On the eleventh entry of The Link Up with Latesha, our incredible host Latesha Byrd, founder of Byrd Career Consulting, talks about how to take mental health days at work, what that actually means and looks like, and the benefits of doing so. According to a 2018 Glassdoor study, the average American only takes about 54% of their available time off in the previous 12 months – don’t hesitate to take yours!
You can read Latesha’s interview on Forge!
Check out Latesha’s YouTube channel!
Latesha: What’s up, everyone? Welcome to The Link Up with Latesha on Living Corporate. This podcast is for young professionals that need some real advice, tips, and resources to navigate corporate America and dominate their career. If you’re looking to upgrade your brand, get the knowledge you need to level up professionally for your future, you are in the right place. I’m your host, Latesha Byrd. How are y’all doing today? I hope that you have had a wonderful week. It is pretty cold here in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I am. It seems that we went straight from summer to winter. So–[laughs]–no cutesy letter jackets, no. You know, we’re straight winter coat, peacoat with the scarf and gloves mode, so hope you all–if you love the cold, love the winter, good for you, but I am definitely missing the heat. Anyways, today we are talking about something that is extremely, extremely important, and this is on thinking about our mental health at work and doing what is best for us to make sure that we are really, you know, taking control of our mental health and making that a priority. I was recently asked to be interviewed for Forge. If you are unfamiliar with Forge, it is a personal development publication by Medium. It’s pretty cool. Check it out. Forge. And the topic was how to ask for a mental health day. You know, we just celebrated or recognized Mental Health Awareness Day, and so I thought it would be a great idea to just share of the tips and go into a little further detail about, you know, the conversation that we had and some of the things that were actually discussed. And I think that now in 2019, you know, we are understanding, or more so normalizing, you know, the conversation around mental health, you know? It has been a stigma in the black community that if you are going to therapy or if you are depressed or if you are dealing with mental health issues, then, you know, something is wrong with you, right? But, you know, I just started going to therapy this year. It has completely, completely changed my life. I have learned to really build a relationship with myself, and it’s allowed me to be a better coach, a better businesswoman, a better friend, a better mentor, a better boss and leader and all of the above. So mental health is something I’m really passionate about, especially as we think about how our mental health affects how we actually show up in the workplace. So I wanted to share just some stats with you all, talk about how to actually take mental health days, what that actually looks like–like, what that actually means and the benefits of it. So I was reading an article on CNBC, and it said that among Americans that are currently employed, 13% say they plan to take a quarter of their vacation days or fewer this year – according to a poll of nearly 2,600 U.S. adults conducted by Bankrate, which also finds that 4% of Americans aren’t planning to take any vacation at all, even though their employers offer it. Another stat that was shared from Glassdoor in 2018 was that the average American only took about 54% of their available time off in the previous 12 months. I want you all to take your PTO. Please. You don’t have to go on a vacation to take time off. This is where these mental health days can come in. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. When you think about your mental health, there’s a few things that go into that: anxiety, right? That is something that I have had to really try to overcome, especially as an entrepreneur. Stress. That leads to burnout, you know? And it’s not just about at work, you know? Dealing with this at work. You know, especially for women, we are the caretakers. We are taking care of everybody, our kids, our parents. Who’s taking care of us? It’s funny, I was actually scrolling on Instagram this morning, and I saw a really, really interesting quote, and it said, “We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work.” So women, you know, I know we are Superwoman. We play Superwoman really, really well, but we have to take those days off for our mental health. Now, in terms of thinking about your mental health, you know, it’s important to understand where the burnout, where the stress–where it’s coming from and what may be depleting your energy. For me, I’ve really started to focus on managing my energy versus managing my time. So I know when I’m best during the day and when I’m not, and I will structure my work around those times where I have the most energy, or the least energy. So if it’s something that is requiring a lot of creativity, some innovation, a lot of critical thinking, I will do–I will work on those things when my energy is at the top top top, and I’ll save some of those lower-level thinking activities [like], you know, doing administrative work, for when I have, you know, lower energy. It’s also important to know what work you’re doing maybe that’s causing some of the stress. How can you prioritize your work, you know? Is it certain people you’re working around? That can be contributing as well to depleting your energy. It’s important to understand, you know, the sources and where that is actually coming from. I am not, you know, a mental health professional, so it is important to–you know, I always recommend, again, therapy. Talk to a therapist, you know? Talk to a professional that can help you get, you know, the resources that you need to figure out where it’s coming from and how to overcome it or, you know, just how to, you know, live more energetically, especially, you know, as we’re thinking about the workplace. So, you know, coming back to the topic of taking a mental health day. I just want to make this clear. Your company is not obligated to know that you are taking a mental health day. To be honest, I don’t really think it’s any of their business. Now, if you have a very close relationship with, you know, your boss or your manager, and they’re extremely supportive, and everyone talks about mental health and they really, really value mental health, yeah, maybe then it’s worth a conversation, but you don’t need to feel obligated. You can just say that you need to take a day off. If you are in a workplace where, whenever you take a day off, you know, they go, “Well, why do you need to take a day off? What are you doing?” Like, what? Mm-mm. I’m not here, so why are you asking? [laughs] So understand that taking a day off, you’re not obligated to tell them, you know? That is up to your discretion, but I will say is that you need to take time off to recoup. Understand the PTO policy for your company. You know, as I shared those stats, a lot of us don’t take time off. We also don’t take–we don’t max out on our time off. Now, if your company has a “use it or lose it” policy I’m gonna need you to use it, [laughs] but it is important to know “If I don’t use all of my PTO by this day, will I run out of PTO?” Or I guess not run out, but will it not roll over to the next year? Some companies will let you roll over your PTO to maybe the next fiscal year if you don’t use it. Sometimes that amount is capped as well. So definitely understand that, and then just start (booking?) time off regularly. I think something that holds us back from taking time off is that we feel like we have to go on a vacation. Like, we only take time off if we are going out of town, if we’re going somewhere, and then we say, “Well, I don’t want to spend money,” you know? Taking time off could just be sitting at the crib–[laughs]–sitting at the crib not doing anything. Sometimes, you–like, vacations are great, right, but man, y’all know that time when you… sometimes you need a vacation from the vacation, you know what I’m saying? So sometimes vacations are great–well, not sometimes. Vacations are great, you know? It’s great to get away, to get out of where you currently are and try something new, new experiences, you know, immerse yourself into a new culture, but I’m telling you, that transition period from coming back from vacation to getting back into the workplace can be a little bit challenging. But all I’m saying is it is good to just take time off and really not do anything. Just schedule days where you just stay at home or where you just don’t do much of anything at all. You know, I recommend to set some restrictions for yourself. When you decide to take a day off–no vacation, maybe you’re staying at home, but you’re taking that mental health day. Don’t set up any meetings, don’t set up any calls–unless it’s, you know, maybe with an old friend or with a family member that you just love and you want to catch up with. Maybe a little grocery shopping here and there if you must, but relax and rest as much as possible. Catch up on your shows. Listen to music. Read a book. Go to a museum. Go to a park. Walk around a park. If you live near a lake go to a lake, or, you know, maybe you could just lay up on the couch and watch your favorite movie with a bottle of red wine. Just do something that doesn’t require a lot of energy. Taking that time away will allow your brain to also recoup. You’ll see that once you take time off you will come back to work even more productive, you know? Maybe your creativity, your innovative ways of thinking have been a little bit stifled. This is where that taking the time off and not doing anything and giving your brain will help you to come back even stronger. Now, this tip is super important, and that is setting boundaries. Set boundaries with your coworkers. When you are off, they should not be calling you, okay? They should not be texting you. It’s important when you’re taking time off to just make sure that your work is handled beforehand, having–if you must, you know, have conversations with those that can maybe pick up work for you or just let everyone know–not everyone, but let the right people know where you are with your work, what needs to be done, who needs to contact who, who you’re waiting to hear back from, et cetera. You know, it’s important to be a little bit more proactive, ’cause you don’t want to come back from your day off and then, you know, everything’s on fire. So you can be as proactive as possible, that way you can also make sure that things are taken care of while you’re gone so you won’t have to deal with calls and emails and texts–and if I were you, I would not even respond to them anyways. [laughs] A little bit harder for me since, you know, I run my company and my team needs me all of the time, but I do tell them when I go out of town or if I’m taking a day off like, “Hey, I am off work. If it is not an emergency–if anything is not on fire, please don’t call me. Put it in an email. I will get back to you when I can, but other than that…” And they have been great with respecting those boundaries, but you will need to set some boundaries, you know, not only with your coworkers, but also with yourself, you know? So don’t do too much where you’re exerting a lot of physical energy either. Really, just relax. We’re in this society where we feel like we need to be productive all of the time, right, and our productivity and what we achieve is tied to how we identify success, but understand that taking that time off for you will allow you to come back even better. So I hope that this helped. If you want to check out the piece by Forge on Medium, you can find it on my social media – @Latesha_Byrd. So that’s all I have for you all, so have a great, great week, and I will talk to you later. Bye!