Work is so busy for me right now and my manager is off sick for who knows how long, and I've not been told by anybody more senior what the situation is. They have told me that they will update me, but never have.

Ultimately, this is causing me a great deal of stress and I'm struggling to cope with the workload and lack of direction.

As a result, I think that signing myself off for a week to just get myself to a better place mentally would be a great solution. I tend to never get stressed and am always able to cope, but this time is different and I just don't know why.

However, this time of year holds some of my most awful memories, and I'm now worried about calling my not-boss to explain that I want to take time off to recover because my problems aren't 100% work-related.

Maybe I'm being irrational about it, but I don't think that I can sign myself off with work-related stress because of this. If I had to quantify it, I would say that work accounts for approximately 85.00% of my stress and the other 15.00% is personal.

Does anybody have any advice around how such situations typically play out?

In short: can I take time off for work-related stress even though some of my stress happens to be related to personal issues?

And do I have to explain my reasons to my not-boss or can I claim that its due to work-related stress and leave it at that without being more specific?

Also, would it be reasonable to call HR in the first instance to report my self-certification and not have to call my not-boss as I find that my not-boss never seems to listen and that they don't believe me?

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    Specifying what country are you in may help people provide more useful answers, as policies for sickness-related time off can change significantly from country to country. – José Luis May 2 '17 at 15:47
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    Do you have accumulated PTO time you can use? Why not just call for a vacation? That is what vacation time is for, after all. – Seth R May 2 '17 at 15:57
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    @SethR - Not in the UK, vacation time is for vacation, you don't get combined sick/holiday time which you have to use when sick, thankfully. – The Wandering Dev Manager May 2 '17 at 16:21
  • If I broke my leg outside of work and couldn't work, I'd still call in sick. The fact that the cause of your illness is something outside of work shouldn't really be relevant. You can self-certificate for 5 days in the UK and need a doctor to sign you off for longer. That's between you and your doctor. You'll only receive Statutory Sick Pay if signed off by your doctor. – Jonathon Cowley-Thom May 3 '17 at 12:06

See your GP.

You doctor can sign you off as unfit for work if you are suffering from stress (whether work-based or otherwise), and can look at methods to help you feel better.

Once you are signed off, you just need to submit your sickline to your employer, there is no requirement to explain further. The sickline will specify a period of time off, and you will need to return to the GP for further time, or may need to be signed back on to return to work (the sickline will specify).

You will need to ask your employer about sick pay, depending on your contract you may have a period of full pay (which could be months), or you may only be covered by statuatory sick pay, see the government website for details (but it's not much from memory).

Note that you have signed yourself off as long as you can self-certify (if I remember correctly), you will need to return to work after this, or get a sickline (see the GP and get a sickline, off/back/off is a great way to get yourself sacked).

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You have two reasonable options:

  • See your GP, explain the situation, and determine if they think you need the time off for medical reasons (the cause of the stress in this regard isn't really relevant.) If you do, then take the time off exactly as you would any other sick leave.

  • Book some holiday time, don't check any work related emails, and relax for a week or two.

There's a big difference in wanting some time off because you just fancy some downtime (though nothing wrong with that!), and needing some time off because of a mental illness. Realistically, only a qualified medical professional is going to be able to determine the correct outcome on this one, but the approach with each situation is necessarily different.

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Responses to your questions below.

Does anybody have any advice around how such situations typically play out?

Left untouched, these situations typically play out with one person growing more frustrated with people not listening, while others grow more concerned about whether or not the person is reliable and can do their job, until at some point the person quits. So, to break this pattern, change the outcome, and improve the overall situation, my advice is solve the immediate problem by addressing whatever questions or concerns you have, and then solve the larger problem by focusing on building a better working relationship with your immediate supervisors.

When I talk about addressing whatever questions or concerns you have, I refer to making sure you have what you need to successfully accomplish whatever tasks you are responsible for. Knowing what's going on in your boss's life may ease any fears or concerns you have, but maybe it's personal and they want some privacy? On the other hand, it's reasonable to know who you should give status reports to or who you should go to when you need help. And if you need immediate help, I'd present a list of what you need and ask for assistance.

In terms of building a better working relationship with supervisors, you can take steps to reassure people that you are reliable and take responsibility for whatever you have been assigned. They will be better listeners when they aren't worrying as much.

After people are listening, present the list of things you could use help on.

I would also encourage you to learn more about differences in personality and use this to guide your approach in working with people. This would include knowing your own personality as well as knowing the personality of people that you are working with. Check out https://www.16personalities.com to learn about different personality types and to take a test to identify your own personality. You can also Google "working with different personalities" for a lot of articles that might help.

I can give you an example of how understanding your personality can help improve your working relationship with others. I tend to be extroverted, which means I get excited and energized when working with others. Sometimes I overwhelm people as a result, and sometimes I'm busy thinking out loud by talking, when I really should be fully present and focused on listening to the other person. Understanding this about myself allows me to adjust my behavior so that I can adapt and work more collaboratively and more effectively with others.

If I were introverted, the situation would be different, because I would find that engaging with others requires a lot of energy. It can also cause a lot of stress and anxiety if I am expected to think out loud and make quick decisions - introverts like to step back and quietly think things through before making a decision, maybe even do some research in the process. If I were an introvert, understanding all of this would again allow me to adjust my behavior. For example, it might help me feel more comfortable being assertive and telling people, "That's a good question, let me check on something and get back to you with an answer".

In short: can I take time off for work-related stress even though some of my stress happens to be related to personal issues?

I would say yes, but it's really up to your supervisor. First make sure taking time off isn't going to cause any problems at work. And when you ask, keep it as simple as possible by just saying you would like some time off to relax and get caught up on a few things.

And do I have to explain my reasons to my not-boss or can I claim that its due to work-related stress and leave it at that without being more specific?

I hope you don't have to get specific, but you might be asked for details if you taking time off causes problems - mainly because your supervisor will have to come up with a way to prioritize between your needs and the needs of the organization.

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    "First make sure taking time off isn't going to cause any problems at work" - Er no, if you're sick (at least in uk/europe) you go off sick, don't contact the boss and see if timeoff works. You also don't need to explain if signed off by a doctor. – The Wandering Dev Manager May 3 '17 at 0:31

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