It’s happening.

Zoom fatigue, the dog days of winter, being inside all the time, day 1,258,739 of the pandemic. We might be feeling okay physically, but there is no shortage of reasons why we might be feeling drained mentally.

If we’re not physically “sick” is it okay to take a sick day?

At Stryve we noticed our team was reluctant to take sick days for a few reasons.

First, sick days have a negative connotation. It can feel like there’s a perception of something being wrong with you when you’re “sick”. With everyone trying to look like a strong member of the team, taking a sick day can feel like a sign of weakness.

Secondly, we usually feel like being sick requires tangible symptoms like a headache or a fever. But our team didn’t feel right taking a sick day to nurse burnout because there were no tangible symptoms of sickness. It’s the same with other teams at other companies. Everyone resorts to “powering through”.

Rebranding “Sick Days” as “Wellness Days”

We all have days where we’re just not feeling it and we wanted the team to know that’s okay. While we encouraged the team to consider burnout and mental health when it came to sick days, something still wasn’t quite right.

Being a marketing company, of course, we thought to ourselves, are we ‘branding’ sick days in the right way? After a quick management meeting dedicated to a sick day rebrand, we landed on a new name. With great feedback from the rest of the team, “Wellness Days” were born.

So, what are Wellness Days? When someone is feeling off, whether it’s physically or mentally, they’re free to take a Wellness Day – a day to disconnect, recharge, and recuperate in a way that works for them.

We’re hoping this slight rebrand will do wonders in changing the perception of stepping away to regroup. We’re hoping it will turn something that has a negative connotation into something more positive. No, burnout isn’t a good thing, but taking the time to bounce back from it is.

Wait, won’t employees take advantage of this new system?

Just like Sick Days, our team gets unlimited Wellness Days.

We know our team works hard. We see it in the results of their work. So, we’re not worried about anyone taking anything for granted. Armed with unlimited paid sick days, we still had to write blogs reiterating that it was ok to take them.

That said, with Wellness Days being taken and tracked through our HR software, we’ll be able to monitor how often (or how little) they’re being used.

So, problem solved?

Not quite.

Our team has also published blogs like this one, speaking to their resistance to disconnecting during vacation. Whether it’s booked time off or sick days, Stryvers can’t seem to pull themselves away from email or Slack. There are so many ways we’re still connected to work even when we’re supposed to have the day off.

The problem is when everyone else at work, we can’t help notifications from popping up on our phones. More than ever, it’s hard to resist the urge to check in because lockdown has left us with fewer ways to occupy our time. Vacation days don’t feel like vacation when you have nowhere to go.

In light of this, we’ve started “Disco Fridays”, a paid day off on the last Friday of each month. Short for “disconnect”, Disco Fridays ensures no Slack or email notifications from coworkers, allowing everyone a chance to disconnect from their devices, screens, and email for the day. With everyone off at the same time, team members won’t feel like they’re missing out or falling behind. Research has shown that constantly feeling connected to our smartphones can cause anxiety, so we believe that a company-wide disconnect from devices will be a good thing when it comes to long-term productivity and mental health.

We’re in unprecedented times. As an employer, our policies need to respond to societal changes. Even if it means paying our employees to disconnect.

Read more: Remembering the P/PC Balance and the Golden Eggs