Should all workers get 'unhappiness leave'? Experts think so.

Our workplaces are constantly changing. We have better processes, new work spaces, innovative leaders and more.

Our thoughts on the nature of work have transformed too. No longer are we willing to put up with a work environment that leaves us often feeling stressed, overwhelmed and burnt out. Now the big focus for employees is (okay, it's mainly still wage rises but also) wellbeing.

A four-day work week has been trialled. Now 'unhappiness leave' is all anyone is talking about.

Sally McKibbin is Indeed's Career Expert. Speaking with Mamamia, she said she is all for companies looking into whether they can offer unhappiness leave for their workforce. 

"It's simply a new way of acknowledging that sometimes people need an unplanned, short break from work. We've previously known these days more generally as 'mental health days', 'duvet days' or 'personal days', and this is another way to reference them," she notes.

"Increasingly employers are introducing leave policies that enable workers to step away from their desks for a day or two and address personal concerns. Our work and personal lives are inextricably linked and there is an emotional toll in navigating the tightrope between the two. Any leave policy that removes the stigma associated with taking additional time off is a positive thing."

Watch: what is the real value of unpaid work? Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia/YouTube.

Data from Indeed shows that 68 per cent of Aussie workers say they are happy at work most of the time; in fact, Australian workers are some of the happiest in the world. 

But, in actuality, less than 23 per cent of workers are "thriving".

McKibbin says this data is far more important to focus on, as thriving takes a more holistic view of a person's overall wellbeing at work. 

"Many workers are experiencing mental health challenges in tandem to working in a job they largely enjoy. Nearly half of all workers say they have experienced stress and burnout in their current job, with a further 40 per cent experiencing anxiety. As they say, two things can be true at once: 'I love my job, and I'm also struggling with my mental health.'"

So are employers taking the mental wellbeing of their employees seriously? Most are, fortunately, in recent years. But improvements can always be made.

As McKibbin adds: "Happy workers are also good for business. They are more productive, creative, engaged and loyal, all of which contribute to personal fulfillment and organisational success. Offering an ad hoc day out of the office to boost wellbeing and support mental health can only be a good thing for everyone."

Carly Dober is a psychologist and the Director at the Australian Association of Psychologists Incorporated. For more than 12 years she's been working in the mental health space.


Speaking with Mamamia, she says that the consequences of burnout can be disastrous for a person's mental and physical health.

"Our mood and mental health can be impacted by zapping us of our energy, feeling exhausted, feeling jaded and cynical, also resulting in us sleeping far too much or too little," she notes.

"Burnout is synonymous with a lower mood than usual, and we can start to feel sluggish and isolate ourselves from friends and family. People who experience burnout will often stop engaging in activities that they find fun or meaningful, and it can take an awfully long time to recover from burnout."

Simply put — burnout isn't great, try to avoid it if you can. That's the takeaway message for employers too.

Dober says that businesses and employers are likely starting to understand how expensive it is for them to not invest in the health and wellbeing of their employees.

This is especially the case when it comes to workers from the younger generations. This cohort of contemporary employees is more likely to leave and seek better employment, as they don't feel as strong of an allegiance to their workplace like previous generations.

"From high turnover and wasting of resources hiring people frequently, it makes economic sense for them to retain people. Happy employees also tend to be more productive at work, and genuinely enjoy parts of their work and the relationships they can build in the workplace. Employees are healthier when their workplaces are healthier, and are unwell when their workplaces or employers are unhealthy or unhelpful to their wellbeing."


With these points in mind, Dober tells Mamamia she, like Sally McKibbin, is also a big fan of companies and organisations including unhappiness leave in their offerings. 

"I think the inclusion of unhappiness leave would allow more employees to be transparent about why they might need some time away from work. There is the expectation that when you go to work you 'leave your sh*t at the door'. But this is not always realistic," she says.

"To be able to take a bit of time away from work that didn't eat into any annual or personal leave to focus on whatever needs attending to mentally would be very freeing for so many people."

Is unhappiness leave completely feasible for every organisation and industry? No.

But is it socially and culturally appropriate for businesses and employers to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of their employees? Absolutely. 

As McKibbin added, it's important for all employers regardless to think about how they can better support employees who may be dealing with something difficult. And unhappiness leave could just be the silver bullet. 

What do you think about unhappiness leave? Share with us in the comments below.

Feature Image: Canva. 

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