Job seekers

Job seekers seek employers to deal with mental health

As mental health awareness rises, job seekers are looking for more than standard sick and annual leave, new data shows.

A survey by job site SEEK shows that 57% would be more likely to apply for a job if they saw ‘doona days’ being offered to staff.

Separate from sick days and annual leave, doona days are generally paid days off that employees take to take care of their mental well-being.

Seek’s resident psychologist Sabina Read said the pandemic was a catalyst for people to talk about their struggles in the workplace.

“I think we’ve normalized and we understand that humans have a hard time,” she said.

“It does both employer and employee a disservice if we don’t recognize that sometimes we all do it hard, and we all need a break to reset ourselves.”

A report from Deloitte and Swinburne University of Technology released this week shows that 93% of workers surveyed believe that their physical, emotional and mental well-being at work is just as important as their salary.

But despite widespread interest in doona days, data from Seek shows that only 18% of survey respondents are offered doona days by their current employers.

Taking care of mental health, an “obvious”

Lyndall Spooner, founder and CEO of customer experience research firm Fifth Dimension, said it was “implicit” that job seekers needed doona days.

Although the company does not use this term, it offers unlimited mental health leave to its employees, who only have to text their boss when they want a day off and do not have need to provide reason.

Ms Spooner said she brought the policy because caring for workers’ mental health and preventing ‘mental injury’ was part of an employer’s duty of care.

“If you recognize [having a mental health issue]you are an incredibly strong person to be honest, because you put yourself out there,” she said.

Ms Read said trust between employers and employees was key to the success of these schemes – and Ms Spooner agreed.

Before the pandemic, a 2020 Productivity Commission mental health survey found Poor mental health in the workplace costs Australia up to $39 billion loss of participation and productivity.

Make the most of a doona day

Ms Read said that instead of spending the day in bed gorging on TV shows, workers should use their doona days to support and feed themselves.

“I think a doona day is about taking care of yourself,” she said.

“That can include a little extra sleep under the doona, but it can also include a walk, or laying down in the bath, or it can include… seeing someone who is going to be supportive, whether that’s support personal or professional,” she says.

Ms Spooner said an ‘old-fashioned’ view might be that people would milk days if given the chance, but she doesn’t think that applies to the majority of workers.

Seek data shows that 56% of workers take the doona days that are offered to them.

“So there are really only upsides for companies and employers who offer this, and downsides if you don’t,” Ms. Spooner said.

“It doesn’t sound like you’re a modern workplace if you don’t take these things into account and don’t support more of the people who make your business successful.”