This employee needed time off for her mental health. This is how her CEO responded

Charlie Benson
Content Marketing Executive

We've made a lot of progress in reducing the stigma around mental health. But would you feel comfortable talking to your boss and co-workers about it?

Recent research shows seven out of 10 of us will go to work even when we're ill, with Glassdoor reporting that one in four UK employees say they're actually too afraid to take time off for illness. 

Meanwhile, the Mental Health Foundation estimates that mixed anxiety and depression, the most common mental disorder in Britain, accounts for one fifth of days lost from work in the UK.

With a culture in which many workers feel pressure to maintain 100% attendance, many end up feeling unable to take the time off they need for illness, or to be open about their reasons for taking that time off. 


That's what makes Madalyn Parker, a web developer and engineer at Olark Live Chat, so inspiring. Madalyn describes herself as a "mental health advocate" and, recently, she needed some time off work to focus on her mental health. 

Rather than trying to work when she wasn't well, or taking the time off but hiding the reason why, Madalyn openly emailed her team explaining the reason for her absence. Now her email, and her CEO's response to it, has resonated with many. 



Madalyn shared the exchange on Twitter, writing: "When the CEO responds to your out of office email about taking sick leave for mental health and reaffirms your decision."


Screenshot via Twitter / @madalynrose


In her email, Madalyn writes: "I'm taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. 

"Hopefully I'll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%". 


Olark's CEO, Ben Congleton, picked up on the message responded by thanking Madalyn for her openness. 

He told Madalyn, "I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this. 

"Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health - I can't believe this is not standard practice at all organizations.

"You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work."



Madalyn's story, and her CEO's incredible response, quickly went viral on Twitter. 

Her original tweet has over 13,000 retweets and over 40,000 likes at the time of writing. People shared their messages of support and their own stories of dealing with mental health in the workplace. 










Now, in a Medium post, Ben Congleton has written about the importance of discussing mental health in the workplace, and why he thinks the exchange received such an overwhelming response across social media. 

He said he "wasn't expecting the exposure," but he's "so glad" for the impact his email has had. 

"It is incredibly hard to be honest about mental health in the typical workplace. In situations like this, it is so easy to tell your teammates you are 'not feeling well.'" 

He continued, "It's 2017. I cannot believe that it is still controversial to speak about mental health in the workplace... When an athlete is injured they sit on the bench and recover. Let’s get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different."

You can read his essay in full here