Falling on the third Monday of January, Blue Monday is said to be the most depressing day of the year. This sombre title is traditionally linked to bad weather, post-Christmas finances and failed New Year’s resolutions. In 2021, many employees will also be feeling the strain of another Covid-19 lockdown. Mental health in the workplace is becoming a pressing issue – responsible for four in 10 fit notes issued by GPs during the first 2020 lockdown. To battle Blue Monday and turn it into a positive, consider the following tips.
Feelings of anxiety and depression can have a huge effect on productivity so, ensure your employees practice self-care by making some small, but important changes. During a cold and dark January, why not allow your team to work flexibly so that they can get outside during daylight hours? This is particularly key for people who are working at home during Covid-19 without their normal commute. Allowing staff to finish early on Blue Monday can also help to turn the tables on an otherwise gloomy day. Suggest healthy schedules, which allow for a good work-life balance, including daily exercise and lunch breaks. Getting this right should help everyone to perform better overall.
Connect to create and reflect
A problem shared is a problem halved. On the worst day for motivation and happiness in the workplace, try scheduling in some time together to reflect and refresh. For teams working at home during Covid-19, this could be an opportunity to share thoughts and experiences from the past year. Alternatively, you and your colleagues may benefit from a creative session to plan for 2021. One in five people responding to a University of Exeter study said that home working during the pandemic has made them feel lonely. Create opportunities for a conversation which enables people to feel relevant, valued and involved.
Offer new opportunities
Blue Monday isn’t the only concern for employers, with reports suggesting that January is also the time that most workers hand in their resignation. As you take stock of the new year ahead, consider offering fresh opportunities to give teams a renewed sense of purpose. Encourage people to make the most of online learning and office mentoring schemes. Many employees will have seen their roles change in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. If you have someone who has gone the extra mile, can you reward them with a promotion which helps them to take the next step in their career?
Support mental health at work
Research indicates that one in four UK workers still feel uncomfortable discussing their mental health with colleagues. To ensure that you’re doing all you can, consider upskilling staff volunteers as mental health first aiders. Create an open, honest environment at work by making professional support and counselling available. As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, educate yourself about the effects of lockdown, including fatigue, a poor work-life balance and reduced exercise. While it is important to remain positive, try to be realistic, recognising the many different anxieties people will be grappling with.
The Mental Health Foundation gives its own view on Blue Monday, pointing out that ‘we should be thinking about our mental health every day of the year’. Given the current Covid-19 pandemic, you may be tempted to ignore anything which looks like yet more bad news. However you feel, there’s no denying that, right now, many employees will need additional mental health support – and Blue Monday could be the ideal time to put this in place.