Blue Monday is a term coined by psychologist, Dr Cliff Arnall, in 2004. It refers to the third Monday of January which took place earlier this month on 15 January. While this date has now passed, we take a look at how Employers and HR departments can take action and keep employee wellbeing a focus year-round.
The term has been criticised for having no scientific basis and was originally created for the travel industry for commercial purposes, in order to harness our attention at a pivotal time of year for their sales. Despite the widespread criticism, it is clear that the term can spark important conversations about our wellbeing.
Blue Monday is said to be the ‘most depressing day of the year’, driven by a number of factors:
- Debt – following the excesses of the Festive season
- Monthly Salary – most December pay is paid earlier than normal meaning there is a longer than usual lead time to next payday in January
- Going back to routine following Christmas and New Year celebrations
- Low motivation levels
- The feeling of needing to take action
Mind, the mental health charity, reports that at least one in four people will experience mental ill health each year in England. According to research by CIPD, only approximately half of those who experience mental ill health each year will take time off work.
Employers can use Blue Monday as an opportunity to ‘check in’ and review their wellbeing strategy for the year to come. Here are some key considerations for your wellbeing strategy in 2024:
Open Communication Channels: 44% of employees surveyed by CIPD stated they would feel confident disclosing unmanageable stress levels or mental ill health to their current employer. Encourage open and honest communication about mental health in the workplace, fostering a psychologically safe culture where employees feel comfortable discussing their challenges without fear of judgment.
Flexible Work Arrangements: A study by Wildgoose, reported by People Management, found that 39% of those who worked flexibly benefited from improved mental health. Additionally, 43% of those who did not have the option of flexible working felt it would allow them to better manage their mental health. Offer flexible work arrangements to address the diverse needs of your workforce, including remote work options, flexible hours or compressed hours.
Mental Health Resources: According to a survey by CIPD, only 20% of employees feel their employer provides adequate mental health support. Provide access to mental health resources, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), counselling services, and educational materials, to bridge the gap and destigmatise mental health discussions.
Promote Work-Life Balance: 46% of employees believe their workload is negatively impacting their work-life balance. Encourage a healthy work-life balance by setting realistic expectations, promoting breaks, and discouraging excessive overtime. In the age of increasing use of technology, employers should also consider role modelling positive boundaries between work and personal life.
Training and Awareness: 33% of managers surveyed by Mental Health First Aid England reported feeling out of their depth when supporting team mates through challenges with their mental health. 56% of employees reported that they believe their leaders don’t fully understand mental health issues. Conduct regular training sessions to raise awareness about mental health issues, reduce stigma, and equip employees with tools to manage stress and identify when their mental health might be starting to deteriorate at an early stage.
Beyond Blue Monday
While Blue Monday may highlight the importance of employee wellbeing, your commitment to supporting your employees should extend far beyond a single day of the year. By adopting a year-round approach and being proactive, employers can create a workplace where employees feel valued, supported, and empowered to prioritise their mental health.