The new year’s resolutions you made have already been broken and the two or three dry white wines you had last weekend wasn’t exactly the dry January you had been hoping for. Now is the realisation that 2020 is probably no better than 2019 and while most Mondays are bad enough, today (20th January) is Blue Monday, hailed as the gloomiest day of the year when unhappiness peaks as those Christmas bills arrive and the harsh realities of the daily grind sets in.
According to Dr Cliff Arnall, the man behind the Blue Monday formula, 2020 could be the most depressing Blue Monday of all due to additional concerns regarding Brexit.
Added to this, a recent Investors In People survey has revealed this month that employees are, on average, 10% less happy at work than they were in 2018. As spirits have never been in more need of lifting than at this time of year, we’ve compiled our top tips for helping your staff get through Blue Monday:
- One of the primary factors contributing to the post-Christmas blues is due to concerns over finances. Now is the time that the dreaded December bills arrive in the post and most employees would prefer an earlier payday in January. Making sure your employees are clear on when exactly the January pay date will be in advance should at least help to alleviate concerns by helping employees plan ahead.
- Make sure your employees feel comfortable taking regular breaks to keep moods lifted by encouraging staff not to stay at their desks all day, and take lunch and break-times outside in the fresh air. When it’s often dark before and after work this time of year, this will help them make better use of the winter sunshine, when it does appear.
- Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, improve self-esteem and relieve depressive tendencies. Consider ways in which your employees could build exercise into their working day, perhaps by arranging a corporate discount at a local gym, offering free fruit or promoting a cycle to work scheme.
- Limiting out of hours communications can be a good way of limiting stress at this time of year. Often it can be difficult to switch off from emails and messages when they are received outside of working hours, which can have an adverse effect on well-being. As an employer, if you don’t require an urgent response, consider setting up a time delay on emails instead.
- Another similar strategy is to discourage “presenteeism”, i.e. where an employee continues to come into the workplace despite being unwell. A member of staff who is not fully fit enough to engage at work may be physically present but will not be making a meaningful contribution to the business, impacting not only the quality and quantity of the work they produce but affecting the overall working atmosphere, including for the people around them. A previous study has shown that six in ten full time workers in the North West have become ill because of co-workers who refused to stay at home. Employers should take action to make sure that the culture of the business supports employees to feel comfortable taking time off due to sickness.
- There is no better way to lift the January blues than booking a holiday in a sunnier climate. Employers should ensure that holiday calendars are up and running and employees are clear of their remaining holiday entitlements for the year ahead and whether carrying over of untaken holiday from the previous year is permitted under your policy. A simple reminder to employees of your holiday request procedure, together with any restrictions on taking holidays during peak times such as the school holiday period, should help prompt staff in the midst of winter to look forward to better and more warmer things to come.
- Recognising the success of your business’ achievements in 2019 is a great way to keep your employees motivated throughout January. It’s important that employers recognise a good job being done when they see it; if you’re aware that some of your staff are consistently doing a good job but you haven’t told them so, Blue Monday is a great time to stop and acknowledge this as it will encourage them to feel more positive and motivated.
Despite the post-Christmas slump taking its full effect, this time of year is still a good time to take advantage of the sense of new beginnings and possibility of change. Now is a good time to be thinking about schemes or offerings around wellbeing. January is one of the most challenging times of the year to keep morale and engagement high, but taking stock of the above steps can help managers and employees to work together in order to create an environment that reduces the effects of unhappiness in the workplace.