Work-related stress is no laughing matter: with over 83% of Americans suffer from work stress and mental health issues due to their jobs. Unfortunately, many workers will still choose to tough it out rather than take a break from their job, even if their doctor tells them that they need to.
There are a number of reasons why workers don’t want to take stress leave from work, even when they’re clearly suffering from work-related stress. For one, many workers feel like they can’t afford to take a stress leave, especially if they’re not being paid while they’re away. Others feel like they’ll be seen as weak or lazy if they take time off, and that their bosses or co-workers will think less of them.
However, what many workers don’t realize is that taking stress leave can actually be beneficial for both them and their employers. Before you quit your job, here are a few things to consider about taking stress leave from work.
When Should I Take Time Off Work For Stress?
The first thing to keep in mind is that your health and mental health should always come first. If you’re suffering from job stress, it’s important to take the time to recover and heal, both physically and mentally. Not only will this help you feel better, but it will also prevent your stress from impacting your job performance. By taking stress leave from work, you may be preventing a more serious health condition from developing down the road. In fact, studies have shown that workers who take stress leave are more productive when they return to work than those who don’t.
Furthermore, quitting your job may not be the best solution for your stress. If you quit without another job lined up, you’ll likely end up in a worse financial situation than you were in before. Unfortunately, studies show that job loss can have a negative effect on physical and mental health. Quitting your job might lead to feelings and thoughts such as:
- I’m a failure
- I’m not good enough
- I’ll never find another job
- I couldn’t handle the stress
- I’m not meant to work
These negative thoughts can impact your mental health, making it more difficult to cope with the stress. You could also experience stress symptoms such as:
- Increased anxiety
- Emotional symptoms like crying
- Panic attacks
If you’re considering quitting your job, it’s important to speak with a mental health professional or healthcare provider first. They can help you assess your stress levels and determine if quitting your job is the right decision, or if there are alternative options such as stress leave.
How Do I Ask For Stress Leave?
The first thing to do is make a plan. Consider talking to your employer about your mental stress levels. Sometimes, accommodations might be necessary due to disabilities. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities. This might include:
- Changes to your job duties or schedule
- Access to mental health resources
- A flexible work schedule
- Additional break times
- Modifications to the workplace
If you’re experiencing severe stress at your workplace, the first step is to talk to your human resources department. Explain how you’re feeling and what, if any, changes you think would help. Speaking with your HR department will help ensure that you are not unjustly terminated for considering taking stress leave from work.
If you think your employer is violating any laws, you may want to consider filing a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA is responsible for ensuring that workers have a safe and healthy workplace environment. If your employer is not taking steps to address your stress levels, and if you are not the only person at your job finding it difficult to manage stress, you may want to file a complaint with OSHA. They will investigate the situation and, if they find that your employer is at fault, they can take action. This might include ordering your employer to make changes to the workplace or providing you with financial compensation.
What Can I Do While On Stress Leave?
Many states are now recognizing the importance of mental health days, even for school children. Mental health days are days when you can take time off from work or school to focus on your mental health. This might include:
- Going to therapy
- Spending time with family and friends
- Taking a break from social media
While not all employers offer paid mental health days, some are starting to see the benefits of offering this type of leave. In addition, there are several leave options you can use, including the following.
How Do I Take Stress Leave From Work?
The FMLA, or Family Medical Leave Act, is a federal law that provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. This leave can be used for a variety of reasons, including the birth or adoption of a child, the care of a sick family member, or the employee’s own serious health condition.
If you’re experiencing stress at work, you might be able to take FMLA stress leave to reduce stress even if you’re out of regular sick days or paid time off (PTO) days. This leave can be used for the treatment of a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression. To be eligible for stress leave, you must have worked at your current job for at least 12 months and have at least 1,250 hours of work during that time. In addition, your employer must have at least 50 employees who work within 75 miles of your worksite.
If you’re eligible for FMLA leave, you can take up to 12 weeks off per year. This leave can be taken all at once or in smaller increments, depending on your needs. Your employer is not required to pay you during this leave, but you may be able to use vacation days, personal days, or sick days.
State Leave Laws
In addition to the FMLA, some states have their own leave laws. These laws might provide employees with additional protections, including the following.
- Paid Family and Medical Leave: Several states, including California and New York, have paid family and medical leave laws. These laws provide employees with paid time off for a variety of reasons, including the care of a sick family member or the birth of a child.
- Paid Sick Leave: A handful of states, including California and Massachusetts, have paid sick leave laws. These laws require employers to provide employees with paid time off when they’re sick. This leave can be used for the employee’s own illness or to care for a sick family member.
If you live in one of these states, you might be able to take advantage of these leave laws and request stress leave. These laws can provide you with the time off you need to focus on your mental health.
You Might Be Entitled to Workers’ Compensation
If you suffered from work-related stress, you might be entitled to workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides benefits to employees who are injured or become ill as a result of their job.
These benefits can include:
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
If you’re suffering from work-related stress, or you are now suffering from mental health symptoms due to a traumatic event that occurred at work, you might be able to file a workers’ compensation claim. You’ll need to speak with your employer and file the appropriate paperwork to do so.
Should I Resign Due To Mental Health Issues?
Some instances you might need to quit your job include:
- You’re experiencing physical symptoms of stress, such as chest pain or heart palpitations
- Your work stress is impacting your personal life, such as causing relationship problems or not spending as much time with your family
- You’ve tried to address the situation with your employer but nothing has changed
- You don’t see a way to resolve the situation
- There’s no solution to work-life balance, or you have a dysfunctional work-life balance
If you decide to quit your job, be sure to do so in a professional manner. Be polite and respectful when you hand in your notice and be prepared to explain your reasons for leaving. It’s also important to have another job lined up before you quit, if possible. This will help ease the financial burden and provide some stability during this transition period.
Think About Your Future
While it’s important to take care of your mental and physical health, it’s also important to think about your future. If you’re considering taking stress leave from work, ask yourself if it’s something that you can see yourself doing long-term. For instance, if you have a family or other responsibilities that you can’t afford to take time off from, taking an extended leave of absence might not be the best option for you.
On the other hand, if you’re struggling to cope with your stress and you don’t see your situation improving, consider a new job. If you’re feeling burnt out, overworked, and underappreciated, it might be time to move on.
Don’t be afraid to speak with your employer about your stress levels. They might be able to offer you a new position or different hours that would help you manage your stress. If they’re not willing to work with you, it might be time to look for a new job.
Consider Your Job and Find the Best Solution
Taking time off from work to focus on your mental health is a personal decision. If you’re considering taking leave, it’s important to weigh your options and decide what’s best for you. Consider speaking with your employer about your options and take advantage of state and federal leave laws. You might also be entitled to workers’ compensation if you suffered a traumatic event. In either case, decide which of these solutions can help you achieve an optimal work-life balance.
Call Clear Behavioral Health today to learn more about our mental health treatment program for work-related stress and burnout.