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January 18, 2021

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Blue Monday

Getting your workforce through Blue Monday

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As Christmas and New Year celebrations come to an end, many will be feeling the effects of gloomy weather, shorter days, and the debt they’ve run up after the festive break. Despite largely being considered a myth, the third Monday in January is dubbed ‘Blue Monday’. So what can businesses do to boost morale in the workplace and help employees to get through the post-Christmas slump, especially during a global pandemic?

Although Blue Monday isn’t scientifically proven to be the most depressing day of the year, Pablo Vandenabeele, Clinical Director for Mental Health, Bupa UK Insurance says that increased lockdown restrictions and the long winter nights may leave you feeling lonely, stressed or low at this time of year. It’s more important than ever to check-in with your friends, loved ones and colleagues.

Supporting your colleagues can help to make a real difference to their wellbeing and productivity, especially if they’re working remotely. As a manager, there are lots of practical ways to support your team throughout these challenging times.

Lead by example

If you set a positive example to achieve and be open with wellbeing goals, this can provide reassurance to your staff and help to boost their morale. Why not book a daily ‘wellbeing break’ into your calendar and encourage your team to do the same? Dedicate this to some ‘you’ time, whether that’s a workout, spending time with the kids or meditation.

Open up

Try to share how you’re feeling with your team, especially if you’re finding things difficult. According to Bupa’s Workplace Wellbeing Census, 71% of people reported that having an approachable manager helped them to feel comfortable enough to raise their own wellbeing issues.

Being authentic with your staff will inspire others to act similarly, making it easier for everyone to support one another and share their experiences and advice.

Be flexible

It’s important to remember that your staff will all have different home-working situations. Some may be caring for children, whilst others may be providing care for someone vulnerable.

Speak to your staff individually about what their home responsibilities and needs are and adjust plans and workloads where possible to allow them to realistically do their job. Agreeing staggered work times, more breaks or giving extra one-to-one support can all make a real difference.

Stay connected

Working from home can be lonely. Bupa’s Workplace Wellbeing Census revealed that half of all employees believe their colleagues have a positive impact on their wellbeing at work.

Developing strong relationships with those you work with not only boosts mental wellbeing, but can positively impact productivity, too. Having good connections with colleagues can spur enthusiasm and morale, meaning there’s more motivation to get work done.

You can nurture these bonds by organising daily huddles with your team, where they can check in with one another about work plans and non-work news. Alongside of this, arrange team events like virtual coffee, yoga and quizzes to keep things interesting and engaging.

Lastly, remind staff how to access any support available to them outside of their direct team. For example, through Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), or through occupational health. These programmes, teamed with Wellness Action Plans can help to improve wellbeing and promote support recovery guides for your individual employees.

What else can be done to help your workforce:

Create a fun event

At a time when everyone is feeling low, what better way to cheer them up than with a team event they can look forward to? Get your employees involved by asking them to come up with mood-boosting ideas for both in and out of work. There are plenty of ways you can inject some fun into the workplace, such as:

  • Have a ‘dress-down’ day;
  • Set up a competition;
  • Host virtual drinks after work;
  • Treat them to a staff lunch by providing vouchers for takeaway services.

Kick start the day with a team breakfast to help banish tiredness and keep energy levels high, as well as making everyone feel part of the team.

If you are physically together in the workplace, a selection of food will give employees something to look forward to – especially if they don’t normally have time to eat in the mornings. You could try keeping it healthy by arranging a selection of fresh fruits, yoghurts and croissants, or get everyone excited with bacon butties and fried eggs – though it’s worth going with the healthy option if you want to prevent energy levels from slumping.

The main thing to remember is to try to make it something everyone wants to be a part of, and it will give staff something to look forward to in January. 

Encourage staff to take lunch and breaks

Of course, breakfast isn’t the only important meal of the day, and good food practice makes a big difference to your staff’s working day:

Make sure your employees feel comfortable taking breaks to keep moods lifted. During the dark winter months employees rarely see the sun, so it’s great to encourage them to get outside and enjoy the little bit of sunshine we do have!

With many employees working from home, there is a big tendency for people not to take their full lunch break, or to get up regularly and for long enough for a walk. People’s home kitchen is likely to be closer than that in the workplace and they are less likely to remain standing while making drinks than they are at work. So, these activities should be encouraged.

Recognise good work 

work teamStaff can feel demotivated at the best of times – especially if they’re feeling overworked and their achievements are going unnoticed. It’s important that employers recognise a good job being done when they see it; even just a ‘thank you’ won’t go amiss. This is especially true when the only or most regular interaction most people may get is from work colleagues over video call.

If you’re aware that some of your staff are consistently doing a good job but you haven’t told them so, Blue Monday is a great time to do it as it’ll help them to feel more positive and motivated. As well as creating a happier workforce, simple acts like this may also impact positively on productivity.

Keep happiness levels up throughout the year

Banish Blue Monday and boost morale in the workplace by implementing these tips and your employees will have something to look forward to as soon as they enter the office. Not only will this help them to feel more positive about the day ahead, but it’ll provide your staff with a happier environment in which to work and, ultimately, increase output.

That said, what if you want to look beyond Blue Monday and boost morale on a more permanent basis? There are plenty of other things you can implement to ensure your employees benefit in the longer term:

  • Think about reviewing the company perks to see if you can offer anything extra to thank them for their continued hard work;
  • Create a committee for staff to get involved with all things social – a great way to encourage team interaction;

Another thing to think about is whether or not your employees are kept up-to-date of the growth of the business – if they don’t know how well the company is doing, they might not feel very inspired or motivated to do a good job. However, if they’re aware of any future plans and how they contribute to this growth, your employees are going to feel more involved and part of the bigger picture.

It’s important, however, to watch out for employees who appear to have a consistently low mood. Try having a one-to-one with them to make sure everything is ok, because there might be more going on than the winter blues.

Maintain good leadership and management

Of course, whilst many of these suggestions may provide a quick, short-term boost for your staff, the key to a fit and healthy workforce is to maintain good levels for management and leadership throughout the year, especially when it comes to wellbeing.

Some significant changes have happened over the past two years regarding how businesses are approaching mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. So where is the mental health agenda heading?

Heather Beach, Founder and Managing Director of The Healthy Work Company, recently asked: Do you need to be an expert to have a conversation with someone struggling with their mental health? Some say that you do. Some advocate not using peer to peer support systems because ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’. Heather also recently sat down with Stacy Thomson, Award Winning Mental Health Nurse & Cognitive Behavioural Coach, to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation. Listen to the full SHP Burnout podcast here.

Raising awareness

Christine Husbands, Managing Director for RedArc said: “Some may see Blue Monday as trivialising mental health issues, but in our experience, anything that raises awareness of the need to look after mental wellbeing is positive.

“We still find that many people struggle to make the first call to ask for help. We make a point of letting employees know that we’re available, but it can still take courage to pick up the phone.

“We see some great results in improved mental wellbeing, but the important thing is that people seek help early. Every year our nurses get more and more requests to support mental health, and this is partly due to the topic of mental wellbeing being discussed widely and openly, so we very much welcome anything that encourages the topic to be raised.”

Burnout Podcast

Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

Subscribe and tune in the Safety & Health Podcast to discover the latest issues facing the health and safety profession, and stay on-top of the developments affecting your role, from working at height, lone working and common workplace hazards, to safety culture, behaviours, occupational health and mental health and wellbeing.

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