If you are feeling feverish or physically unwell, it will be common to file for a medical leave from work. But, what about when you just got heartbroken? Taking time off for medical reasons is totally acceptable in the workplace, but there is frequently limited corporate tolerance when it comes to job disturbance as a result of divorce, breakup, or simply general relationship upheaval. Whether you are experiencing one or you are an HR manager seeking to improve your company’s policy regarding this issue, here is what you need to know about heartbreak and employee wellbeing.
A breakup is similar to a bereavement; it is a loss. According to research, human brains detect grief in the same manner that they process physical pain. In severe situations, the emotional stress of a breakup can result in broken heart syndrome, which impairs the heart’s capacity to pump blood throughout the body. Olivia James, a trauma therapist, added that people’s ability to deal with stress and conflict is often weaker. During intense heartbreak, an employee may cry at the smallest thing or snap at a colleague or a client. Heather Gatley, AlphaStaff’s human resources manager, says she’s noticed that more organizations allow personal time off (PTO)—to be used for whatever reason, no explanation needed in lieu of sick days or vacation time.
From the HR’s Perspective
Employee mental health has become one of the most prioritized aspects of company policy nowadays, but the reality is not always pretty. Some HR managers are nosy enough to bombard employees who file for ‘sudden’ leave with the question of why. This makes employees reluctant to take some days off when they may need it the most. Some also fear that they will be seen as “unprofessional” if they take some time off from work because they just broke up.
As an HR manager, you should not ask too much when an employee requests some days off suddenly, especially if it is a one-time thing. In fact, it is better to remind your employees that as long as their annual days off are still available, they can take it for whatever personal reason they have. Without having to ask, you can also give reassurance that no personal reason is ever too trivial or much less significant than health reasons. Treat this the same way as how you treat working parents who ask for days off because their kids have art performances at school. If you keep this encouragement around, your employees will trust you and your company even more, since they feel validated for their personal wellbeing and not just professional work.
How to Not Risk Your Career
If you are currently experiencing heartbreak, remember that your feelings are valid. It might be difficult to get out of your bed because you are too sad to do so, despite not really feeling any visible physical pain. When you need to take time off for personal reasons, be honest with your manager, but not too specific. Give your manager a timetable for your return to work, which should be within 1-3 days. Some people practice the mechanism of “putting off your sadness until the weekend comes”, meaning that you allow yourself to indulge in sadness as much as you want once your workweek is over. One way to do this is by keeping yourself busy, or busier than usual so that you can get “professionally” distracted from your heartbreak. Other than this minimizes the risk of losing your focus on work, this may make you realize that you are a grown-up who can remain responsible even during sorrowful days of your personal life. Of course, this is not an easy thing to do, so take your time to get used to it.
While it is important to do your part as a professional employee, you need to also remember that your state of mind matters for your productivity. Taking the time and space you need can be an essential part of recovering from a major heartbreak. HR and managers should also take this into account and not invalidate ‘going through a heartbreak’ as employees’ excuse to take some of their annual leave. Remember that as much as you are hurt, life goes on and you surely do not want to sacrifice your career because of a heartbreak. Take your time and get back up soon!