Her boss's response is equally inspiring.
It’s hard to imagine how an out-of-office notification could go viral. But that's exactly what happened when web developer Madalyn Parker sent an email to her colleagues letting them know she was taking two days off "to focus on my mental health."
Parker decided her boss’s reply needed to be shared on social media—and not for the reason you might expect. Ben Congleton, CEO of the software company Olark, responded in the best way possible.
“I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this,” he wrote. “Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health—I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.”
Parker isn't the only one who thought Congleton's reply was #bossgoals. Since she tweeted their exchange on June 30, it has racked up 37,000 likes and been retweeted 12,000 times. Many commenters praised Parker for her candidness. "I'm in awe of the courage you've shown in being so open," one user wrote.
I'm in awe of the courage you've shown in being so open about it, to be honest. Brilliant!— Amol Joshi (@amalezishi) July 2, 2017
But others were skeptical. Some questioned whether it was really necessary to explain the reason for a sick day: "Who needs to know what kind of sick I am when I log sick leave?" one user tweeted.
Parker explained that she announces when she's taking mental health days to set an example for her colleagues, so they feel comfortable doing the same, "even if they don't say it."
I'm specific to be an example so my team knows that they can feel comfortable taking sick leave for mental health, even if they don't say it— madalyn (@madalynrose) July 6, 2017
This isn't the first time Parker has broken the taboo on mental health. In a talk she gave at a tech and gaming conference, Parker shared her own struggle with depression and anxiety, and told the audience that Olark’s company policies allowed her the flexibility and time to "decompress and recharge" during a period when she was experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Inspired by Parker, Congleton is seizing the moment to advocate for change as well. In a piece on Medium.com last week, the CEO said he was glad their email exchange was having a positive impact, but also felt disturbed that his response to Parker was so out of the ordinary.
“It’s 2017. I cannot believe that it is still controversial to speak about mental health in the workplace when 1 in 6 americans are medicated for mental health,” he wrote, adding that "we have work to do" when it comes to empowering and supporting our colleagues.
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"We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance," he pointed out. "When an athlete is injured they sit on the bench and recover. Let's get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different."
The bottom line? Allowing employees to take time off to practice self-care should be “business as usual," says Congleton. Simple as that.