Leadership

A CEO's viral email to an employee shows the right way to lead a healthy workplace

An email from an employee telling her team she was taking time off for a couple mental health days just went viral. The reason: Her company's CEO appreciated the honesty.

Madalyn Parker, a web developer for Olark Live Chat, sent the email that garnered a response from the company's CEO Ben Congleton. When Parker shared the email exchange on Twitter, she received hundreds of replies.

In his email, Congleton thanked Parker for setting an example of how important sick days are for improving mental health. Now, Parker's tweet has been shared over 12,000 times.

Congleton even wrote a post on Medium to elaborate on his thoughts. "It is incredibly hard to be honest about mental health in the typical workplace. In situations like this, it is so easy to tell your teammates you are 'not feeling well,'" Congleton writes. "I wanted to call this out and express gratitude for Madalyn's bravery in helping us normalize mental health as a normal health issue."

Congleton writes that actions like this should be more commonplace: "It's 2017. We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance. 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," he writes.

Parker's honest request is rare in a corporate culture where more than half of all American workers forfeit paid time off. In fact, a study of 17,441 working adults shows even the slightest possibility of losing one's job will make the average American worker sick.

Workers who feel insecure about their jobs are significantly more likely to report pain conditions, such as headaches, neck pain and lower back pain, as well as other serious long-term illnesses, according to the study.

Congleton's proactive approach to his employee's mental health falls in line with the report's recommendations. These include improving communication between management and workers, recognizing workers' accomplishments and helping work-life balance through flextime, work from home, eldercare and child support programs.

"As executives, we lead organizations made up of people who've come together to make an impact," Congleton writes on Medium. "Our job is to empower and motivate our teams to maximize the impact of our organization for our customers, our employees, our shareholders, and the world."

Don't miss:
3 tricks Steve Jobs used that will help you give better presentations
3 actions this felon-turned-CEO took to turn his life around

Like this story?
Like CNBC Make It on Facebook.