This year, Monday 16th January 2023 may be referred to as ‘Blue Monday’. What is the origin story behind the phenomenon, and how will it impact HR professionals’ understanding of workplace wellbeing throughout the year?
It’s a brand-new year, and for many people following a refreshing break to recharge their batteries, this means an exciting, fresh new start. For others, however, this period can be one of the most downbeat in the calendar. Hence the phenomenon ‘Blue Monday’, referring to the third Monday of January which is supposedly the most depressing day of the year.
Blue Monday is often perceived as the day when absences from work are most common. There is no statistical evidence of this – ‘Blue Monday’ as it is now known was first coined by Sky Travel in a 2005 press release that claimed the company had calculated the date using an “equation” – but it is a pertinent reminder of the glum feelings people can be experiencing during this time.
A lot of progress has been made in recent years whereby mental health no longer plays second fiddle to physical health. One in four of us experience mental health issues at some point in our lives, and with the workplace being the biggest cause of stress and anxiety in people’s lives, it’s important for HR departments and business leaders to take action. While encouraging openness about our struggles in the workplace shouldn’t just coincide with events like this, if you feel like there’s room to ramp up the support you’re giving for your employees’ wellbeing, now is a great time to start.
But what can HR professionals and employers do to identify and look to help people who are going through a tough time? We don’t all need to be mental health experts, but there are some simple, yet effective ways to offer support.
Check-in with your team regularly
HR and business leaders need to create a culture of openness and set up ways that enable them to identify signs of ill mental health before they become a more serious issue. If you’re utilising an HR system, you can set up online pulse surveys which collect data on how team members are feeling, meaning you can identify negative feelings early. You will likely have a structure of routine 1:1 meetings with employees to discuss their performance, but consider doing these in a more informal fashion, too.
This will help to encourage them to be more open and honest about their feelings. By spotting any issues earlier on, you can provide support that works towards alleviating them, and avoiding a more intense, anxiety-inducing situation for the employee of a more formal meeting, particularly if their worries have spiralled to a point that is impacting their performance.
Mental health training for team leaders and managers
If you think an employee is struggling, you should notify their line manager as soon as possible so they can point them in the direction of the support they need. If need be, they can consider adjusting workloads, as well as paying closer attention to their situation, so that further help can be offered if it is necessary.
Many organisations are developing their managers and team leaders by encouraging them to complete mental health training courses. This equips them with the specialist skills they need to support individuals at work, and they can be the ones who colleagues are referred to if it’s felt they need support.
If you’re looking to train people in your organisation this way, there is a variety of free resources available. The mental health charity, Mind, provides a number of training options – from online courses to in-house sessions, as well as a variety of on-demand online courses, guides, and webinars.
Employee wellness benefits
Mental health support such as free counselling or therapy sessions can be offered through employee benefits packages. Providing this gives employees the ability to seek support with privacy and could make a massive difference to those unable to access these services elsewhere. Offerings like this should be clearly signposted so that all employees are aware they have support available, whenever they need it.
Businesses could also consider adopting hybrid and flexible working arrangements, as these can also help with alleviating stress by allowing employees to adjust their work/life balance.
HR software can help too…
HR technology, such as Natural HR, is equipped with absence management modules that give HR professionals the tools to identify when employees are potentially struggling with their mental health. This function helps to better understand absence records, identify trends, and reduce employee absenteeism.
Beyond this, HR software also has capabilities for monitoring employee engagement and employee sentiment, all of which can provide early indicators of the mental health and wellbeing of the team.
If you’re looking to provide greater support to employees around the January blues and beyond, it’s important you have all the tools at your disposal for identifying issues as early as possible, as well as streamlining other day-to-day processes in order to focus on what matters most: the people.