Taking care of your people this Blue Monday
So, here we are again. Just a few weeks after Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, it’s time for another famous day in the calendar. Only this one can be pretty gloomy (oh, and there’s no Bank Holiday for it).
Blue Monday — which this year falls on 17th January — is regarded by some as the most depressing day of the year. The festive cheer has worn off, it’s cold and wet outside, resolutions may have been broken, finances can be tight and payday seems an eternity away.
Oh, and hands up if your jeans feel that little bit tighter around the waist?
As an employer, this is something you need to take seriously. Mental health, engagement and motivation levels can all take a dip on Blue Monday, while it’s also the most common day for people to take sick leave. This all has a negative impact on productivity — not just on the day itself, but most likely for the whole week.
That’s why your approach to employee wellbeing is so key. Here are some things you can do both before, during and even after the dreaded day, to take care of your people.
As the old saying goes: it’s good to talk.
Developing strong relationships with colleagues not only boosts mental wellbeing, but productivity too. This is because an increase in enthusiasm and morale tends to create more motivation to get work done.
Organise daily huddles over the next couple of weeks, where teams can talk about both work and non-work things. Alongside this, arrange small social events like lunches and quizzes to keep spirits up.
Of course, right now many people are working from home, and this can increase the risk of loneliness. It can be a particular issue for people who live alone, and for whom the buzz of the workplace is so important. The good news is, a lot of the suggestions above can be replicated virtually. You’ve probably become used to doing them over the last couple of years, but their importance can’t be underestimated.
Be flexible with hours
It’s no secret that our mood is often impacted by the presence of sunlight. At this time of year, a lack of it doesn’t help. Consider letting employees start work a little later so they can catch some all-important rays with a morning stroll.
This isn’t just for the benefit of their mental health. Studies show that around 1 in 5 UK adults are Vitamin D deficient, and this tends to increase at the beginning of the year as many people miss out on sunlight.
In addition, when it comes to Blue Monday itself, why not let people finish a little earlier? Show you care about them as individuals by encouraging them to spend some quality time with their loved ones, or do something else they enjoy outside of work. Not only will this put a smile on their faces, but it’ll make them appreciate you as an employer.
Get people moving
Exercise and fresh air have proven mental health benefits — even if that fresh air is close to zero degree temperatures! The good news is, the exercise doesn’t even need to be vigorous. A brisk walk outside can be all it takes to get people to reset and smile, so try setting up a walking group for the mid-afternoon slump.
Another option is to designate Blue Monday as a day for walking meetings. Not every meeting needs to be done like this — it can be just one, and only if logistically possible. Obviously if there’s lots of documents to go through this won’t be easy, but if it’s simply a talking meeting (especially virtually) then this can easily be done on the move.
Be mindful that not everyone will want to take part in outdoor exercise, so cater for them too. How about giving people the time to meditate or practise some desk yoga?
Communicate your wellbeing tools
When it comes to caring for staff, it's not something you need to do alone. There are so many tools and benefits out there that can help, and the run-up to Blue Monday is a great time for you to promote these. This has the added bonus of showing people very early in the year that their wellbeing is a priority for you.
A big misconception about benefits is that they’re things HR needs to administer and constantly stay on top of. But this isn’t necessarily true. With today’s independent, free-thinking and tech savvy workforce, it’s often a case of giving them a choice of tools which they can use as they see fit. When it comes to something quite personal like wellbeing, this is an excellent approach to take.
Some people might want to unload their worries and anxieties to someone confidentially, so benefits like counselling sessions and EAP helplines can be really important. Others might prefer to release some endorphins and exercise their way into a better mood — so physical wellbeing benefits like yoga or fitness classes are the way to go.
There are also plenty of apps out there which help with anxiety and general mental health, so why not provide free or discounted access to them? The more variety you can offer, the better.
Who doesn’t like a surprise that’ll make them feel good? Here’s a few examples of things you can serve up to your employees — we’ve included a mix of things to cover employees who are working remotely as well as in the office or on site.
- Free Monday morning breakfast
- A doughnut delivery to people’s doors
- Desk plants
- A voucher for high street shopping or a takeaway
- Arranging a spot of puppy therapy, where you can hire a litter of puppies in your office for a few hours
Line managers should recognise the importance of their role. See if they can set aside the Monday morning for 1-2-1 meetings with their individual team members. This is where they can ask the right questions and gauge the mood of each employee. We wrote about this here in a bit more depth — feel free to share with your line managers so they feel prepared.
Remember that they also need a good support system. Reach out to them and check how they’re feeling. It may also be a good idea to set up support groups for managers where they can get together and talk about any issues they’re facing. When you’re trying to look after a team of junior employees, it can help if you’re able to speak with others in the same situation as you.
Feel free to use these ideas as a starting point for your own Blue Monday strategy. It doesn’t need to be complicated, and you’ll know better than anyone what works best for your people. But with a bit of effort, and a dose of TLC, you can hopefully banish those blues and make it a Merry Monday!