Wellness Day-offs To Prevent COVID-induced Burnout

Employee burnout is a problem every organization has to deal with. The constant pressure in the workplace due to the pandemic is leading to stress, anxiety, and depression in many employees. To offset these undesirable consequences and maintain high-level productivity, organizations are providing wellness day-offs for their employees.

What are employee wellbeing days?

Employee wellbeing days or wellness day-offs refer to periods of freedom where employees can stay away from work. Organizations use designated time-off to allow employees to recharge themselves. So, when they come back, they are well-rested, physically, and mentally re-energized, and motivated to work.

Wellness day-offs have become conventional among organizations over the years. For a long time, the ideal workplace was an environment where employees get overworked and feel overwhelmed with stress. People even almost celebrated this notion of the workplace. However, with studies showing how work-related stress affects the mental health of employees and leads to under-productivity, organizations have sought to create a less stressful work environment.

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Employees work less productively when overburdened. This situation is so because in an attempt to meet up they push themselves too hard. When this happens, most of the work they do is rushed and mediocre. This kind of exertion can lead to a feeling of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. According to a study conducted by the Health and Safety Executive, this phenomenon led to the loss of over half of all working days in the UK.

Many studies have ascertained the benefits of wellbeing days on the mental health of employees and their effects on productivity. One such study carried out among adults shows a link between physical activity and cognitive benefits like memory and focus. It went to prove that employees who had participated in an employee health and wellness program regained an average of 10.3 hours of additional productivity annually. These employees also saved their company lots of money in terms of productivity costs compared to non-participants.

There’s another study conducted among companies to show how the healthiness of workers, both physically and mentally, can reduce healthcare costs for employers. The study found that the total medical spending of a company with an employee health and wellness program grew slower in health costs than in companies without one. Employee wellness day-offs help members of staff stay healthy and active. For employers, this is good because active employees incur fewer health costs. As such, employers can pass a small percentage of the health costs onto their employees.

However, despite the benefits that come with allowing employees to take some wellbeing days, some employers believe it’s detrimental to productivity. In light of this, a report published by Forbes reveals that there’s a connection between working fewer hours and productivity. Based on these findings, because employees are working fewer hours, they tend to focus on working smarter, not longer.

When it comes to wellness day-offs, there are no losers. However, companies must be deliberate and cautious in using employee wellbeing days to improve productivity. Organizations must grant the right number of designated time-off to employees. They can allow employees to take wellness day-offs one-day every three months or use paid time-off. Nevertheless, employee wellness days’ policies must be revised to suit every organization’s needs.

Wellness day-offs and COVID-19

Due to the pandemic, many employees have been through a rough patch. The build-up of anxiety regarding the future of their jobs put many in unproductive mental health situations. In light of this, many organizations have put together programs to improve the mental wellbeing of their workers. However, with employees working from remote locations, the tendency to get overworked and stressed is high.

Having an employee who works without designated time-off is as good as having no employee at all. Companies are aware of the consequences and that is why some of the biggest companies in the country are giving employees wellness day-offs or actively encouraging them to take casual leaves. At least one-fourth of large-to-medium-sized firms across sectors are adopting wellness day-offs policy tweaks. And this trend is expected to increase in the next coming months.

Some of the companies that have adopted this practice include Nestle India, Mondelez India, L’Oreal India, Hindustan Unilever, GSK Consumer Healthcare, and Godrej Group. This list also includes multinational technology co-operations like Google and Twitter. Also, not leaving out new economy companies like Freshworks, PayU India, Springworks, Flipkart, Mobile Premier League, and Khatabook. Knowing full well that employees cannot indulge in leisurely travel during this period, companies are using this employee wellness day policy to encourage and ensure that employees take a much-needed break from non-stop duties.

Another reason for the adoption of this unprecedented practice by companies is that, generally, corporate India doesn’t take many wellbeing days. But the pandemic has worsened the situation. Out of fear of job security, employees now go the extra mile by always staying online to be available to contribute at work. As noted by some HR consultants, this is visible by the drop in the number of employees that take casual leaves for three days or more before COVID-19 – 50 to 60 percent.

Through the collection and analysis of employee work-duration data, companies have realized that the remote-working situation is making their employees work longer hours. And they do all this without taking any employee wellbeing day or vacation. They realize people are wary of taking designated time-off out of fear of missing out or consequences in case someone stays away a lot. Some organizations report that only 7% of their employees have taken wellness day-offs since the lockdown. As such, organizations want their employees to take time out and relax.

With full awareness of the drawback of working without end, employee wellbeing is a top priority for employers, especially during this period. As such, most companies have designed strategies to ensure their employees stay away from work. Firms have gone at this using different approaches. Some have limited the number of wellness day-offs carried forward to the next year to 10. Other firms have instructed their employees to block a 5-day mandatory annual leave in the calendar year. Some firms have initiated campaigns to encourage their employees to do nothing.


  • Five reasons employee wellness is worth the investment | Alexandra Black||May 17, 2017
  • What are employee wellbeing days? | Phil Norton
  • Companies offer wellness day-offs to employees amid COVID-led burnout | Shephali Bhatt | September 12, 2020

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