Stop Blue Monday: How HR can keep spirits up on the most depressing day of the year

There’s no denying that Mondays can be a bit of a drag. No matter how much you love your job, it’s not unusual to be dreaming of a three-day weekend on a Monday morning as you muster the will to get yourself out of bed.

The combination of cold and miserable weather, short days, post-holiday blues, festive debts from holiday spending apparently makes the third Monday of January (popularly coined as ‘Blue Monday’) particularly miserable. But while the original author of this concept, Cliff Arnall, has stated that ‘it’s just pseudoscience’, it’s fairly common to notice a dip in office morale in the new year. Not to mention now having to cope with a national lockdown, high COVID-19 cases and anxiously waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine – it all makes employees more susceptible to burnout.

blue monday workplace

So, with employee wellbeing and productivity at stake, what can HR do to help employees during this difficult time?

Have casual catchups with colleagues

While face-to-face gatherings like after-work drinks or team lunches are not on the cards right now, it doesn’t mean that you need to miss out on touching base with your team. Setting aside some time to catch up with others on non-work-related matters will boost morale and give homeworking staff some of the social aspects of work they might be missing. Having casual conversations online doesn’t have to be restricted to just one’s own team either. Encouraging virtual gatherings between departments can help strengthen workplace relationships, especially at a time when people are working apart from each other. Here are some socially distant work social ideas.

Encourage holiday booking

Making sure your HR system is up to date with the latest holiday entitlements – and letting staff know about it – could be a useful approach to beating those Blue Monday woes. While the prospect of being on a sunny beach in a few months’ time is still uncertain, the ability to be able to take time off work to recharge – even if from home – may be just what some of your staff need.

Positivity all round

Managers should give positive feedback all year round, but the start of the year is a time when positive feedback is particularly beneficial. Ensuring that your staff feel valued and appreciated can completely change their attitude towards their work, so encourage leaders to be even more positive during this period. Reinforcing how employees’ roles contribute to the bigger picture of the organisation is another simple but effective way of engaging people, making them feel important and not just another ‘brick in the wall’.

Have an open dialogue about mental health

Feeling a little down is normal, especially so at a time when all we see around us is more negative news. Mental health has rightly become a priority for many businesses and it’s important this awareness continues well into the year.

Take the discussion around Blue Monday as an opportunity to speak about mental health with staff. It’s also a good time to reconsider company strategies towards health issues; this could be anything from collating resources and information that you can refer employees to, to incorporating mental health awareness into management training.

Of course, these things take time, and won’t be solved in a single day. But Blue Monday can act as a reminder to keep mental health a priority.

Check out mental health charity Mind for some great resources on the topic.

Be proactive in combating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

For some employees, Blue Monday may be an indication of a more serious problem, such as SAD. You can’t lengthen the daylight hours in January, but you can initiate small changes that might make a big difference to employees with SAD. Allowing more flexible working arrangements like a later start time or encouraging time off during this period can go a long way to improving employee wellbeing for those particularly affected by the winter months.

You can find out more about SAD and how to deal with it here.

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