More and more companies are offering their employees time off for their mental health, but is it realistic to expect all small businesses to provide this perk?

January is known for being a month when our motivation and positivity suffers. After the excitement and celebrations of the festive period, it can be a shock to the system to get back to work and normality. On top of that, the days are dull and the weather’s cold, all of which can come together to leave us feeling pretty blue.

With mental health awareness on the rise, a growing number of businesses are aiming to take action to improve the mental and emotional wellbeing of their employees, even going so far as to introduce a new kind of annual leave.

This is the case for Xero, an online accounting business which introduced ‘wellbeing leave’ into their business in October 2018. Other businesses, like the property firm Lendlease, introduced wellbeing leave back in 2015 and have seen employee engagement and retention increase as a result.

But what exactly is ‘wellbeing leave’, and should it be a perk considered by every business?

 

What is wellbeing leave and how does it work?

Simply put, wellbeing leave is an allotted number of days that an employee can take in order to look after their mental health. Xero, for example, offers their employees three days of wellbeing leave a year.

Chief customer and people officer at Xero, Rachel Powell, described the policy in greater detail, saying: “It’s been long assumed that being sick is physical, but our version is that it could be physical, or mental, or spiritual or emotional. Whether it’s just been a full-on week, of if our staff are struggling with anxiety or depression and can’t face the day, we want to empower them to take the time to recharge and recover.

“To put it simply, we don’t want people to feel like they have to come to work when they aren’t in the right state to be here.”

At Xero, wellbeing leave is offered in addition to annual leave and has replaced existing sick leave. Unlike normal sick leave, however, staff are encouraged to engage in whatever activities will boost their mental state, be it a spa day, a catch up with friends or a trip to the cinema.

 

How do wellbeing days translate to small businesses?

In bigger companies with greater resources, it may be easier to introduce perks like wellbeing leave, but it can be more of a challenge for small businesses where these resources are much tighter.

This is a view expressed by David Grimes, CEO of a tech scale-up called Sorted. He says that “small businesses may struggle to resource accordingly when staff take days off at the last minute.”

However, Grimes also notes that “benefits and perks such as these are a huge factor in attracting top talent in the industry.”

It’s well known that company perks keep staff in businesses longer, and data from CV Library reveals that 37.3% of employees see extra holiday as the most desirable perk.

Sorted offers employees 40 paid days off a year, including two ‘duvet days’. As long as employees let their manager know before 9am on the day and the time off doesn’t clash with any key projects, they can stay home.

When asked about the issues of his duvet days policy, Grimes said: “There haven’t been any challenges so far, touch wood!”

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