out 4 Forward-Thinking Reasons Companies Should Encourage Employee Vacations.

About The Author
Heather-Mikesell-author-1

Heather, co-founder of Well Defined and the former editor-in-chief of American Spa, is an award-winning journalist and content strategist, skilled in writing, copyediting, and media relations. She is also a freelance writer and has contributed to Elite Traveler, Islands, Kiwi, Luxury Travel Advisor, Organic Spa, Porthole Cruise, Travel Agent, abcnews.com, jetsetter.com, outside.com, and wellandgood.com, in addition to various custom publications. She is frequently called upon to comment on various spa and wellness trends for various media outlets.