Companies have shared advice with HRreview for those who want to protect their employees’ mental health ahead of Blue Monday, January 17th. 

The third Monday of January has been labelled the most depressing day of the year, because of debt brought on after Christmas, bad weather and shorter days.

Blue Monday has been criticised in the past, as it was created by Sky Travel in 2005 ‘using an equation’, which it said determined when people are most sad (and likely to be in need of a holiday.)

However, even critics agree that despite the dubious nature of its birth, Blue Monday does get people across the board talking about mental health, which is a positive. 

Volunteers from Samaritans, the charity helpline, can be found at most train stations across the country on the third Monday of every month. They hand out teabags for a cup of tea and give tips on how to listen to colleagues and friends who might need a cuppa and an ear. They have dubbed it Brew Monday. The initiative is ongoing this year, despite the lower numbers of workers at train stations due to home working.

Stop giving workers so many HR tasks

Ivan Harding, CEO of the digital HR tool Applaud says businesses need to provide an employee experience that ensures workers are engaged, happy and motivated.

According to Ivan, HR could make work easier for staff by reducing their load. He says:  “We’re already in a climate where many workers have itchy feet, and where a poor workplace experience could be the tipping point in making them leave their position. In some cases HR is hindering and not helping, for example, 90% of employees are losing between two and four hours a week on HR tasks. This is something which is having a negative impact on employees, as they are losing valuable time, adding more stress.

Give people the day off?

“CEO of Health Assured, Bertrand Stern-Gillet suggests firms consider giving people the day off to show their concerns for employee wellbeing: “It seems like a big step to take. This bold yet proactive approach sets your intention for the year ahead. And when employees feel supported, they are more likely to reach out for help should they ever need it.”

He also suggests reminding workers about what they have access to in their Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and says firms could also arrange a home delivery for remote workers as a gesture of appreciation.”

Go back to lockdown mode

Meanwhile, others say firms should support staff to continue with their lockdown activities, which may have dropped off during the Christmas holidays.

Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says: “During the lockdown periods, many people found themselves with enforced free time and whilst this was not welcomed by most, it did give an opportunity to discover or rediscover nourishing activities. It’s now time to reflect and think about what we can take forward to look after our own mental wellbeing.”

Her firm is encouraging companies to tell staff to go outdoors, get physical exercise and increase their own self-care. RedArc also says employers should create opportunities for their workers to talk about things they are grateful for and leading by example. It says employers should hare their own gratitude as a way of encouraging staff to do the same. 

Christine acknowledges that some staff may not have the means or motivation to take on the activities, and said: “It is important to signpost individuals to support and employee benefits that can provide specialist advice and guidance as well as sourcing the most appropriate form of therapy or other professional help. However, the majority of staff will be able to incorporate small changes in their routine that can make a big impact on their mental health.”

Long-term thinking

Laura Benton, co-founder and COO at insurance broker Reassured says employers should think long-term: “Blue Monday is a great reminder for employers that they need to be taking steps to help their staff with mental health, but it does little to encourage them to implement long term strategies that have a lasting impact. Rather than focusing on one January day, employers should consider the value of proper emotional intelligence. That is, training managers to understand and manage their own emotions and those of everyone around them to help communicate much more effectively. Regularly assessing how people feel and reacting accordingly will have employees feeling valued and respected all year round.”