At this time of year, if I hear someone say, “Blue Monday”, I can’t help but play the classic New Order track in my head. It’s an iconic and much-loved song but also the term that highlights when individuals face genuine mental challenges. Blue Monday red flags a period in January where employees are flagging and when employers should be vigilant and mindful of wellbeing needs. We shouldn’t focus on just one day of the year but use this example as something of an early prompt to refresh policies and take positive actions.
“Blue Monday” refers to the third Monday in January, believed to be the most depressing day of the year. It is associated with various factors that conflate to create a sense of sadness, stress, and low mental well-being. These factors include post-holiday blues, cold and dark winter weather (SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder), financial pressures (festive spending), and the general come down after Xmas and New Year.
How to Tackle the Blue Monday Effect:
1. Awareness and Recognition:
• Employers should be aware of the potential impact of Blue Monday and its effects on employee well-being. While Blue Monday itself is a somewhat arbitrary concept, January can be a challenging month for many due to post-holiday blues, financial pressures, and winter weather.
• Offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or flexible hours, to help employees manage their stress and anxiety. This can provide relief during particularly challenging times like Blue Monday.
• Allow employees to take short breaks throughout the day to relax, recharge, or engage in stress-relieving activities.
3. Mental Health Resources:
• Provide access to mental health resources, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), counselling services, or mental health hotlines, to support employees who may be struggling with stress or anxiety.
• Share information about available resources regularly to ensure employees are aware of the support available to them.
4. Training and Education:
• Offer training and workshops on stress management, resilience, and mental health awareness to employees. This can help them develop coping strategies and reduce the impact of stress and anxiety.
• Train managers and supervisors to recognise signs of stress and anxiety in their team members and provide appropriate support.
5. Encourage Work-Life Balance:
• Promote work-life balance by setting clear expectations for work hours and encouraging employees to use their paid time off.
• Encourage employees to take time for self-care and engage in activities that promote mental well-being, both on Blue Monday and throughout the year.
6. Promote a Positive Workplace Culture:
• Create a workplace culture that values mental health and well-being. This includes destigmatising mental health issues and promoting a culture of empathy and understanding.
• Lead by example as an employer by prioritising your own mental health and well-being.
7. Monitor Employee Well-being:
• Regularly check in with employees about their well-being, particularly around periods of potential stress, noting unusual levels of anxiety or low mood.
• Consider conducting anonymous surveys to gather feedback and assess the mental health climate within the organisation.
8. Review Policies:
• Periodically review and update HR policies to ensure they are inclusive and supportive of employees dealing with stress and anxiety.
By taking account of the potential negative feelings at this time and regularly throughout the year, employers can create a more supportive and empathetic work environment. This can help employees cope with stress, anxiety, and the specific challenges associated with days like Blue Monday. Showing that you understand and care by prioritising employee well-being can lead to a more productive and engaged workforce.
Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to discuss the above or any employment-related issues.
For now, my priority is to treat this ear-worm, New Order – Blue Monday by Above & Beyond
Managing Partner & Head of Employment Law