Why People with Mental Disorders should Work Less

Over the past year, I have seen articles circulating about the benefits and drawbacks of a shorter work week. I know a few people who work 4 days a week, 40 hours a week and are able to take off 1 day. They have shared the benefits of having that 1 day off a week. They have more time to do things they enjoy, take care of their families, and simply relax.

What if people with mental disorders who are in the workforce could skip the 40 hour a week standard and work less hours?

What if people with mental disorders who are in the workforce could skip the 40 hour a week standard and work less hours? Work itself can be fulfilling by having the opportunity to build your skills and be productive. But let’s be real, it can also be a pain. Especially if you are working in a stressful environment. I have witnessed in my personal life and in the lives of other people living with mental disorders, that working 40 hours or more a week can add stressors that increase mental health symptoms. There are also people that experience the onset of symptoms because of work itself.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness says that 100 billion dollars a year are lost in productivity of people who have mental health problems. That could be attributable to a few things such as health care appointments and securing quality care. I believe that another cause of that is America has a workforce culture that does not value mental wellness or understand the impact of living with a mental disorder while trying to work under challenging conditions. Even if you are struggling with a mental disorder, people can be reluctant to take advantage of benefits such as Reasonable Accommodations and Employee Assistance Programs because of the stigma of employers knowing that they struggle with their mental wellness — and frankly they might not care because productivity comes first.

People who are struggling with mental disorders or maintaining mental wellness should be able to work a maximum of 25 hours a week and still get paid the same as 40 hours a week.

People who are struggling with mental disorders or maintaining mental wellness should be able to work a maximum of 25 hours a week and still get paid the same as 40 hours a week. That may seem far fetched for some people, but it makes so much sense. First, health care appointments can take a significant chunk of time and energy out of your week. For myself, keeping up with therapy, psychiatry, and doctor’s appointments, on average takes 5 hours out of my work week. Then when you add the time that is needed to do self-management and self-care to even feel mentally well, it can take an additional 2 hours a day. Taking medication, exercising, meditating, and other self-management practices are necessary and should not be penciled in.

Getting enough sleep is imperative too. For people struggling with their mental well-being, getting less sleep can increase symptoms and make it more challenging to do daily activities. Lastly, this on-the-go culture of working endlessly throughout the day takes time away from doing things that people enjoy that could enhance their mental well-being. The strengths that people with mental disorders have are not being cultivated and used less because so much time and energy is being redirected to working and doing things that don’t enhance their lives.

Working less can produce better outcomes for everyone- especially those struggling with mental disorders. Productivity for people with mental disorders should mean producing the life that improves their mental well-being- not producing large amounts of work that can take years off their lives.

Camesha L. Jones is the Founder and Mental Wellness Director of Sista Afya. She has lived with Bipolar disorder for over 3 years and was able to overcome many challenges to achieve optimal mental wellness. Camesha created Sista Afya to help other Black women experiencing mental health challenges to get the information, community support, and the connection to resources necessary to be mentally well. She is a radical Social Worker with an A.M. in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago and a B.A in Sociology from Spelman College. She focuses on clinical and systems change in mental health and interpersonal violence prevention in African- American communities.

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