Why ‘Well-Being’ Days Aren’t The Solution to Burnout

A new workplace trend has the right idea but falls short of a fix.

Ever just needed a day? To sleep in, read a book, do laundry, not respond to a thousand emails? You probably have but you called in sick instead of telling your boss you were taking what many call a “mental health day.” In the UK, there’s an effort going on to de-stigmatize these types of days, and while it’s a step in the right direction, it’s got a ways to go to help end the silence around burnout.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

A white paper issued by the UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research on Wednesday highlights the growing trend of employers offering “well-being days,” days off from work that can be taken on very short notice or even the day of, designed to give overwhelmed employees a break. It’s great to call these days what they are — you’re not on vacation, you’re not sick, you’re putting your well-being first. No one should feel the need to lie about needing a little time to collect themselves or recover from a particularly long workweek.

Here’s the problem though: If you’re so stressed that you can’t stomach the idea of going to work, one day off won’t magically fix the problem. You’re likely to fall back into the same unhealthy and stress-inducing patterns that led you to need that day in the first place, especially if you haven’t discussed solutions with your boss.

The smart choice is to think of well-being as a marathon, not a sprint. We should prioritize it every day rather than working ourselves to exhaustion because there’s a day off at the end of the tunnel. That means getting enough sleep so you feel ready to take on whatever challenges are in store, practicing self-care, and setting boundaries with work. Stressful days are inevitable, but they’ll be less likely leave you stuck under your covers in the morning if taking care of yourself is always at the top of your to-do list.

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