You may have seen the signs in your office or the warnings at your local pharmacy during flu season–if you are sick, stay at home! There are good reasons to heed this warning. The most obvious one being that you can spread germs and infect your colleagues. Additionally, trying to work when you are sick may impede on your recovery and prolong your illness. And, let’s face it, how productive will you really be if you are sick and working at the same time?

It’s easy to understand why there is a strong recommendation to stay at home when you are feeling physically ill, but what if you are not feeling well mentally or emotionally? Unfortunately, mental health days don’t often get the same support, but they can be just as important to your health and productivity. They can also be important to your organizations productivity. For example, in a three-month period, patients with depression suffer 11.5 days of reduced productivity. And serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings every year. If you aren’t sure about when or why you should take a mental health day, here are some things to consider:

Different types of rest and recovery:

Rest and recovery can come in many forms. From planning a week-long vacation, to building in micro-breaks throughout your day. But while vacations and micro-breaks can be proactively scheduled, they don’t address the unexpected that may come your way. There will likely be times in your life when something will come up that throws off your mental and emotional well-being. And while we may be accustomed to powering through, it’s important to realize that those moments may, in fact, call for a mental health day or two.

Listening to your body AND your mind:

When you are physically sick, you exhibit symptoms that are hard to ignore–runny nose, sneezing, an upset stomach. But when it comes to mental and emotional health, issues arising may not be as obvious or visual. That’s why listening to your body and mind are both equally important, especially to prevent issues from getting worse. When your mind tells you that its stressed, unable to concentrate or manage emotions, and in need of a break, that may be your signal to take a mental health day.

Breaking the stigma:

When you are ill, you stay home to recover. But when you are unable to manage your current level of stress, doesn’t that call for some recovery as well? When you return, then you can contribute in a productive way and bring your best self to work. And if you are open and honest about taking a mental health day, you are not only sending a message that self-care is important, you are also letting your coworkers know that producing quality work and staying productive is important to you too.

Taking a mental health day is about doing what’s right for your health and well-being, but it isn’t just about you–it’s about your work, relationships, and your organization. So, go ahead and plan that vacation, but don’t overlook mental health days and the positive impact they can have on your work and life.

Please read our disclaimer information here.


  • Jen Fisher

    Human Sustainability Leader at Deloitte and Editor-at-Large, Human Sustainability at Thrive Global

    Jen Fisher is a leading voice on the intersection of work, well-being, and purpose. Her mission is to help leaders move from the legacy mindset that well-being is solely the responsibility of the individual to the forward-thinking idea of human sustainability, which supports the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organizations, climate, and society.  

    She’s the co-author of the bestselling, award-winning book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, the Human Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Thrive Global, and the host of the WorkWell podcast series.

    As the first chief well-being officer of a professional services organization, Jen built and led the creation and execution of a pioneering holistic and inclusive well-being strategy that has received recognition from leading business media brands and associations.

    Jen is a frequent writer on issues impacting the workplace today, including the importance of mental health and social connection to workforce resilience, happiness, and productivity. Her work has been featured in CNBC, CNN, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Harvard Business Review, among others.

    She’s a sought-after speaker and has been featured at events including TEDx, World Happiness Summit, Out & Equal Workplace Summit, Acumen Global Gathering, WorkHuman, The Atlantic Pursuit of Happiness event, and more. She’s also lectured at top universities across the country, including Harvard, Wake Forest, Duke, and George Mason.

    Jen is passionate about sharing her breast cancer and burnout recovery journeys to help others. She’s also a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, self-care champion, exercise fanatic, sleep advocate, and book nerd! Jen lives in Miami with her husband, Albert, and dog, Fiona.

    You can find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter and Instagram @JenFish23. You can also receive her personal insights and reflections by subscribing to her newsletter, "Thoughts on Being Well"