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Most employees (especially millennials) take Mental Health Days, say it improves job performance, yet still fib to their bosses

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  • 63% of employees have taken a Mental Health Day in the last year, including 68% of those ages 35-44 and 47% of those over the age of 54.
  • Despite 78% saying the Mental Health Day had a positive impact on their job performance, nearly half (44%) fibbed to their employer about why they needed the day off because they were worried their employer would have reacted negatively to a Mental Health Day request.
  • 58% of employees believe the rise of remote work has made it tougher to justify taking Mental Health Days.
  • Click here to jump to the full survey results

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and mental health struggles have been on the rise in the United States.

As of 2020, 21% of U.S. adults live with a mental illness (52.9 million people).

Considering about half of our time awake is spent on the job, work can be a major source of mental health issues.

A 2021 study from Harvard Business Review (HBR) found 84% of employees reported at least one workplace factor that negatively impacted their mental health. The majority said their job was emotionally draining (i.e. stressful, overwhelming, boring). The second most cited factor pertained to work-life balance.

HBR found 50% of employees left their jobs in 2021 for mental health reasons, including 68% of millennials and 81% of Gen Zers.

91% of employees believe a company should support mental health, which seems to be catching on.

Up from 37% in 2019, 47% said their company leaders were advocates for mental health at work. This correlated to higher job satisfaction and stronger intentions to remain at the company, in addition to being less likely to underperform, miss work, or experience mental health symptoms.

There's a strong correlation between the workplace and mental health. The former is a key influence on the latter, but whether that influence is negative or positive is primarily in the hands of employers.

How can they help? The four-day work week is quickly catching on, but a more simple ask is giving employees the leeway to take Mental Health Days.

No sudden fever or dentist appointment – just a day to turn off and recharge.

Breeze surveyed 1,500 employed adults to better understand the prevalence of Mental Health Days in the American workplace.

In the last year, 63% have taken a Mental Health Day

We surveyed 1,500 actively-employed adult Americans. The first question of the survey simply asked them if they've taken a Mental Health Day in the last year.

Mental Health Days were much more prevalent amongst younger employees, especially millennials. For example, 68% of employees between the ages of 35 and 44 have taken a Mental Health Day in the last year compared to just 47% of employees over the age of 54.

Employers should take note if they're looking to attract or retain the best talent. The modern-day employee wants mental health to be a priority, and they want Mental Health Days as proof of that priority.

Millennials and Gen Zers are now the dominant generations in the workforce, and they very well may skip over companies that don't support Mental Health Days.

Amongst poll participants who have taken a Mental Health Day, we also asked how many they estimate they take per year.

The average amount of Mental Health Days taken per year was 6.4, with the three younger generations all averaging above six days and the two older generations averaging below six days.

78% said their Mental Health Day positively impacted job performance

An overwhelming 78% of employees who have taken at least one Mental Health Day in the last year said the day off had a positive impact on their job performance.

Falling in line with the aforementioned study from Harvard Business Review, companies that emphasize mental health will be rewarded with higher satisfaction and increased job performance from their employees.

Like the results of our survey's first question, employers should also take note of this data. Not only will Mental Health Days attract and retain talent, but they will also allow employees to recharge their batteries and deliver better results.

Despite its prevalence, many employees still hesitant to truly ask for a Mental Health Day

A good number of employees have taken at least one Mental Health Day, but what was more interesting was still a good number were worried how their employers would handle it.

Amongst those who have taken at least one Mental Health Day, 56% told their employer it was for their own mental health, while 44% told a bit of a white lie.

For those that weren't totally upfront about their needed Mental Health Day, we followed up by asking if they believe their employer would have not given them the day off if they knew it was for mental health.

The majority of these employees do believe they would have gotten some backlash or perhaps not have been able to take the day off if they had told their boss they were taking a Mental Health Day.

While it's great to see so many workers taking necessary Mental Health Days and reaping the benefits of those days, the American workplace culture still has steps to take to eliminate the negative stigma around taking days off to rest and recharge.

In a healthy environment, employees shouldn't have to hide their need to take a Mental Health Day. Their employer should encourage it before it's even requested or at the very least be understanding of each worker's unique situation.

Amongst those employees who haven't taken a Mental Health Day in the last year, we asked why.

The plurality of employees said they were afraid to ask their employer for a Mental Health Day out of fear of how they would handle that request.

17% answered that the advent of remote/hybrid work makes it tough to justify a Mental Health Day, which offers a perfect segue...

58% believe remote work makes Mental Health Days tougher to justify

The rise of remote or hybrid work has happened right before our eyes in the last couple of years. It's been a seismic shift in the workplace, and it appears to be permanent.

We asked employees if they think remote work makes it harder to justify taking a Mental Health Day.

Very interestingly, nearly 6-in-10 employees do believe remote work has made it tougher to take Mental Health Days.

Because remote work is done from the comforts of your home and sweatpants, there's a sentiment from some that "every day is a Mental Health Day." That maybe asking for a day off in a remote environment is taking advantage of an already employee-friendly policy.

Both of these, however, couldn't be farther from the truth.

Remote work is still work. Employees are still locked into their computer screens for six, seven, eight hours a day. They're still checking their inboxes and Slack messages, while still hopping on video conference calls and meeting deadlines.

Whether it's happening in the office or at home, employees always will need a break from this to recharge.

A previous Breeze study actually found many full-time remote employees suffer from anxiety and stress as a result of being away from the heartbeat of the company.

Amongst employees from this survey who have taken Mental Health Days in the last year, 48% actually said they have taken fewer Mental Health Days compared to previous years due to the rise of remote or hybrid work.

A lot has changed due to remote work, but not the need to take a Mental Health Day every once in a while. It's an employer's job to communicate this to their employees, both in-office and remote, so that they're comfortable with taking a day to reset the batteries.

Disability insurance for mental health

When mental health struggles get so severe, winning that battle must become your top priority. This means taking weeks, months, or even years off work to get better.

But most people can't afford to take this time off work; there are still bills to be paid.

Having disability insurance makes it possible to take the time away from work you need, while still keeping up with life's expenses. Disability insurance replaces a portion of your income, usually up to 60%, if physical injury, medical illness, or mental health struggles leave you unable to work and earn a paycheck.

You might be asking yourself "is mental health a disability and will disability insurance cover it?"

If your mental health struggles leave you unable to work, then it's likely disability insurance will cover it. This means a portion of your regular income will be replaced for weeks, months, or years while you take off work to recharge and recover.

Both short term disability insurance and long term disability insurance could be applicable to mental health struggles. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are actually the fifth most common reason for short term disability insurance claims.

Moreover, mental health issues are the fourth most common reason for long term disability insurance claims.

In addition to being Mental Health Awareness Month, May also happens to be Disability Insurance Awareness Month. The two go hand-in-hand because disability insurance insures your mental health by giving you ability to take off work to improve your state of mind without having to worry about how your bills will get paid.

Breeze offers disability insurance that can cover mental health issues for up to two years. If you're interested in seeing how much that will cost, Breeze can provide a free online quote in seconds.

Curious what disability insurance costs? Check your rate here

Methodology

All data found within this report derives from a survey created and commissioned by Breeze and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,500 actively-employed adult Americans were surveyed. The appropriate respondents were found via Pollfish’s age filtering feature, in addition to an employment filter to ensure only actively-employed adults were surveyed. This survey was conducted on May 13th, 2022. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities.

Full survey results

Notes: Some answers won't add up to exactly 100% due to rounding.

If you'd like to see the raw data or data broken down by location, gender, race, age, etc., please email me at [email protected]

1. In the last year, have you taken a Mental Health Day off of work (taking the day off work not due to illness/injury/prior commitment, but just to recharge & relax)?

  • 63% answered "yes"
  • 37% answered "no"

2. (If "yes" to Q1) When taking your Mental Health Day, did you tell your employer it was for your mental health or instead say something that wasn’t actually true like sudden illness or doctor's appointment?

  • 56% answered "I told them it was for my mental health."
  • 44% answered "I told them it was for something that wasn't actually true like sudden illness or doctor's appointment."

3. (If "I told them it was for something that wasn't actually true..." to Q2) Do you think your employer would have not let you take the day off or reacted negatively if you told them you were taking a day for your mental health?

  • 61% answered "yes"
  • 39% answered "no"

4. (If "yes" to Q1) Why did you take your Mental Health Day off of work?

  • 42% answered "was burnt out/tired from work"
  • 21% answered "catch up on chores/things to do outside of work"
  • 25% answered "My employer encourages us to take at least one Mental Health Day."
  • 12% answered "no reason in particular"

5. (If "yes" to Q1) Did the Mental Health Day have a positive impact on your job performance?

  • 78% answered "Yes, it allowed me to recharge my batteries and return to work fresh."
  • 22% answered "No, it was just a day off and things were the same when I returned."

6. (If "yes" to Q1) How many Mental Health Days do you estimate you take per year?

  • The average amount was 6.4 days.

7. (If "yes" to Q1) Do you think you have taken less Mental Health Days due to the rise of remote/hybrid work?

  • 48% answered "yes"
  • 52% answered "no"

8. (If "no" to Q1) Why have you not taken a Mental Health Day off of work?

  • 24% answered "I'm afraid to ask my employer for a Mental Health Day specifically as I think they would react negatively or not let me take the day off."
  • 18% answered "I have too much work to be able to take a Mental Health Day."
  • 17% answered "I think the rise of remote/hybrid work makes it tough to justify taking a Mental Health Day."
  • 19% answered "I'm worried about job security and/or what my employer thinks of my performance that I don't take days off work unless I absolutely have to."
  • 22% answered "something else/none of the above"

9. Do you think the rise of remote/hybrid work makes it tougher to justify taking Mental Health Days?

  • 58% answered "yes"
  • 42% answered "no"
Research
Published May 18, 2022