What Is Stress Leave & How Can You Request It? | Hive (2023)

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Stress is inevitable, no matter how well you balance work and your personal life. Studies show that work can cause the highest amounts of stress in a person’s life — this stress can stem from an upcoming major deadline, disagreement with a co-worker, or riffs with a manager. Sometimes, the workplace environment itself can also pose a serious threat. But that’s where stress leave can help.

What is stress leave?

Stress leave is an extended period of time that an employee takes off work to deal with or recover from stress-related illnesses, injuries, and other predicaments. Laws regarding stress leave vary from country to country, but the US has a law called FMLA, or “family medical leave act,” which can “guarantee certain employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave each year with no threat of job loss.”

Stress leave is required when the situation is so serious it can’t be fixed by a few days break or short vacation. Some of the signs that may require stress leave include:

  • Inability to perform your duties
  • Stress levels affecting your ability to work effectively
  • Work-related stress affecting your personal life or home
  • Symptoms of depression or anxiety, as confirmed by your doctor

Why do employees apply for stress leave?

There are many reasons why employees apply for stress leave. And some are more common than others:

1. Too heavy of a workload

It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed out when you have too many things to do. The pressure of maintaining good performance at work, and the inability to say no to a colleague or boss, is oftentimes a trigger for stress.

2. Lack of work-life balance

Emails, phone calls, and texts all disrupt the work-life balance. Checking emails from work first thing in the morning and before you sleep at night isn’t unusual, but are not helpful if you’re striving for a balanced, healthy life.

3. In-office issues

Office politics, gossiping, bullying, and harassment are just some of the many conflicts that exist in the workplace. Most of the time, our happiness at work depends on the people we are dealing with. If you constantly deal with toxic individuals, then chances go up that you’ll be increasingly stressed.

Steps on how to get a stress leave

Stress leave is a significant period of recovery and must be used carefully. Below are the steps you need to take in order to successfully file for a stress leave at work:

Step 1: Consult your doctor

Many employees procrastinate seeing their doctor. Don’t be one of them. Waiting until your stress escalates could affect your ability to recover. So, if you think you are experiencing symptoms that may require a stress leave, then go and book an appointment with your doctor as soon as you can.

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During the consultation, be 100% honest about what you are feeling. This will help the doctor make the right diagnosis and recommendations for your recovery.

Step 2: Get your doctor’s note for stress leave

Many feel uneasy about asking their doctor for time off from work. Don’t be. Remember that your doctor is here to help you. They have the experience and training to deal with situations like this. Below are some key points to remember when talking to your doctor about stress leave:

  • Be open about your symptoms
  • Be upfront about your feelings. Don’t leave out any details.
  • Listen to your doctor’s advice
  • If needed, book follow-up appointments
  • Explain your situation clearly and what you feel triggers your predicament

Step 3: Tell your employer

By this time, you should have a note from your doctor stating that you qualify for a stress leave at work. How will you tell your employer?

Many employees don’t feel comfortable explaining to their employers why they need some time off work. And 60% of employees report not having paid sick leave. But that doesn’t mean you should not ask for it. Remember that stress leave is a very common situation in the workplace. And chances are, it’s not your employer’s first time dealing with it. So, go ahead and speak directly with your HR team or manager and explain:

  • Your stress levels are preventing you to work effectively.
  • A doctor has given his recommendation for sick leave.
  • Key details about your condition (you don’t have to explain everything).

Many employees find it easier to speak with a close friend or family member first before speaking to their manager. We actually recommend this, as it will help you verbalize what you are feeling.

Don’t feel intimidated when talking to your manager face to face. Remember that your well-being is much more important than work. After explaining your situation, discuss with your employer the amount of time you need for time off and the sick leave note from your doctor.

A lot of employees worry about the impact of stress leave on their job. But remember that legally, employers are obligated to care for your well-being in the workplace. Even more, good managers should see the value in you taking time to recover and focus on your health. After all, you cannot be an effective, engaged employee if you aren’t taking care of yourself personally first.

Laws about stress leave vary from country to country. To minimize the impact of sick leave on your job security, consider these:

  • Communication with your employer to help manage their expectations.
  • Always be clear and upfront in your communications

Step 4: Focus on your recovery

Now that your stress leave is approved, it’s time to talk about recovery so you can get back to health in no time. Below are some of our tips:

  • Switch off from work – answering work emails and phone call whilst on sick leave is not advised. Remember that this is a period of recovery, so keep your work-related communications to a minimum (preferably to occasional updates about your condition to your boss). You can relax by streaming movies or videos on Netflix, Kodi, or another entertainment platform. To ensure your network is protected, learnhow to setup VPN for Kodi.
  • Address the root cause of your burnout – is it the lack of sleep? The absence of entertainment? Whatever your problem is, it is best to identify the root cause of your burnout and then resolving them. Remember, burnout in the workplace doesn’t get better on its own.
  • Take care of your body – stress can affect you physically. While you are on stress leave, take good care of your body. Exercise lightly, eat balanced meals, drink lots of fluid and eat nutritious foods.
  • Be patient – if recovering from severe stress, you might feel that you’re never going to live a normal life again. But just be patient. You will eventually recover, but there is no guarantee as to when. Keep in touch with your doctor and keep an open line of communication with your close family and friends.

Step 5: Returning to work

Returning to work after a stress leave can be an overwhelming experience. When returning to work, we advise a “phased return.” It’s easier to ease back into things, and start working a few hours a week, then move on to a few half days. Monitor what you are feeling and make adjustments as necessary. Work closely with your doctor and employer during this period of transition.

As you’re getting back into the swing of things, you can also try working remotely for a few days a week, which will be easy with a project management tool like Hive. Hive will allow you to communicate and collaborate with your colleagues from the comfort of your own home as you ease your way back into working.

How about dealing with your colleagues? Getting questions about why you took stress leave from your co-workers is inevitable. You are not obliged to explain everything in detail to them. You know who you work with, so we’ll leave your response up to you.

Step 6: Managing stress at work

Again, stress at work is inevitable. Because prevention is better than curing it after the fact, we’ll talk about how you can minimize the amount of stress you feel at work:

  • Talk to your manager about how to improve your work situation.
  • Ask your employer to reduce your current workload by temporarily reallocating tasks you find stressful, switching to a less demanding position, or reducing your work hours.
  • Changing your lifestyle — exercising, meditating, improving your diet, reducing the time you spend with electronic devices, avoiding toxic relationships, etc.
  • Working from home — As we previously mentioned, working from home can be a great way to mediate work stress by helping regulate your environment. Remote work tools like Hive enable successful WFH experiences and allow you to stay connected with your coworkers, even if you’re not sitting beside them in an office.
  • Acknowledge that you will have rough days. Not everything will go according to plan. Just take a step back, relax, and accept things as they are.

If your condition doesn’t seem to improve, it’s probably best to look for a new employer.

The Role of HR Software in Requesting Stress Leave at Work

HR Software, like CakeHR, is designed to make time-off requests easier for you. Without the hassle or spreadsheets and paper forms, you can use HR software to apply for leave on the web, CakeHR’s mobile app, and even from Slack! This self-service feature also enables your HR team or manager to approve your request in real-time without dealing with piles of paperwork.


Love yourself first. Remember that at the end of the day, it’s your wellbeing that matters first — not your work. Stress leave is crucial recovery period designed to help you maintain your health. If you feel you a need for a stress leave, don’t forget these steps:

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  • Consult your doctor
  • Get your doctor’s note for stress leave
  • Tell your employer
  • Focus on your recovery
  • Return to work gradually
  • Manage stress at work more effectively
  • Use an HR Software to ease out your leave stress application process
  • Use a project management software to enable WFH when necessary

This article was written as part of Hive’s Mental Health Week initiative to celebrate World Mental Health Day. Hive hosted a panel all about mental health at work, and these complementary articles touch on different topics in an effort to open and improve dialogue around mental health.

This post was written by rCake HR, an HR company with an easy-to-use tool for keeping track of your businesses challenges. This piece is written by Lenmark Anthony Baltazar, a chemist-writer hybrid who enjoys writing about business, entrepreneurship and HR whenever he is not tinkering with chemicals in the lab. Today, he is part of the content management team at HR software company CakeHR.

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What Is Stress Leave & How Can You Request It? | Hive (4)


What are good reasons for stress leave? ›

There are many different reasons people take stress leave from work, including high workloads, management issues, family problems, and finances. The FMLA act allows some people in the U.S. to take up to 12 weeks' sick leave per year.

How do I get signed off work with stress? ›

How to take time off work due to stress
  1. Acknowledge your stress levels. ...
  2. Talk to someone you trust. ...
  3. Consult your GP. ...
  4. Get a doctor's note. ...
  5. Talk to your manager or human resources. ...
  6. Take time off. ...
  7. Return to work.
Jun 5, 2022

How long can you be signed off work with stress? ›

How long can an employee be signed off work with stress? Employees who are too ill to attend work, whether through physical or mental illness, have the right to time off work to recover, and during this absence to be paid statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks.

Can I be fired for taking stress leave? ›

Can I be fired while on stress leave? Stress leaves are protected by law. Employers do not have the right to fire you while you are on stress leave.

How do I tell my boss I need mental health leave? ›

Be clear and concise, stating the specifics of how your mental health problems are impacting your work. The point here is to keep it professional and appropriate—your boss is not a therapist or close friend, so you need to stick to what matter's to the workplace.

What are your signs of stress? ›

Physical signs of stress
  • Diffculty breathing.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Blurred eyesight or sore eyes.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle aches and headaches.
  • Chest pains and high blood pressure.
  • Indigestion or heartburn.

How can I relieve stress without leaving my job? ›

5 Tips for Managing Burnout When You Can't Just Walk Away
  1. Reframe Your Mindset. Consider the role you're burned out from and remind yourself why you started, Thornton suggests. ...
  2. Make Time for Self-Care. ...
  3. Ask for Help. ...
  4. Maintain Your Social Life. ...
  5. Set Boundaries.
Jan 29, 2023

Can my doctor write me out of work for stress? ›

It is possible your doctor or therapist will give you a sick note for depression, stress, or anxiety. Once again, some employers may require this. However, it is important to note that your doctor cannot discuss your health with your employer without your written and documented consent.

What are 5 emotional signs of stress? ›

Warnings signs of stress in adults may include:
  • Crying spells or bursts of anger.
  • Difficulty eating.
  • Losing interest in daily activities.
  • Increasing physical distress symptoms such as headaches or stomach pains.
  • Fatigue.
  • Feeling guilty, helpless, or hopeless.
  • Avoiding family and friends.
May 16, 2022

Will my doctor give me a sick note for stress? ›

You can get a sick note for mental health issues like depression, work related stress, and anxiety.

How do you tell your boss you're struggling with anxiety? ›

Budget more time than you think you'll need so that the conversation isn't cut short. Be clear about the impact your mental health challenges are having at work. If the cause is work-related, share that also. As much as possible, come with suggestions for how your manager or HR can help you.

How do I get signed off work with stress and depression? ›

If you're off work for fewer than seven days, you don't need a sick note for stress and depression. You can 'self-certify'—this means filling in a form when you return to work. This applies to any sickness, not just mental health issues. An understanding employer will let you call in sick with depression.

Does stress count as FMLA? ›

Yes. Assuming that you work for a covered employer and are eligible for FMLA leave, you may take leave for treatment visits and therapy sessions for the condition.

How long can you take off work for mental health? ›

As an employer, you must provide your staff with statutory sick pay (SSP). This is given to an employee who can't work due to their mental or physical health. Statutory sick pay is provided up to a maximum of 28 weeks.

Can I get FMLA for anxiety and depression? ›

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides job-protected leave to address mental health conditions.

How do I get a mental health excuse for work? ›

  1. Don't Say More Than You Need To. ...
  2. Keep It Short. ...
  3. Be Direct. ...
  4. Ask as Soon as You Can. ...
  5. Practice What You're Going to Say. ...
  6. Write Out a List of Reasons Why You Need Your Mental Health Day. ...
  7. Think of Possible Reactions and Have Responses Ready. ...
  8. You Don't Have to Say It's for Mental Health.
Jan 5, 2021

What are 3 warning signs of stress? ›

What are the warning signs and symptoms of emotional stress?
  • Heaviness in your chest, increased heart rate or chest pain.
  • Shoulder, neck or back pain; general body aches and pains.
  • Headaches.
  • Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Dizziness.
  • Feeling tired, anxious, depressed.
Dec 29, 2020

What is a great stress reliever? ›

Get active. Virtually any form of physical activity can act as a stress reliever. Even if you're not an athlete or you're out of shape, exercise can still be a good stress reliever. Physical activity can pump up your feel-good endorphins and other natural neural chemicals that enhance your sense of well-being.

What is quiet quitting your job? ›

Key Takeaways. The term “quiet quitting” refers to employees who put no more effort into their jobs than absolutely necessary. A 2022 Gallup survey suggested that at least half of the U.S. workforce consists of quiet quitters.

What to do when you are miserable at work? ›

When you're unhappy at work, self-reflection, honesty, and action will help you find purpose and fulfillment
  1. Evaluate why you're unhappy.
  2. Find a purpose.
  3. Talk with your boss (or quit)
  4. Find a new field.
  5. Change your mindset.
Jun 27, 2017

What do you do during stress leave? ›

During this leave of absence, continued self-care practices should address the effects of stress, so your central nervous system can return to neutral. What these practices look like will be different for everyone, but at minimum, they should include sleeping well, eating well and exercising.

What are my rights with work-related stress? ›

Your employee rights to make a claim

You may be expected to have lodged a grievance (or raised the issue internally) to see if it could be dealt with before resigning. If your employer first dismisses you due to your work-related stress, you may have a claim for unfair dismissal.

Can I ask my doctor to write me out of work? ›

How to Get a Doctor's Note. Getting a doctor's note for work is a simple process. When you visit your physician or clinic, simply let them know that you will need a doctor's note to provide to your organization.

How much stress is too much? ›

Feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, or unfocused. Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much. Racing thoughts or constant worry. Problems with your memory or concentration.

Does crying relieve stress? ›

Many people associate crying with feeling sad and making them feel worse, but in reality, crying can help improve your mood - emotional tears release stress hormones. Your stress level lowers when you cry, which can help you sleep better and strengthen your immune system.

What is toxic stress in adults? ›

This can be emotional or physical. We may feel toxic stress when we face strong, frequent, or prolonged challenges. These can include abuse, neglect, violence, or substance use in the home. These experiences can trigger our body's stress response. This response floods our body with "fight or flight" chemicals.

Should I tell HR I have anxiety? ›

Remember, you're not legally required to tell your employer about your mental health condition, unless there's a risk to yourself or others.

Can you talk to HR about mental health? ›

As with all things, you only need to disclose what you feel comfortable talking about. Addressing mental health with your employer can have positive outcomes and can enable them to support you. In the long run, it can improve how you feel about work and empower you to seek help when needed.

Can anxiety make you not want to work? ›

Having an anxiety disorder can make a major impact in the workplace. People may turn down a promotion or other opportunity because it involves travel or public speaking; make excuses to get out of office parties, staff lunches, and other events or meetings with coworkers; or be unable to meet deadlines.

What do I say to get mental health leave? ›

When making your appointment, let your HR officer know what you want to talk about by saying something along the lines of, “I'd like to request leave for a health condition.” Bring your documentation to your appointment and be prepared to answer questions about how stress has affected your health and work performance.

How do I tell my boss I can't work because of mental health? ›

How to talk to your boss about your mental health
  1. Am I required to tell me boss about a mental health problem?
  2. Remember, you're not alone.
  3. Pick your timing.
  4. Don't shy away from privacy.
  5. If you can, get out of the office (or the job site)
  6. Be concise and (reasonably) direct.
  7. Be considered in your language.
Jan 30, 2023

What do you say for mental health leave? ›

Explain how it has affected your ability to concentrate and perform cognitive tasks, be enthusiastic about your work, or how anxiety is sabotaging your performance. The only way out of the stigma surrounding mental illness is conversation and education.”

How do you tell your boss you can't work because of mental health? ›

Sometimes simply saying, “I need a day off to manage my mental health,” or “I need to take some time to deal with some personal matters” is enough. If you don't feel comfortable having that direct discussion about mental health or feel unsafe doing so, you can also look into using sick days or personal time off.


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