When Madalyn Parker wrote to her colleagues she needed to take a couple of days off to focus on her “mental health,” she was shocked by the response she received from the company’s CEO.
Parker tweeted an email she wrote to her teammates at Michigan-based Olark Live Chat last month saying “I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health.”
“Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%,” the email read.
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Soon after, the company’s CEO, Ben Congleton, replied thanking her for her honesty in such an email.
“I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this,” Congleton wrote. “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.”
Parker later tweeted out Congleton’s response to her email, saying, “When the CEO responds to your out of office email about taking sick leave for mental health and reaffirms your decision.”
The tweet garnered plenty of attention on Twitter, with at least 16,000 retweets, 500 replies and 44,000 favorites.
In a blog post, Congleton wrote that he wasn’t expecting such exposure but “I am so glad I was able to have such a positive impact on so many people.”
“It is incredibly hard to be honest about mental health in the typical workplace,” Congleton wrote. “In situations like this, it is so easy to tell your teammates you are “not feeling well.” Even in the safest environment it is still uncommon to be direct with your coworkers about mental health issues. I wanted to call this out and express gratitude for Madalyn’s bravery in helping us normalize mental health as a normal health issue.”
Congleton said seeing the response to his email following Parker’s tweet proved that his stance on mental health in the workplace is “unconventional, to say the least.”
Many replied to the tweet saying their jobs have been threatened for taking sick leave over mental health and others wrote they simply must say they’re sick if they want the time off.
“I had a boss who LITERALLY told me he was going to fire me for having depression because it was ‘inconvenient,’” one user wrote.
Another wrote taking a mental health day is “not seen as a viable excuse for missing work” at her job.
“There were so many stories of people wishing they worked at a place where their CEO cared about their health, and so many people congratulating me on doing such a good thing. This should be business as usual,” Congleton wrote. “We have a lot of work to do.”