Sometimes it can be really obvious when we should take a sick day from work: broken bones, food poisoning, migraines, contagious coughs and sneezes. However, when we have poor mental health, at which point are we too unwell to come to work? We’re all guilty of thinking “I should go into work today, I could definitely be feeling worse!” but at the same time, we could also be feeling better and maybe it’s at this point when we should take some time off to focus on our health.
We need to be honest with both ourselves and others about the way we feel. It can take a lot of courage to be honest, but the reward of relief often outweighs the fear.
If we’re not honest at work, we could find ourselves in trouble. In the long run it’ll be much simpler to say “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’ll be able to give this presentation today, I’m feeling overwhelmed with anxiety,” than to push through, give an inadequate presentation and then have to justify to your manager why it was so poor. The chances are that your manager will be far more understanding if they’re aware of the issues caused by poor mental health.
If we’re not honest with ourselves and are in denial about the state of our mental health, we won’t be able to reach out for the help we need, after all, if we tell ourselves that we’re well, why would we need to seek help?
Our inclusive culture at Snowplow means that we are accepted regardless of our gender, sexuality, religion, age, social class, education and disability and we’re able to make reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of our team. In the same way that we would rearrange the office furniture to accommodate for a wheelchair user or provide an adapted keyboard for a person with arthritis, we also allow our team to work from home, work flexible hours, attend doctor’s appointments during work time and arrange for more frequent employee-manager catch-ups if this is something that will help maintain good mental health.
In 2018 I was unexpectedly admitted to a psychiatric unit. Although it was voluntary, I knew that it would mean having to take some time off from work. I was very lucky to work for a company who valued my mental health as much as my physical health. Knowing that I had support from my peers gave me one less thing to worry about so I was able to focus on my own recovery. Since being discharged from the unit I still have the occasional blip in my mental health, but because my team know about my history, I don’t feel guilty when I do need to take some time off to focus on myself or work from home from time to time.
We need to allow ourselves permission to rest; only you can say at which point you’re not well enough to work. If you can’t get out of bed because of your mental health, that’s okay; nobody has the authority to invalidate the way that you feel. The more we talk about mental health, the more we’re able to tear down the stigma behind it. If you can’t talk to your manager just yet, talk to a colleague; if you can’t talk to a colleague just yet, talk to a friend.
I hope that after reading this, you feel more able to share your own experiences with mental health. Feel free to leave your thoughts below.