No, we’re not talking about your relationship. We’re talking about the place you spend 60% of your waking hours, and whether you should stick with it or walk on from it.

Have you ever experienced a day of presenteeism? Wait — what’s presenteeism?Essentially, you’re physically at work but you’re not mentally at work. You’re at your desk, sitting in your chair, but you’re not focused; you’re distracted and much more inclined to procrastinate than get any work done.

If you’ve had one of those days — or a few — don’t fret just yet. Presenteeism at work is quite common and typically, such as many things in life, it comes and goes. Everyone endures stressful or emotional times, both at work and in their personal lives. As we all know, what’s happening in your work life absolutely affects what’s happening in your personal life and vice versa. And while it’s not a requirement to love what you do for a living, it certainly makes it easier to show up and get your work done every day if you can enjoy yourself while you’re doing it. Even though it’s okay to want to take a day off to clear your head, it’s when presenteeism (or it’s ugly sister, absenteeism) becomes an everyday occurrence rather than an occasional visitor that a real problem can be present.

So, what happens if you find you’re not exactly singing love songs to your work? Do you take a break? Do you quit? Is there a difference? Maybe. Maybe. And hell yes.

Break it up

If you’re not entirely sure you want to walk away from your current position yet you still find yourself highly stressed out because of work, a leave of absence might be the next best option. But we certainly don’t make it easy on ourselves or on others to take time away from work for mental health.

When we hear of someone taking a stress leave or a mental health day, it’s not uncommon for people to respond negatively, saying or thinking things like stress leave isn’t “a thing,” that the person is just weak or that they can’t handle the stress of the job.

Maybe they can and maybe they can’t. Either option is completely okay and, really, none of anyone else’s business. But mental health stigmas within the workplace are very real and they’re costing people their health, both mentally and physically. While our culture is progressing forward leaps and bounds creating and embracing mental health strategies and programs at work, there’s still much more to be done to erase the stigma of mental illness in the workplace.

In a 2013 study by Ipsos Reid conducted on behalf of Partners for Mental Health, almost half (47%) of Canadians ‘agree’ that their ‘work and place of work is their most stressful part of their day and life.’

With that in mind, taking a stress leave from work might be the right choice if you’re feeling burnt out and unmotivated. Taking a leave of absence, sabbatical or stress leave can give you time to heal your mind and shift your perspective on life and work from one of doom and gloom to one of positivity and
— gasp! — happiness.

Being away from work can help you (and your employer) recognize a few aspects that may have caused you to take a break in the first place. Perhaps your position requires more than one person to get the work done effectively, and the demands being put on you are unreasonable. You might realize that the skills you have are in high demand and that you could utilize them at another organization that does a better job at valuing those skills. Depending on how long you’re away from work, you may also find you’re passionate about something entirely different and decide to pursue that instead of returning to your previous work. The point is, taking a break from work can help you discover where your stress is coming from and how to manage or alleviate it in the long term, especially if you decide to return to work.

Follow the signs (and quit)

Working Canadians are arguably under the most stress they’ve ever experienced at work. Ridiculously long hours, office politics, a grumpy boss and a never-ending workload can all add up to you wanting to tear your hair out — or your boss’. To avoid both of those scenarios, here are a few of the signs that it might be time for you to move on from your current position.

Sign #1: You don’t get along with your boss

It’s not a requirement to be best friends with everyone you work with. But if you can’t stand to be in the same room as the one person who’s calling the shots, you might want to seriously think about starting to work for someone you can stand.

Sign #2: There’s no career advancement opportunities

Even if you’ve been with your employer for several years, that doesn’t mean you need to settle for the role you currently have within the company — unless, of course, there’s nowhere else for you to go. Being told to stay where you are is very demotivating. (Can anyone say ‘understatement?’)

Sign #3: Others can clearly see you’re unhappy
This is especially pertinent if your partner notices that you’re not yourself, mentioning things like you being unusually short with them or with your children. The people who know you best are the ones who will tell you what you can’t see — that work is taking its toll.

Sign #4: You’re constantly stressed out

In a recent Monster Canada report, one in four Canadians admitted to leaving their job due to unbearable work-related stress. Office politics and workload are the two biggest factors in the intensity of someone’s work stress. If any of this sounds familiar, you’re probably already wishing for your walking papers.

Sign #5: You dread going to work. Every. Single. Day.

Stress and work are not mutually exclusive; sometimes, it’s manageable and you can work through the work stress. If you’re waking up with overwhelming feelings of dread and despair at the thought of spending one more day at your current job (or having trouble falling asleep at all because of the same feelings), it is clearly time to take a hard look at your work, how it’s affecting your quality of life and how a new job at a new company may help improve that.

Both taking an extended break from work and quitting your job are big decisions. If you’re feeling like there must be more to life than what’s in front of you, these decisions can change things for the better. Walking away from your current job to begin a new role at a new company can give you the revived motivation you need to be happy at work again. On the other hand, taking a break from work to clear your head, whether it’s over a few weeks or several months, can also help you discover what makes you genuinely happy. There’s no denying that work is an important part of life — but so is your mental health. Think of that the next time those two ugly sisters sneak into your work life.


Written by Jess Campbell