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Sometimes, staff just need a day off



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Admit it, you’ve taken a day off just because you felt like it before.

You probably told work you had a migraine (but anyone who suffers from migraines will tell you, you certainly wouldn’t have been able to make that phone call if you really did) or that you had eaten “something funny”. Then you hang up the phone, lie back down in bed and switch on the telly for the rest of the morning, prepared to do nothing.

It sounds bad, doesn’t it? But what’s so wrong with taking a day off to rest your mind? We are all aware of the dangers of stress, and we know Singaporeans are prone to working long hours, increasing the likelihood of a burnout.

In fact, a JobsCentral survey from December found one in five Singaporean employees had pulled a sickie to get off work, with 50% of them doing so three or more times a year.

As it turns out, taking a day off for ‘me time’ has a real name – a Mental Health Day – and medical experts are in favour of you taking plenty of them.

However, your colleagues, bosses and friends are unlikely to take your honest explanation of, “I just needed a mental health day” seriously. Sadly, there’s still a stigma surrounding the admittance of defeat when it comes to your mind. If your body is failing you, then an MC is acceptable because clearly you are not in control of it – but your brain? You’re supposed to be the boss of that, right?

Personally, I am hugely understanding of the importance of psychological wellbeing. I’ve had my own issues with burnout and believe taking one day – just a day – to recharge is not going to affect my ability to do my job well.

In fact, not taking a day off to reboot could end up costing your company more in the long run.

Thankfully, companies around the world are starting to see the benefits of altering the allocation of sick days to allow for mental health days. These days are widely accepted in large US companies like Google, and some organisations in the UK have what they call “duvet days” – for those morning when an employee just can’t climb out from under the sheets (how nice would that be?!)

With the rise of stress-related health problems in Singapore and around the world, doesn’t this seem like a natural next step?

As long as employees are still doing their jobs, still turning up to work and remain committed and dedicated employees, then I can’t see what the problem is.

(NB: To those of you reading this from your bed, good for you. Have a nice day off.)

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Rebecca Lewis
Editor
Human Resources Magazine Singapore

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