This year Blue Monday landed on 18 January 2021 and no doubt you heard the phrase being used a lot.
Blue Monday is the term given to ‘the most depressing day of the year’ thanks to the cold weather, dark nights and often long wait for payday. The day – which technically relates to the third Monday of the year – is heavily linked to mental health and wellbeing concerns. In 2020, the Samaritans helped to address these issues with the birth of the Brew Monday campaign.
So, did Blue Monday really exist again this year, how much did it affect employees, and should you have been concerned about it? We’ve had a look at whether Blue Monday really impacts employees each year, and some of the concerns employers should be tackling.
Does Blue Monday really exist?
The name Blue Monday was coined in 2004 when a holiday company tasked a psychologist to develop a scientific formula for the January Blues. The formula was to be used by the travel company to sell holidays; focusing on making things better by booking a holiday. Despite the lack of science and financial endeavours behind it, the phrase Blue Monday stuck and has been recognised every year since.
Several charities have raised concern over the focus on Blue Monday, and there isn’t, in fact, any evidence to suggest your employees will be notably more unhappy on any particular Monday in January, or , in fact, in January at all (Mind, 2016).
In 2009, a UK report found that January isn’t the time when your employees are likely to suffer the most with anxiety at all. Suicide rates tend to be at their highest in April and May, which is a key measure used by researchers to monitor mental health and wellbeing.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit and the UK went into lockdown in Spring 2020, mental health issues rose 10% with IFS reporting a quarter of people surveyed experiencing at least one mental health problem.
Although this suggests that Blue Monday doesn’t necessarily exist per se, the term has certainly helped raise awareness of the prominence of mental health and wellbeing in the UK, and the stigma around it is decreasing thanks to the inroads made by charities like The Samaritans and Time to Change.
Is Blue Monday important for employers?
The research into the Blue Monday concept suggests that your employees really can feel blue on any day and as their employer, you have an important role to play in supporting them through these tough times, whenever they occur.
January is statistically the worst month of the year for productivity but less to do with the ‘Blues’ and more to do with the amount of time employees spend catching up with colleagues after the festive break.
Our resident HR expert Claire Antony describes January as the perfect time for employers to check-in with their employees and Blue Monday helps remind us of that.
“This time of year does tend to be tough going as it feels like a really long month, and it can often take staff time to get back into the swing of things after the festive period.
The start of the year is the perfect time to make a plan for investing time in staff and checking-in with them on their plans for a brand new year. Spending time with employees on both their professional and personal goals helps create a richer understanding of what’s driving them and their needs now and longer-term.
This is particularly prevalent with the National lockdown in the UK, adding to the pressures and the potential impact on employees’ mental, physical and financial wellbeing.
We suggest employers make health and wellbeing an every-day focus, but it’s great that Blue Monday helps to shine a spotlight on this, so it takes centre stage.”
Recognition of the positive link between health and wellbeing in the workplace and long-term employee wellbeing is growing, and employers are benefiting from increased productivity as a result.
Three steps to take to tackle mental health and wellbeing in the workplace
1. Openly talk about mental health and feelings
Days like Brew Monday provide an informal and unintrusive way to address mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. If you are open about how you feel at work, especially if you are a leader, it might encourage others to do the same.
Remember your mental health can fluctuate as circumstances change. As you move through different stages in your life, it’s worth checking in at every milestone whether these be a birthday, moving house, or becoming a parent.
2. Provide professional support for employees
Employee Assistant Programmes are an economical way to offer professional, confidential third-party support to your employees in various areas, such as financial worries, home troubles or mental health concerns.
3. Lead by example
Make sure you take breaks away from your desk, go for a walk at lunchtime, and finish work on time. If you see someone regularly putting in extra hours, approach this as an underlying signal for support or something that needs to change.
Although statistically, Blue Monday doesn’t actually exist, it is clear your employees can feel blue any day of the week. As their employer, you have a responsibility to support them effectively through all of life’s challenges.
More support with mental health and wellbeing in the workplace
- COVID-19 pandemic hits mental health, especially of the young and of women, and widens inequalities – IFS.org.uk
- Non work-related activities research and report – Hitachi Capital.co.uk
- Busting the Blue Monday myth with #BlueAnyDay – Mind.org.uk
- Seasonal spring peaks of suicide in victims with and without prior history of hospitalisation for mood disorders –pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/