Employee paid time off (PTO) is often seen as a luxury that only large companies have the funds to offer. However, recent studies indicate that time off and paid parental leave may be a huge boon to mental health in the long run.
A 2018 study from the American Institute of Stress found that paid paternity leave can reduce stress for new fathers. This supports an earlier 2011 study from the University of British Columbia, which found that men with longer paternity leaves had lower levels of depression. They also sported improved marital satisfaction and better psychological well-being than those who took shorter leaves.
Similarly, paid maternity leave has been linked to improved maternal mental health. A 2019 study from the University of California, Berkeley looked at mothers with paid maternity leave in Scandinavia and found that their mental health outcomes were substantially better than they were for mothers with no paid maternity leave or those with short paid leaves in the US. The researchers concluded that paid maternity leave can have a long-term effect on overall maternal mental health outcomes.
The benefits of PTO go beyond just helping parents adjust to parenthood or take a break from work after a stressful period. Studies have shown, and unsurprisingly at that, that taking regular vacations can improve overall quality of life and reduce burnout. In one study conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, researchers surveyed over 2 million adults across 11 countries and asked them about their work-life balance, quality of life, and general well-being. They discovered that those who regularly took a vacation reported higher levels of contentment than those who didn’t take any days off.
Studies have also shown that paid time off can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology looked at the benefits of paid vacation for working mothers and found a significant decrease in stress levels during paid vacations as compared to non-paid leave. In addition, another study from Harvard Business School found that employees who took more than 10 days off per year were less likely to suffer from burnout or depression than those who took fewer days off. These findings suggest that taking regular paid time off is crucial for long-term mental health, particularly among working parents.
Overall, there is evidence to suggest that paid time off does lead to better mental health outcomes for employees – if they have ample opportunity to take it. This could include anything from regular vacation days to unpaid parental leave – both parents should be given equal opportunities for leave, if possible – but also covers other activities, such as volunteering or simply taking some time out for self-care each week. By providing employees with more paid-time-off options, employers can show how much they value their workers’ well-being – both physically and mentally – while improving morale and enjoying an increase in loyalty in return.