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Background

A week ago I was prescribed to take 2 weeks off by my doctor. This was/is due to mental health issues I was experiencing which got overwhelming at the time. I am still seeking and waiting for further diagnosis.

The Statement of Work form I gave to my company simply stated "stress" as the reason for my prescribed time off -- my doctor asked me if I want it to say "stress" or something more descriptive of my issues -- I opted for the former. This document has been submitted to HR.

Question

Unless a following check-up advises otherwise, I will be back to work next week. My colleagues will ask where I was, if everything is fine, etc... (and in fact some have already been messaging me asking if things are okay); I am unsure how to deal with this.

I expect that I will have to divulge some information to my manager and/or HR, which I feel okay with, but I am also unsure how much to share.

  • Are you asking how to deflect the issue with your coworkers? Or how to raise the topic of workplace-induced stress with your manager/HR? They're two very different topics and would need separate questions. – Lilienthal Jul 23 '18 at 12:57
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I expect that I will have to divulge some information to my manager and/or HR, which I feel okay with, but I am also unsure how much to share.

You might be overthinking this. In my experience people rarely push on when told personal reasons (which is a very polite way of saying none of your business, nothing to do with you) and the ones that do do it out of a misguided sense of friendliness.

I wouldn't worry about your colleagues feeling excluded. It's nothing to do with them and, unless you're best of mates, they shouldn't expect to get briefed on every peak and trough you go through in the course of your life. Since they have no access to the real reason, unlike the manager, you can just brush them off by saying you took some time off to chill out.

You can share the absolute minimum you feel comfortable with - which includes sharing nothing at all. It's reasonable to expect your manager will know about the stress on your doctor's note, so you can state that.

You could also cite external issues so as to underline it's nothing to do with the job - your manager might be worried if this is a one-time thing of if it will happen again. This is of course up to you depending on your circumstances.


Addressing a few things in your comment:

I assume I will have to divulge the actual reason for my time off to my manager, [1] I am okay sharing this with them since I can assume it will be confidential [2] but I don't want to share this with colleagues [3]

  1. You don't. If there's a medical reason you are not obliged to divulge anything other than what's on your doctor's notice.
  2. It's fine if you do share the reason, but make sure your manager knows this talk is confidential.
  3. You can cross that bridge when you come to it
  • 1
    Regarding point 1), the reason I feel I should reveal more about my situation is that my health issues are partially caused by the stress induced from work; I think I need to discuss altering aspects of my job in order to help my health. – turnip Jul 23 '18 at 12:33
  • @turnip Fair enough, that's a relevant detail, and if you have any questions on how to approach that talk with your manager, I'm sure folks here would love to see a new question on that :) – rath Jul 23 '18 at 12:35
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    @turnip You could also tell your coworkers that you were dealing with "health issues." You don't have to specify mental health if you don't choose to, and most people won't pry for medical details if you don't provide them. If you do go this route, people will be concerned and want to know how serious the issues are though (e.g. is it life threatening? under control? from their perspective it could be anything from terminal cancer to a kidney stone) – David K Jul 23 '18 at 12:45
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You may wish to discuss this with HR, but not your manager unless you have a good relationship with your manager depending on the severity of the matter.

People tend to fill in the blanks with their imaginations with the worst possible scenario.

HR is going to want to know, esp if you need any accommodations. If you do, then it is imperative that you spell it out to HR sooner rather than later as a defensive move.

While HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND there are some things that they need to know, especially if it affects your performance. If you speak to them now, then you have a record of them being aware of your situation, and if any actions are taken to try to exploit your disability (unnerve you, give you tasks that will set you off, et cetera), you will have it on record that they were aware of what affects these things would have on you.

Also, your legal protections are far weaker if you are disciplined and THEN bring up your difficulties.

GO TO HR. Explain your difficulties and any accommodations you need, but go into as little detail about the condition itself. If they require more specifics, then you can contact your doctor, but don't answer specific questions that they put to you.

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