Today (20/1/20) is “Blue Monday”, the day regarded as the most depressing day of the year due to different factors such as the grim weather, limited finances following Christmas and the guilt from already failed New Year’s resolutions.
January as a whole is viewed as a tough month for employees due to similar reasons, but the third Monday of the month is viewed as the worst day for motivation, productivity and happiness in the office. Under half (44 per cent) of employees admit to suffering from January Blues. With January 31st being the day UK employees are most likely to hand in their resignation to their boss.
Lauren Pickard, senior associate solicitor at Keebles have advised how companies can help avoid “Blue Monday” for their employees, by encouraging staff to take lunches, promoting a good work-life balance, “normalise” mental health and keep happiness levels up.
Ms Pickard said:
Encouraging staff to take lunch and breaks is key – good food practice makes a big difference to an employee’s working day. Maintaining a healthy diet is good for general health and eating at regular intervals will help with combating stress and depression.
Ensure you are promoting a good work/life balance – encourage staff to work sensible hours, take full lunch breaks and recuperate after busy periods. Supporting employees to fit their lives around their work with more flexible working practices can also keep people healthy, committed and productive and help reduce sickness absence.
Recognise good work – staff members can often feel demotivated, especially if they’re feeling over worked and their achievements are going unnoticed. It’s important that employers recognise a good job being done when they see it, even just a “thank you” won’t go amiss.
Normalise mental health – touch base regularly with your employees to check how they’re getting on and think about what might be causing them stress. Create space for them to ask questions and raise issues and give them permission to talk about home as well as work issues if they wish.
Finally, keep happiness levels up throughout the year – if you want to look beyond Blue Monday and boost morale on a more permanent basis, there are plenty of other things you can implement to ensure that your employees benefit in the longer term, for example reviewing the company perks to see if you can offer anything extra to thank them for their continued hard work.
To add to the problems brought on by “Blue Monday”, Wagestream has found that 8 million UK citizens expect to be “in the red” by “Blue Monday”. With over three-quarters blaming early paydays in December for their lack of funds. They also found that only 3 per cent of employees have the option to access their salary whenever they choose.
Peter Briffett, CEO of Wagestream, said:
Blue Monday is the result of an outdated system of monthly pay cycles. In an environment where people expect to have control over their finances, the lack of freedom to access your salary as and when you earn it is creating great anxiety and financial problems for a high proportion of the UK working population. This is especially true in January, as a 48 day average gap between pay dates generates major cash flow issues for individuals.
Jamie Mackenzie, director at Sodexo Engage reminds employers of their duty of care to their workforce and that they should be helping their employees combat this feeling and day, as well as managers being held accountable for mental health issues in the workplace.
Mr Mackenzie said:
It’s an employer’s duty of care to make sure that its workforce is feeling and performing their best at all times. Employees suffering with depression say their productivity is only 70 per cent of their peak performance, and approximately 32 workdays a year are lost to presenteeism for those with major depressive disorders. It’s never been more important for employers to operate an open door policy to anyone feeling stressed, anxious or unhappy at work – not only on ‘Blue Monday’, but throughout the entire year.
It’s the managers who set the pace for their teams – they hold a lot of accountability where mental health in the workplace is concerned as they’re usually the first point of contact for struggling employees. Managers should not only have a high level of emotional intelligence but the know-how to mindfully approach colleagues who need support.
However, Simon Ashton, head of learning and development at Phoenix Leaders questions “Blue Monday” as it was originally a 2005 commercial press campaign which holds no scientific evidence.
Mr Ashton said:
Whilst Blue Monday has been useful in highlighting the issue of mental health within the workplace, the insincerity of its conception, a 2005 commercial press campaign, challenges its relevance in 2020. The fact that there is no scientific evidence or factual research to substantiate Blue Monday detracts from legitimate mental health problems in the workplace and undermines the everyday struggle of those with conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Mindful Worklife also found that 44 per cent do not experience any lower mood on any specific day, as well as 14 per cent saying they do not know what “Blue Monday” is.
Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.