The joy and mirth of Christmas feels like a lifetime ago, it's dark, cold, we're starting to feel the pinch of our December spending AND it's a Monday.
Today is 'Blue Monday', supposedly the most depressing day of the year. But what does this mean for your business, and what can you do to help?
What does it mean?
Since its conception in 2005, many people have questioned the 'formula' used to determine the most depressing day of the year, particularly when it transpired that the American professor that came up with it did it for an advertising campaign… Nonetheless, few would disagree that January can be a very long, slow month, not least because a number of individuals seek to restrict themselves (food, caffeine, alcohol) during January in pursuit of their New Years' resolutions. All of this can inevitably affect peoples' moods.
If your employees are struggling with 'January Blues', this can not only impact the quality of their work and productivity, but can also affect relationships with those they work with and for. A combination of poor performance or a failure to communicate effectively can easily lead to concerns in respect of an individual's capability or conduct. If a misunderstood case of the January Blues did result in capability or disciplinary procedures being initiated, that really would be a depressing state of affairs…
While fortunately, the January Blues are a temporary feeling for many people, for those that suffer with depression, it can be an ongoing mental health problem (and the symptoms of which may worsen at this time of the year). One in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. At any one point, one in six of the working age population is suffering from a mental health condition which would include conditions such as stress and depression (Business In The Community - National Employee Mental Wellbeing survey 2017). According to Mind, more than one in five (21 per cent) of employees agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them. A study by BUPA in 2018 also uncovered a strong connection between workplace stress and other serious illnesses, which also leads to more sick days being taken.
Adrian Lewis, Director Absence management software firm Activ Absence commented: "Blue Monday may not be based on scientific fact, but it increases awareness of mental health issues, which can only be a good thing. It can encourage employers to think about how they can reduce absence levels by understanding why people are taking time off sick. They can then offer support where needed, which can help improve productivity, reduce absenteeism and save money in the long run".
What can you do?
Whether you believe that Blue Monday is actually the most depressing day of the year or not, it is a useful date in the HR calendar for raising awareness about wellbeing in the workplace. Most importantly, talking about feeling down or depressed can not only be cathartic, but can help people realise that they are not alone.
In terms of short term actions, why not seek to challenge the effect of Blue Monday by introducing initiatives that can reduce factors that can make people feel blue. For example:
For more information about depression, mental health or 'Tea and Talk', please visit the Mental Health Foundation website here.
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