The need for and the way we use a ‘sick day’ changed dramatically during the pandemic. For some employees, access to paid sick leave remains challenging due to the workplace culture or environment and due to employee shortages.
Meanwhile, with the rise of flexible and remote work options, many employees feel the pressure to stay logged on, and it can make it difficult for some to actually use a sick day, particularly for the purpose of supporting mental health and wellbeing, and for avoiding and dealing with burnout.
Some organisations have recognised their sick leave provisions are no longer fit for purpose and are taking action to respond better to their employees’ mental health needs and wellbeing. That may be in the form of a “no questions asked” policy, when employers call in to take a day off. It may otherwise be in educating and promoting the fact that “mental health days” or “wellness days” are on offer, to help team members take care of themselves.
We’ve seen a number of innovative ways employers are evolving leave provisions as part of the Family Friendly Workplaces assessment process to better respond to mental health and wellbeing needs – particularly now, with some reports claiming that workplace mental health is at an all time low.
One such example is The Healing Foundation, a First Nations organisation and not-for-profit that was recently certified as a Family Inclusive Workplace.
A key point of difference in the workplace culture at The Foundation is the five wellbeing days the employer now offers to employees, as well as the 2 per cent wellbeing allowance they provide to support team members in achieving better wellbeing. Importantly, they offer their people the choice to use these initiatives how they want, in whatever ways they see fit to support the wellbeing of themselves and their families.
The Healing Foundation says their team is using the offering in different ways. Some are choosing to use their wellbeing allowance for things like gym memberships, or self-care and therapeutic services. Others are accessing their wellbeing days to take long weekends away. While others again are using the wellbeing days in small increments, like to start an hour late late once a week.
Gym memberships are not for everyone. Neither is free office yoga, or “healthy lunch Tuesdays”.
Joanne Gonsalves, Director People and Governance at The Healing Foundation highlights why changing the way we approach leave is important:
“It has been estimated that the average person will spend one-third of their life at work. That is roughly 90,000 hours over a lifetime. Here at The Healing Foundation, we encourage our people to prioritise the things that are most important to them. For most, this is meaningful connection with their loved ones. The FFW Accreditation demonstrates that The Healing Foundation is committed to driving a culture of wellbeing and balancing family and career aspirations.”
It’s time to revamp how wellbeing perks are being used to give team members the choice they need to access tools they know can address their personal wellbeing.
And it’s time for more employers to really consider how their sick leave policies are being used, especially by those team members working from home.
Is sick leave really being used in ways that support the overall health of staff? Is it being used at all?
World Mental Health Day is on October 10 this year, with World Mental Health Week.
This year’s World Mental Health Day message is simply, “look after your mental health, Australia.”
But we can only do that, with support. Employers have an opportunity, and responsibility, to do more to provide the supporting environment needed to manage mental health – particularly in a way that meets the 2022 demands and the pressures we face.
If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Article first published here by Women’s Agenda.