Emily Jaksch from HR Gurus answers all of our embarrassing workplace questions.

Young modern chinese woman in a meeting at the office

Entering the workforce full-time is an exciting phase of many young people’s lives — new responsibilities, new friends and, in some cases, new challenges and social situations to navigate.

The workplace can be a minefield of office etiquette, and it can be hard to know who to turn to for advice. Luckily, people and leadership expert, and founder of HR Gurus, Emily Jaksch is on hand to help tackle all those tricky questions. Read on for her advice on the questions you’ve always wondered about, but can’t ask your boss.

Are ‘mental health’ days a legitimate reason to take time off?

Yes, I firmly believe they are within reason. Everyone gets overwhelmed by either work or life or both at one point or another. For me, it’s all about communication. If you are honest with your manager or employer about where you are at, and why you are feeling that way, you are much more likely to get a positive, supportive response.

In regards to how much to disclose, it is really up to the individual and the type of relationship you have with your boss. In certain circumstances you may not feel comfortable telling them the whole story, but be sure to give them enough information and context so they can understand that you are struggling, why you need some time out, and reassurance that you are trying to work through your personal issues in order to return to work in the right frame of mind.

How long is acceptable to take for a coffee run?

Depends on how far away the coffee shop is, and how long the line is! I would say the rule of thumb is 15 minutes max. Any longer may seem like you are being opportunistic and using the coffee run as a way to have a skive off and waste some time!

Read more: How much coffee is too much?

Is it ever okay to date a co-worker?

I would say yes, but you need to think really carefully before jumping in. You may want to consider that many office romances do end in tears, so think long and hard before starting that secret love affair in the photocopy room.

You should also be mindful that certain companies have policies prohibiting relationships between managers and their subordinates, requiring full disclosure if you do.

Is it okay to drink at work events?

Yes it is, but it is certainly not okay to go overboard. Keep it classy and remember these drinking buddies are also your colleagues. Try and monitor the number of drinks you have, (even when the boss is shouting shots at the bar) and it’s a really good idea to eat some food before you do drink. You may want to have a glass of soda water as a spacer in between each alcoholic drink. Remember, you do not want to be doing the walk of shame on Monday morning after making a spectacle of yourself at Friday night drinks.

Should I tell my boss if I have a mental health condition?

It depends on the situation. If it’s impacting your work then yes, definitely. Many companies are getting much better at dealing with employees suffering from mental illness, and have support services such as employee assistance programs to assist. Many companies will now try to work with you and support you.

For example, I remember working with an employee who was struggling to get to work on time — it turned out that he was suffering from depression, and his medication was making it hard to wake up. To support him, we suggested the manager could extend his start time to late morning so he could get to work on time. From that moment on, his performance and attendance improved. It’s all about cooperation, understanding and working together.

Read more: How to tell your boss about a mental health issue

Do I need to call my boss to say I'm taking a sick day, or is a text or email okay?

It depends on your company policy and mostly your relationship with your boss. Some companies prohibit text message and stipulate a phone call, most bosses will accept a text message if you have a good relationship with them, and they trust and like you. I would ask your boss the question and see how they feel about it personally.

Having said that, if you have a reputation of taking suspicious sick days, particularly on a Friday or Monday, then your text message is not likely to be well received!

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