5 Helpful Ways To Take Time off Work for Stress (Plus Tips)

Updated August 31, 2023

During your career, you may experience an increase in stress levels for work or personal-related reasons. Taking time off from work for stress offers an opportunity to prioritize and manage your mental and physical health. Understanding how to determine your eligibility for an extended leave and the individuals to contact for submitting your request is essential to know before scheduling your time off.

In this article, we discuss how to take time off work for stress, including defining a stress leave, explaining its importance and listing five steps to schedule your leave properly.

What is a stress leave from work?

A stress leave from work is when an individual requests an extended absence from work due to stress. During their leave, an individual can recover from the physical and mental effects stress causes the body while also working on strategies to help them reduce several stress factors in their life, requiring you to take a leave of absence from work, including enduring challenges at work daily and experiencing life stresses, such as family challenges.

Generally, a company can provide you with about 12 weeks of unpaid leave or paid time off based on company policies without experiencing the threat of losing your job. A stress leave can provide time to help yourself heal and return to work with improved productivity.

Related: Stressed About Work: 16 Tips To Manage Work-Related Stress

Why is taking time off work for stress important?

There are several benefits to taking a break from work to address stress, especially when you can leave the environment. Temporarily leaving the space causing stress can help to heal your mind and prepare you for your return. Taking time off work can allow you to address the causes of your stress and recover from it before it affects your work performance or personal relationships. On your break, you can rest, which helps ease the stress cycle.

Here are some benefits you may experience during your stress leave:

Focusing on life outside of work

Taking a leave from your job can allow you to redirect your attention to your personal life. You may decide to spend quality time with your family members and friends or practice your favorite hobbies or passions. Returning to aspects of your life you love outside work may improve your focus later. Learning how to incorporate your hobbies and quality time with your loved ones in your life when you return to your role may help you achieve an improved work-life balance. Make it a priority to have a work-life balance because it can help reduce stress at work.

Related: How To Achieve a Healthy Work-Life Balance With 8 Simple Tips

Resting and refocusing

With time off from work, you can recuperate from your job demands. For example, if you recently completed an extensive work project that controlled much of your time or worked for a lengthy period without a break, enjoying a leave can help you relax and improve your work performance. You can rest during your time off, ensuring you have the energy to perform well at your job once you return.

Related: Mental Focus: 10 Ways To Improve Your Concentration

Avoiding burnout

Work burnout can affect your job performance. Burnout is a constant, negative emotion you may feel by overexerting yourself at work without taking breaks or enjoying your passions outside work. If you're feeling overwhelmed, taking a leave from work can allow you to relax and detach from your work responsibilities. You can build a healthy mindset, enabling you to approach work more efficiently and avoid overexerting yourself. Here are a few tips to help yourself avoid burnout:

  • Incorporate exercise into your lifestyle.

  • Learn how to manage your time effectively and efficiently.

  • Create boundaries with individuals in work and personal life.

  • Delegate your tasks where you can, such as hiring a virtual personal assistant or giving assignments to team members.

Related: Tips for Overcoming Burnout (Plus Definition and Stages)

How to take time off work for stress

Here are five steps you can use to learn how to take time off work for stress:

1. Review the company policy

Before you submit a time-off request to your managers, it's essential to understand the employee leave regulations your job enforces. Employers typically explain guidelines in their employee handbook. Here are factors you can consider when studying the manual:

  • Your available paid time off (PTO): Employers may offer vacation days on an accrual basis, which means you can accumulate vacation time after working at a company for a designated period. For example, if you're a new employee, you may be eligible for PTO at the end of a 90-day probationary period.

  • Company policy for vacation days: Your PTO adheres to specific guidelines depending on your employer. For instance, your employer may allow you to use only two vacation days consecutively, so if you need more time off, you may request those days for another time.

  • Employer guidelines for sick leave: Know the company guidelines if you plan to use your paid sick days to take time off. For example, your employer may expect you to have specific documentation from a physician to qualify to use your sick days consecutively.

Related: 21 Key HR Policies, Procedures and Forms

2. Study your state and federal laws

Understanding your state and federal legislation regarding employee rights can help you determine your options for taking a work stress leave. For example, The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may permit employees to take unpaid leave from work for up to 12 weeks for specific family and medical reasons, such as:

  • Tending to loved ones with an illness or one injured during active duty

  • Recovering from a significant health condition

  • Spending time with a newborn

To qualify for the FMLA, they require you to have worked for at least a year at an organization with at least 50 employees. Additionally, you're required to work within 75 miles of one another and to have worked 1,250 hours at your job before you request time off. The FMLA covers time off for stress-related reasons if your health condition is chronic or requires overnight hospitalization. Study your state law because it may have more extensive regulations than the FMLA, allowing you to request time off even if you don't satisfy the FMLA's requirements.

Related: 5 Tips To Help Balance Work and Family Life

3. Consider your options

Once you understand your employer's guidelines for PTO, think about how much time you may need away from your job. Consider the time of year you're reserving time off, which can influence your manager's approval. For example, if you work in a store selling winter gear and plan to reserve time off during the summer months, your manager may approve it because the business may be slower.

If PTO and sick leave are unavailable to you, consider taking unpaid leave from work. Review your budget to help decide if unpaid time off is possible for your lifestyle. The extent of your financial resources may influence how much time you request.

Related: Paid and Unpaid Leave of Absence: Definition and Examples

4. Get a doctor's note

If you're requesting to take paid sick leave or time off under the FMLA, your employer may require you to visit your doctor to get a note. Talk to your manager or consult your employee handbook to determine the requirements. During your physician visit, ask the doctor to write a note for you to provide to your manager. Additionally, you may find it helpful to ask the doctor about strategies for managing your stress once you're on your break. Additionally, the doctor may provide stress coping mechanisms once you return to the office.

Related: Doctor's Note for Work: What It Is and When You Need One

5. Meet with a human resources representative

The last step in taking time off work for stress is submitting your leave request. Reach out to your human resources department to learn more about the company's policies or your eligibility for time off under the FMLA. When you submit your request, consider following these practices:

  • Provide enough notice. Requesting time off at least 30 days before your leave can allow your employer to prepare for your absence and approve your days. The company may also enforce rules about when to give notice, making it imperative to pay attention when creating your plans.

  • Define how much time you need. To approve your time off request, managers may require you to define how much time you're requesting, so state when you plan to start and return from your leave.

  • State your reasons for time off. Being transparent about your reason for time off can help you start conversations about work-related stress. For example, if you feel overwhelmed by the demands of your job, work with your employer to explore ways to improve the workplace environment and promote healthy work habits.

  • Discuss alternatives. Alternatives to taking time off for stress may entail working remotely if possible, enabling you to work in other environments more comfortably. You may also work with your manager to find alternatives or additions to make in your workplace to reduce your stress.

This article is for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Consult with an attorney for any legal issues you may be experiencing.

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