Nov 122011

I missed this on AM this morning, Must have been while I was drifting in & out of wakefulness, deciding whether I would take a ‘mental health day’ or not.

I didn’t because I actually like my workplace, despite the occasional arsehole I have to deal with. I’d be the very first at the front of the line to agree that there are some people – and aren’t there always those who will ruin something for the rest of us – who will blatantly take a ‘sickie’ because they jolly well feel like taking a ‘sickie’. As Gary Brack, chief executive of the Australian Federation of Employers and Industries, says in the article…

There is a bit of reputation in Australia about using a sickie simply as another avenue for having a good time or taking a day off or going to the beach. Obviously there are a lot of genuine people who take, who take sick leave as opposed to an illicit sickie to the extent that people take it off illicitly, obviously that reduces efficiency and raises the cost of running a business.

Yes, damn you, you slackers, you beachside dwellers. How dare you cheat The Man out of his pound of flesh. He IS entitled to flog you between the hours of start & knock-off and you just know he begrudges you that lunch break. Well….Gary Brack surely would anyway, judging from his attitude during this interview….

ADAM HARVEY: Is there the potential that a person who has taken a so-called mental health day is a more effective worker when they do come back to work? GARY BRACK: Well I think the term quote ‘mental health day’ unquote is really one of those things that is described elsewhere as a sickie, their ‘mental health day’ is spent at the beach.

….and that’s where I take offense. In my book, there is a radical difference between the ‘sickie’ and the genuine mental health day. Sick leave exists in awards for the benefit of workers, not as a concession by employers that illness – like shit – happens. As Brack states, the world is not a perfect place, just as the workplace is not perfectly healthy or perfect. Stress, despite what Brack and like-minded whip-wielders would have us all believe, is real, and a real threat to the employer who should be taking accurate note of the health and esprit de corp of their workplace. Happy, healthy and loyal employees are the most efficient, productive and profitable workers, and yet so many employers actively choose to ignore those aspects of good management practise. If people don’t like their boss, then it’s for a reason. In my own managerial sojourn, I made every effort to ensure that my people gave me feedback on my own performance, just as I would give them feedback on theirs. Good managers care what their people think. Bad managers hide from it.
The mental health day is a reality regardless of the manager’s performance, purely because people are all different. We all have our own psyche to deal with, we all like to be liked and be seen to be doing a good job. As one of those who used to care too much about what others thought, who always strove to outdo my previous performances, I can attest to what a driven psyche can do to a person. I was never one for taking a ‘sickie’ and the concept of the mental health day was entirely foreign to me. ‘why would I need a mental health day. I’m perfectly sane’ and so I was, but I was also Type-A-Executive stressed and eventually, that stress over-whelmed me. So accordingly, I avidly support the mental health day.
Mental health is yet another figment of the worker’s imagination, according to the likes of Gary Brack. Same as Repetitive Strain Injury or sick building syndrome. The latter two have physical outcomes. They can be quantified, while stress is unique to the individual and more often than not has no outward physical symptoms, except for the erroneously defined ‘nervous breakdown’ and by then, it’s too late. Too late for the employer and the employee.
So if you’re a stressed individual, if you drive yourself to greater achievements, or worse, your superiors drive you with less than encouraging ardour , never forget how many sick leave days you have at your disposal. Your mental health is far more important than the bosses profit. If you ever wake up in the morning and immediately fear getting out of bed because getting up means having to go to a workplace you can’t handle, then take that mental health day. If you ever wake up, and immediately fear going to work, curling yourself into a foetal position too afraid to even consider having a shower, cup of tea or coffee and listening to the morning news; if you ever…..EVER….. wonder if changing lanes into oncoming traffic would hurt much, take that mental health day and go see your doctor. Your life and your mental well-being are not worth wasting on worry, anxiety or wanting to end it all in a bid to escape. It happens. I know.

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