Debate With Us

Last night The Fella and I were talking about “mental health days” being taken as sick days. His take is that people abuse the mental health day as an excuse to then go skiing or to the beach, totally goofing off when they don’t have anything really mentally or physically wrong with them (that should interfere with them doing their work, heh). The Fella has a very strong work ethic (can’t you tell?) and does not support mental health days. (Correct me if I am wrong, sugar.) He doesn’t even take sick days (but currently he doesn’t have that option unless he doesn’t want to get paid since he is on a contract dealio).

Me? I take sick days when I feel sick or to ward off an on-coming sickness or if I have horrific PMS (dude, it happens, ok!). I have also taken mental health days. I go mental sometimes. I’ve had days where I was so distraught with emotional overload bullshit that I couldn’t have focused on work if I tried. And I wouldn’t have tried that hard because when I am emotional that takes up all my head and heart space. I’ve had days where I would rather stay home and relax- probably because I have been working hard and need a time out from the daily grind. Because I need to regroup and recharge. Sue calls these “jammie days” and I like how she thinks. An old boss of mine referred to them as “vision days” – she just couldn’t “see” coming into work that day. (She was a complete nutjob but I digress.)

Now don’t go thinking I am supporting people taking mental health days and sick days willy nilly just so they don’t have to work or to avoid a job they don’t like. If you don’t like your job you should probably find a different one. We do spend the majority of our week there so we should at least not mind going there, right? I do, however, support people prioritizing their own health over the daily grind. I support people choosing to stay home if they are mentally unable to focus on the job. I support taking vacations and using vacation days for the purpose they were intended. I fully support calling in sick if you feel sick. No one else is going to take care of us for us. We have to do it.

So tell me, what is your opinion on this whole mental health/sick day debate?


Phantasmagoria: 1. a constantly shifting complex succession of things seen or imagined, 2. a bizarre or fantastic combination.

If you are suffering from phantasmagorias brought on by a high fever you should most definitely call in sick to work.


46 thoughts on “Debate With Us

  1. Even being in HR, I support mental health days. Because I see a nation where we literally work ourselves to death (I had a boss end up in the ER with a ruptured appendix b/c she wouldn’t take time off to see a doctor, and another co-worker who had a stroke in the office one day–both in past jobs) and to your point, no one is going to make us take care of ourselves but us.
    Unfortunately, “work ethic” is a slippery slope into “work above all else.” In terms of the world, we are one of the worst providers of paid time off and yet we are the wealthiest and one of the most developed coutnries. If you want to take a day off to go on a ski trip and you have the time, go for it.
    I also prefer companies that bank all time off into a PTO bank instead of dividing it into sick days and vacation days. Then if you are a person who is not physically sick very often, you can use your time off as you choose.
    (incidentally, I am a complete hypocrite b/c I am on contract as well and I almost never take time off)

  2. Being in HR like Diane (hi Diane!), i too support the MHD and have ever since high school! We do work ourselves to death and most of us will go to work totally sick if there is a deadline involved and/or no one is there to complete our work for us.

    I think that it is very important to have that work/life balance that is so often talked about but never really achieved. People know when they are abusing time off rather than taking it for necessary reasons so it should be up to them. In the end, you lose your own damned job if you abuse it, right?

    And I hate to disagree with your man (hi there…’sup?) but I think a MHD should be used on whatever you want it to be used for. Hell, going to Disneyland IS a stress reliever, damnit ;).

  3. Dude, they are totally necessary! I take them when I just can’t deal with going into work that day for reasons such as I cried a lot the night before and my eyes are swollen and I don’t want to explain them to anyone, PMS (the two weirdly seem to coincide), etc. I also am allowed telecommuting days though, and those really help. That way I can work at home (and I actually do get some work done) but take a nap at lunch time, sit in my jammies, watch tv while I write, and bake cookies while I work. Both kinds of days are totally necessary to me. Without them I would be a much less productive worker.

  4. I have always been a fan of the “mental health” day, even as a kid. If I get too stressed out, I actually start to run a low grade fever (I am not kidding about this), and I’d get sent home in elementary school.

    Regardless, I think that the mental health day is a good thing. I think we often work ourselves to a frenzy, a place where our brain can’t handle any additional stimulus. Frankly, I even think taking your mental health day to do something fun (skiing, hiking, etc) is a great idea, because it gets your brain doing something completely different.

  5. My boss supports mental health days, which is great because I never took them before. Usually, she is the one who tells me to take a day or half day. I work a lot of long hours and it is nice that my boss sees that and basically tells us to leave or not come it. She also makes us leave if we look like we have a cold or something. Her thoughts are, if you get everyone else sick, you just screwed the department.

  6. I’m totally with you on it. If I start to feel like I’m getting sick, I shut down immediately and rest. It a) allows me to take care of myself before I get really sick and b) keeps me quarantined from the rest of the company.

    Plus, some days you really just can’t face the office. I think that’s ok too, as long as you don’t abuse it.

  7. Counterpoint:

    I would probably take sick days if I had them. I get colds and the like more often than I care to admit, especially since my immune system is aging right along with me, and probably isn’t as strong as it used to be. I feel that sick days are there to be used, and if you come to work sick when you could have used a sick day to get better, then you are not only hurting yourself, but potentially others as well.

    I also think that taking time away from work for major reasons should be expected and encouraged. My definition of major reasons include bereavement for the death of a relative, of course (most employers give time off for this based on which relative died, which sounds cold and callous, but, hey, they’re running a business), but you can also make a case for any other major life change: moving a great distance, for instance.

    Where I have my problem is when it’s a beautiful day outside, it’s Friday, and someone takes a “mental health” day. Uh-huh. Sure. Couldn’t take the daily grind today, huh? Work stressing you out, so you just decided to take a three day weekend on this gorgeous June day, huh? How are you going to reset your world view and get back on track in your mind: fishing, biking, or getting an early start on your camping trip? I’ll admit that I’m notoriously bad at giving some people the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes, if it looks, walks, talks, and smells like abusing the system, it probably is.

    I’ll give Sizzle back her entry now. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. I also believe in the mental health day, though I tend to make it a few and far between sort of affair. I have this anti-authority streak that deeply resents being a) forced to go to work on someone else’s schedule and b) forced to justify it when I want to stay home. I’m an educated adult for god’s sake – it drives me around the bend that I can’t sit myself down, make a rational decision to take a day (sick or mental health or sick kid or whatever), and be trusted by the boss that it’s for a good reason. I always feel compelled to make up an illness when I take a day that’s not strictly for being sick, because I can just imagine the response if I said, “I really just need a day off, I’m overworked and exhausted, I’m no good to anyone today but if I rest, I’ll be superwoman again tomorrow.” Yeah right.

  9. What I am for: x amount of days to take off, all lumped in one. Be them sick, mental, vacation, etc.

    Everywhere I have worked has had this, simple.

  10. What are these mental health days you speak of? Is this something offered in every other state but the one I live in? Me thinks so.

    We don’t have sick days or mental health days here where I work. You take a sick day, you’re expected to come back to work with a doctor’s note. And if you’re salary, well you’re salary. If you are hourly then you either don’t get paid or you use vacation time.

    Thank goodness I’m salary.

  11. I think it depends. teachers have to get subs when they take time off, so there’s the chaos that comes with that AND the expense of paying a sub. in our already-financially-ridden school systems, it adds up quickly. I’m all about taking care of ourselves, but some people abuse it. Duh.

  12. Also, full disclosure time: I’m an Uptight East Coast German from PA. We start working when we’re old enough to hold a hammer without help, and we don’t retire; we die. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Yo Fella – That totally explains a LOT! Being California born and bred, just like Sizz, I know that we have a different outlook on these types of things. We have work ethic but with much lower expectations ;).

  14. The Fella: “Also, full disclosure time: Iโ€™m an Uptight East Coast German from PA. We start working when weโ€™re old enough to hold a hammer without help, and we donโ€™t retire; we die. ;)”

    What a future we have to look forward to! Ha!

    (I love my boyfriend. )

  15. Such a timely entry for me, as I just took a MHD yesterday. Well, technically, I called in sick, but really, I just couldn’t drag myself into work. I have been sick for several days, but it wasn’t like I couldn’t function. I just needed a day at home.

    But I NEVER do this. And honestly, it felt like kind of a waste, as I was bored and lonely and feeling kind of guilty about the whole thing, even though I checked (and answered) my work e-mail several times throughout the day.

    So I dunno, I’m on the fence about the matter.

  16. I’m in favor of mental health days. And that doesn’t just mean on gray, cloudy, gloomy days. Sometimes it’s a sunny day and you DO need to recharge. I need the sunshine!!! Badly!!! More than I can ever say!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So honeslty, a day in the sun probably will recharge me and send me back to work in a better state of mind than anything you’d ever dream of.

    Besides, isn’t “can’t stand the idea of the daily grind today?” almost the perfect definition for mental health day? I mean, sometimes yes, it’s because you’ve got a lot of other shit going on, and you figure crying at your desk should be avoided. But if it’s getting taken off your sick time or vacation time, I say it’s your day to use how you want.

    At my last job, my HR director actually told me I had sick days to use one day when I had a big decision to make: she practically FORCED me out the door to take a mental health day. And it was sunny and beautiful for the long drive I took to think things over.

    (I’m still laughing at “vision” days, fyi.)

  17. Personally, I don’t take mental health days. And it’s been a bad year if I take more than one or two legitimate sick days. I’m not against mental health days here and there nor taking sick days because you’re not feeling great. However, I am against people abusing the system because they can. There are some people at my job who are seriously gone from the office often. And they have no maladies to speak of that would prevent them from coming to work. It makes my life more difficult and therefore I lose respect for them when I can’t do my job because they are watching game shows and Oprah.

  18. I think mental health days are just as important as actual “sick” days, and that the abuse of either is a bad thing — but using them wisely actually means you’ll be at work more often in the long run. Being uber-stressed = running your body down, and sometimes all you need is a day to relax and regroup, and you’re a whole new person. Plus, where I work? It’s all lumped into PTO and I think being mentally off qualifies just as much as being physically off in terms of “personal time off”

  19. I totally took mental health days, especially when I had a high tech customer service job. Sensitive ‘ol me couldn’t take verbal abuse on a daily basis.

  20. We don’t have sick days per se, we have personal business time off (in conjunction with Vacation, and holidays) so if your personal business is staying in your PJs then who is to argue ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have taken a few mental health days in the past couple years. I have gone 5 years without taking a sick day (back when we had sick days).

  21. my husband has plenty of vacation days, but is too busy to actually use them all up. We are working on 4 weeks backlog here. Even if we do take vacation, he isn’t completely removed from his job. Ah, the times we live in….

  22. I think I should be allowed to assign mental health days. You, you, and YOU… go home and don’t come back ’till you’ve got yer head outta yer ass!

  23. I agree with TC – sometimes one’s way of recharging and dealing with stress in their lives is to forget it all for a day and just go hang out at the beach, or whatever.

    I do think a lot of people’s work ethic is such that a mental health day is deserved once a week or so. I don’t agree with that. I don’t agree with abusing the system.

    My company also gives us 2 personal choice days (in addition to vacation. Sick time is when necessary) per year. I think those kind of count as the mental health days.

  24. I find that it’s the people that never miss a day (Even though they spew sickness and germs to every co-worker around them – news flash – not going to get a trophy or award for braving the office with the flu) that judge others for taking a mental health day – even if it is because the beach or slopes are calling. Who cares? If people spent even 5 minutes staying the F out of other people’s business…this world would be a much happier place. Disclaimer: This coming from a girl that gets close to a 100 sick hours a year and uses them all! Hah!

  25. Mental health should be treated as importantly as physical health, I say. I wish the health insurance companies would come around to see that fact. If I’m taking a MHD then I do whatever it is I feel I need to do on that day…nap, watch TV, go to a movie, etc. It’s all good.

    I agree with you, though. If you’re taking lots of MHDs simply because you don’t like your job, then it’s time to work on that resume and find something else.

  26. When I originally read the post, I was definitely on your side. Now that I read what the Fella had to say in his counterpoint, I can see where he is coming from. I think a balance between the two opinions is where I stand. If you truly are feeling too stressed to be at work, I think you should stay home/do whatever you need to refresh yourself so that when you return to work you will actually be productive and not just a physical body that is taking up space.

    On the other hand, I don’t like when people call in sick when they really aren’t if someone else is going to have to cover the slack. When I was teaching, but also doing the extra before school/after school part too, I had an assistant that was supposed to do either before school or after school (we switched off depending on who needed to get home earlier) and when she called in sick for a mental health day, I had to cover both…meaning I was there from 6am until 6 pm with kids, and even earlier and later cleaning up/setting up. Not fun! And even less fun when I knew she was at the beach or something and wasn’t really sick.

    My opinion may not count though because I haven’t worked outside the house in over 10 years. With the home daycare stuff I do, I haven’t called in sick yet, but if I were sick for real I would no matter what so I wouldn’t get the kids sick. I wouldn’t take a mental health day though because then the parents would be forced to take one as well, and that just wouldn’t be the right thing to do.

  27. My company is the kind that has a general pool of PTO. They don’t care why you’re taking it, they don’t give a shit what you do with ’em or when you take ’em (I used to work for a company that rhymes with shmountrywide that didn’t allow us to use sick days in conjunction with holidays…if you didn’t have any vaca days left, but had sick days to use, and you wanted to take a couple of extra days off around Christmas for example? You weren’t allowed to use them for that. Which is total bullshit, as I’m not one to get sick very often, and dammit, if I earn ’em, I’m gonna fucking USE ’em), they’re just there for us to use for whatever. Since we, you know, work in order to earn them and everything. We’re grown ups…we should be able to decide what we want to do with them.

    I think every company should provide that kind of benefit. But maybe I’m weird….

  28. hey sizzle. i’m fairly new to your blog, but have been reading for a few weeks. i came her by way of nilsa.

    love it love it.

    what is this mental health day you speak of? i don’t get those at my company. boo.

    however, i completely agree with you. health should take priority over the daily grind.

  29. i like the daily word thingy at the bottom, but i miss the lyrics.

    (and yeah, i’m all for taking a mental health day :))

  30. I haven’t taken a mental health day in a long time, and this is definitely because I’m liberal with the vacations and don’t feel as though I need them otherwise. But I totally believe in them and if I weren’t able to escape with days off on vacation, I would still take them off. We need time away where we have to think about nothing. That’s all there is to it.
    As for using sick days, I don’t really disagree with that but I can’t speak from experience as I haven’t used a sick day (or even hour) in years. Lucky me, I get sick on the weekends.

  31. Being self-employed, I can take a mental health day when I want…except I still have to deal with the kidlets…and I do not get paid.

    If an employer is willing to pay you to recharge? Go for it!

  32. Mental health days? Yeah. I loved those. My old job was pretty stressful, in a dodgy neighbourhood and 3 out of 5 work days I would end up going home crying because the kids I worked with had just a bad draw in life. Knowing I could take a day off a month to ‘re-boot’, honestly made all the difference. I’m pretty sure if I didn’t have those I a) would have quit 5 months earlier b)would have sucked at my job and c)would have a severe drinking problem.

  33. Yet again I support your take on this. Mental Health days are important and someone said something about the lack of true vacation days we get.

    I think he works too hard and needs a day or two off to think things over. The best thing in the world is accruing sick days and getting paid to sit at home and do absolutely nothing, … or ski.

  34. Today should have been a mental health day for me. I didn’t sleep well, I’m bleeding like a stuck pig (sorry!), and there’s a lady at work that drives me batty…who was working my last nerve today.

    I should’ve stayed home.

  35. I fully support mental health days. I wish I had less of a work ethic before my breakdown and had used them to my health’s advantage. Some serious things were happening in my life and I would still go to work. Get up, put on the smile and keep going. Eventually your body tells you to stop if you do not take a mental health break now and again. My body and mind taught me a four month lesson I will never forget. I thought I was so strong and handling everything that came my way. My body told me otherwise!

  36. I don’t think I have ever taken a mental health day, but I do support them. Sometimes you aren’t going to get anything done anyway. And I think that you should call in sick if you are sick, because if you don’t you risk making me sick, and I don’t want that.

  37. I think mental health days are super important. As long as the whole concept of it is not being abused, there is nothing wrong with taking a day for yourself to help you rejuvinate in a sense, especially if work is stressing you out. A stressed out person trying to be sane at work isn’t a good thing for anybody, least of all that person who is trying to keep it together.

  38. I think it makes sense, as long as the person really is at home and regrouping and not out shopping or ski-sloping it. But I think most companies should aggregate vacation and sick days together and the employees choose how to take them. Ted has two weeks of vacation and NINE sick days (and the vacay doesn’t increase until five years), so the company is practically asking people to call in sick for some long weekends.

  39. I no longer work in an industry which buys into the necessity of the “mental health day”, however, I have learned to take these days when necessary, without guilt or apology. I am a better employee upon my return. I am a better human being because of it. And I suspect that if your loved ones were being cared for by my co-workers, you would agree to honor their “mental health days” too.

  40. LOL… seeing as you “outed” me, guess how I feel? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I’m glad you got some compensation for your good work… and Finn is such a cutie, who wouldn’t smile? (I’m catching up, again, can you tell?)

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