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Admin Pro Forum

Would you feel comfortable taking a ‘well day’?

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Question: "Once or twice a year, I wake up and just really, really don't feel like going to work. But it feels like the system is set up to make us lie about our absences if they're not illness-related or scheduled well in advance. Does anyone work in a place where you feel free to tell your boss, 'Not today, sorry, it's been rough recently and I need a mental health break?' How often do other admins escape for a day, and do they feel the need to be less than honest about it?" - Jane, Departmental Aide

See comments below, and send your own question to editor@adminprotoday.com.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Stehanie January 12, 2018 at 10:58 am

I understand the feeling! I believe everyone, no matter the profession, has THOSE days. When I do, sometimes talking it out helps but if it doesn’t, I may take an extended lunch or leave early if I am able then take full advantage of the evening to get myself together so that I may be productive the next day. My schedule is a little more flexible so rarely do I take a vacation or sick day for a mental break.


Karen January 11, 2018 at 4:20 pm

I try not to say I’m sick if I’m not. Everybody comes up against a wall once in a while where they need a mental health day – they’re not physically ill, but they need some personal time. And it can happen unexpectedly. We have personal time days where you can take a day off without an explanation. I try not to do it too often, especially if I have a big deadline or a heavy workload. For me, weighing my need for a mental health day against the needs of co-workers who might have to pick up the slack is important. I think if you keep the unscheduled leave to a minimum and you are willing to help out when it’s somebody else’s turn to need a mental health day, most companies and co-workers will be understanding. The key is to not abuse it.


Cindy January 9, 2018 at 9:40 am

I don’t think the system is set up to make us lie or want to lie. I believe it is our self-imposed sense of guilt that encourages us to lie. I believe that calling in “sick” is not just a justification for the boss but also for ourselves as a means to reduce the guilt we feel internally. I think that guilt stems from our culture and our upbringing that mental health is not really a valid excuse. I would simply say that I have to address a personal issue and ask for the day off.


Jan January 5, 2018 at 12:40 pm

The company I work for rolls sick and vacation time into one bucket, so we can use it for either sick or vacation with no explanation. They also give us 3 “wellbeing” days per year to take care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. I am so thankful I don’t have to be “less than honest” about taking a day to care for myself!


Tina Sheeler January 4, 2018 at 1:41 pm

As long as I am responsible and look at my calendar first to make sure my workload can handle a day off I have no problem using my “Personal Days” in this way. Our company gives vacation, personal, and sick time benefits. Vacation is to be scheduled, Sick is for when I am actually sick, and personal is to use how I see fit. I think it is a very fair system.


Mindy January 3, 2018 at 1:49 pm

In my many years of working, I have discovered that it seems to boil down to the manager or person that you report into. They have driven whether I needed to lie or say I just need some me time. I have also worked for companies to had PTO vs. specific vacation or sick time. I was still expected to specify why the time was being taken. So this could also be driven by the manager you report into. Happy to report the company/manager I work for now feel that mental health is just as important as physical health.


Sheri January 3, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Not at all. My company has PTO (Paid Time off) days to use as we wish. If I know in advance when I will be out, I will send notice to my supervisor and team, but if I am sick or just need to take a mental health day I just call out. No reason is needed.


AAinDMV January 2, 2018 at 10:34 am

Related to feeling guilty or lying about why you’re off from work if you’re claiming to be sick, my previous place of employment eliminated vacation days, sick days, and personal days and combined them altogether into “paid time off.” That way, you take the leave when you need it and there’s no need to lie or feel guilty about not being sick when you really just need a day off. No questions asked. And when the leave is gone, it’s gone.


Renae January 2, 2018 at 10:33 am

Our company combined sick leave and vacation, we ended up losing a couple days a year but it is worth it. Now, all I have to do is call in and say that I need to take the day off. Don’t have to explain or anything.


AAinDMV January 2, 2018 at 10:28 am

When I’m not feeling it for whatever reason and need a mental health day to de-stress, my immediate supervisor, the Sr AA, totally understands. If I see my workload increasing (due to a project, event, general busy time) or I know somewhat in advance that I feel I’m going to need some “me” time and a day away from work, I make sure all my work is caught up and or that I’m not leaving anything for anyone else to do. If it’s last minute, I typically try to make sure there’s nothing that I’m aware of that needs to be done in my absence. If so, I generally feel guilty and end up sucking it up and coming in anyway. I don’t feel guilty about taking mental health days at all and it’s really no one’s business why you take leave; that’s what it’s for. It’s just that I typically try to plan for them so my coworkers aren’t overworked in my absence.


Jenni January 2, 2018 at 10:24 am

As one whose job it is to more or less “police” employee time off, our policy dictates that sick days are to be used when the employee or immediate family member is actually sick or injured or for doctor/dental appointments. However, we typically don’t ASK why you take a sick day. Nothing is more insulting to me than being told an obvious lie, so just tell us you need to take a sick day. Think for a minute about how awful it is to pick up the slack at the last minute for someone who calls in sick and whether you really need to do that to your coworkers. If so, the biggest thing I would suggest is that you (or your employees) don’t take a sick day then post pictures of yourself on social media at a ball game, amusement park or lounging by the pool. This will most certainly create bad blood among your coworkers and can get you in HR trouble.


Tari December 29, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Is the word “sick” defined in your employee handbook? Websters third definition is “mentally or emotionally unsound or disordered” which a stressful job can make you. I have definitely taken a sick day to clear my body of the stress my job kept putting me under. Occasionally, if sick days are not abused, you need a day to clear your head.


Carol December 28, 2017 at 4:41 pm

I work for local government and we have 3 personal days per year as well as accrue sick time. So I usually use my personal days for “mental health” days. I agree with Jennifer, mental health is more important, but if I am physically sick, I make sure to use sick time too so I don’t expose the rest of my co-workers or the public to something that might compromise their health.


Dorothy December 28, 2017 at 4:24 pm

I always make sure my work is caught up and I tell them I need to take off. I usually keep my reasons to myself.


Carol December 28, 2017 at 4:09 pm

I work for the Public Health Department, so they understand when I say I need a “mental health” day. It happens to all of us at some point!


Penelope December 28, 2017 at 4:02 pm

I know the feeling, I used to call in sick when I was mentally sick, not really physically sick. I was so stressed out, I could not bring myself to go into work. I got caught at a former job calling in sick and then I was seen later in the day by another co-worker that ratted me out. I learned my lesson there. Now I just make myself go to work and try and schedule a vacation day as soon as possible.


Mark December 28, 2017 at 12:47 pm

As long as there is sufficient coverage, where I work people are allowed to have last-minute vacation days. It’s not abnormal for someone to call in, say an hour before their start time, and ask if there are enough people there that day for them to be able to take a last minute date off. In the overwhelming majority of the cases, they are approved.


Jennifer December 28, 2017 at 10:44 am

We have personal time, 3 days per year. So I do take mental health days, and I’ll use sick time to do it. My mental health is MORE IMPORTANT than anything, without it, I’m useless to anyone.


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