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Your team members are individuals that have their own stories, life circumstances, family situations, desires and ambitions, and the list goes on.
Consequently, it can be a challenge to try and cover all aspects of your employee’s needs when creating your time off policy. For that reason, it helps to have a few catch-all categories of leave types that can cover a range of time off requests.
One of those leave types is personal time off – also referred to as personal days.
In this article, we will discuss what is a personal day, how it is different from sick days and vacation days, and if you should include it in your leave policy.
If you’re an employee, we will also cover how to ask for a personal day and how to make the most of it if your request is approved.
Personal day is a leave type that you can choose to offer your employees, in addition to sick leave and vacation days.
A personal leave can be either paid or unpaid, depending on your company’s time off policy.
Your employees can take a personal day when they need some time off, but the leave type doesn’t fit into the categories of sick days or vacation days.
At first glance, it could seem like there are some overlaps between personal days and sick days/vacation days.
But personal leave is usually less specific. There could be times when you need to take days off for reasons that don’t fit under the definitions of sick days or vacation days.
For example, moving, family emergencies and medical issues, or burnout/stress.
Usually, in these types of situations, you can approve time off requests under the personal leave type.
Let’s take a look at the differences.
Sick days have a very specific purpose. It’s for your employees to recover from illness or injury.
But there could be health-related situations that don’t fall under sick days. For example, an appointment with a doctor or a dentist.
Personal leave could also include mental health days to avoid employee burnout. You want your team members to be performing at their best, and sometimes a little time away from work can do wonders for their morale, enthusiasm, and productivity.
Similar to sick days, there will be situations when your employees need time off, but not for a vacation.
It could be that they need to move apartments, fix their car, go talk to their accountant, or meet with their children’s teachers at school.
But it is fairly common in many companies for employees to use sick days, vacation days, and personal leave days interchangeably. For example, they might make use of their personal leave if sick days or vacation days don’t cover adequate time.
You’re not legally required to provide personal days off in the United States.
Federally, the U.S. does not require you to provide any type of paid leave to your employees. But there are some states that mandate that you allow a certain number of paid sick days, family leave, etc.
For unpaid time off, if you employ more than 50 people, you might qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and you’ll need to provide unpaid time off to eligible employees for maternity and paternity leaves.
Personal leave days allow your employees more flexibility when requesting time off.
The last thing you want is your employees to be stressed out about a variety of different things when they’re at work. It will affect their focus and productivity, which could ultimately impact your products or services.
For example, maybe your team member has a child who is not doing well at school, and she needs to go see the teacher. Or it could be that someone needs to fix their car, but they can’t because they have to use it to go to work every day.
Sometimes, your team members just feel burned out, and they need a day to relax and unwind.
Whatever the reason might be, allowing personal leave lets your employees take care of the things they need to attend to. It lets them reduce stress and distractions which means greater focus and performance at work.
If you’re an employee, then it is beneficial for both you and your employer that you recognize the signs of burnout, and take a personal leave when necessary.
When things start getting a bit overwhelming, your productivity and performance can suffer, and it is in everyone’s best interest that you take some time to recharge and refresh.
But how do you know when you need a personal day? Here are a few signs of employee burnout that you should watch out for.
If you notice that you’re experiencing multiple of these signs of employee burnout, then it might be a good time for you to request a personal leave and give your brain and body a rest.
For many of us, it can be a bit uncomfortable to ask for a personal day off, especially if it is related to stress or mental health.
But know that there is no reason for you to feel hesitant when asking for a mental health day if you notice that you’re feeling a bit burned out.
Feeling burned out is not only detrimental to you, but it is also not in your employer’s best interest if you’re not performing at your best.
The best thing for both of you is that you take a little time off, recharge your batteries, and return to work with a fresh perspective and full of energy.
When asking for a personal day off, consider your company culture.
Does your company make mental health and emotional wellbeing a priority? Is it something that is often openly discussed?
If you get the general sense that your boss of manager would encourage mental health days, then just go ahead and make a request for a personal day off and state that you need to rest because you’re feeling burned out.
Otherwise, if you feel like you work in a more traditional type of workplace where the topics of stress and burnout aren’t commonly discussed, then you can frame your request in a different way.
You can suggest that your productivity is not at the highest level where you’d like it to be, and a couple of days off would help you recharge so you can come back fresh and knock it off the park.
Be sure that you’re familiar with your company’s time off policy when requesting leave. Things like does your company offer personal days, how you should request leave, what information you need to include, etc.
When you get a personal leave approved, the way to make the most of it is to remember why you requested one in the first place.
What is your ideal outcome when the personal leave is over?
Is it a specific task or an errand that needs to be completed? Like fixing your car, catching up on what’s happening with your children at school, or consulting with your accountant?
Or is it that you need to recharge because you’re feeling burned out.
If it is the latter, then here are a few things to consider to make the most out of your personal leave.
That means really checking out of work. Turn off Slack notifications, email notifications, or any other work-related updates.
For many of us, the mere thought of this can induce anxiety. But remember that your employer approved your time off request, and they’re well aware that you’re away.
In fact, if possible, it might be even better if you can go one step further and minimize screen time as much as possible during your personal leave.
Ok, now that you’ve turned off all your notifications and you’ve stepped away from your screens, how do you actually fill the time during your personal leave?
Depending on your personality, the best thing for you to do might be nothing at all. Just give your mind some time to switch off and rest.
Maybe you can meditate if you’re into mindfulness. Otherwise, walks in nature, visiting your favorite cafe or restaurant with a book or podcast, or just spending time with your friends/family can do the trick.
For others, this could be a good time to reflect upon your achievements. What have you learned? What projects have you completed? How has the company directly benefited from your efforts?
Auditing your accomplishments can give you greater confidence and satisfaction, which will carry over to better performance at work when you return.
Finally, set some goals for the future. It doesn’t have to be all work-related, although you should define where you want to be in your career at certain points in the future.
Your goals can also include relationship goals, health and fitness goals, or new skills you want to acquire.
And for each goal, define at least what is going to be the first step towards reaching it.
Setting some goals and defining action steps will give you a new sense of purpose which will improve your outlook on all aspects of life, including your performance at work.
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As an employer or HR manager, you should consider adding personal time off to your company’s leave policy to cover any employee leave types that don’t fall under sick days or vacation days.
Your employees might need time off to avoid burnout, take care of official matters, for family obligations, or a variety of other reasons that you can approve under the personal leave category.
If you’re an employee, remember that there is no reason to be uncomfortable if you need a personal leave for mental health.
It is perfectly normal and beneficial, for both you and your employer, if you take a little time to recharge your batteries and return to work as your productive best self.