What is Blue Monday?
Blue Monday is the third Monday in January and came about almost 20 years ago by a psychologist who identified a formula for defining “January Blues” after having been asked to identify the best day for booking a summer holiday. Blue Monday came about after he identified several factors which he felt likely contributed to low mood which included debt, monthly salary, the length of time since Christmas, the time since failing new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to act.
For 2022, Blue Monday falls on Monday 17 January and given the last couple of years, and the potential challenges for the year ahead, now is a good time to check in with your employees to see how they are doing.
What are the current and future challenges?
Unfortunately, we are all trying to find a way of life that fits alongside dealing with COVID-19. Whilst massive progress has been made to have the country vaccinated, it remains a challenging time.
We are continuing to deal with both the social and financial impact of a pandemic as well as further hikes in inflation which is generally not matched by salary increases, resulting in a sharp decrease in disposable income of employee across the UK. Not only this, but there are further financial changes on the horizon, which has the potential to cause major stress for many people. It began though in late 2021, when we saw the reversal of the Universal Credit uplift of £20 a week that had been awarded to support those on low incomes during the pandemic.
On top of this financial change, we are seeing an increase in the cost-of-living put further strain on employees and from April, we will see the new Health and Social Care levy introduced. This new tax will require employees earning above the primary threshold of £9,568 in the 2021 to 2022 tax year pay an additional 1.25% in their National Insurance Contributions.
How can our organisation support our employees?
Firstly, recognise that the culture and how the business operates can have significant implications for the health and wellbeing of an employee, both positive and negative.
Imagine an organisation that has irregular communications and poor employee relations versus one that communicates openly and frequently, involves, and engages their employees and offers a working environment that encourages development, empowerment, and employee benefits – those which are financial as well as non-financial, such as income protection, life insurance, flexible holiday. These are all factors which contribute towards an engaged and happy workforce.
With the financial challenges, organisation’s may not have much control over improving their employees lives but understanding their situation and finding small things that may make all the difference will help.
Things to consider for supporting mental health, and to promote the importance of mental health in the workplace include:
- Introduce mental health first aiders in the workplace.
- Consider having an Employee Assistance Programme in place, providing access 24-7 to counsellors and help and advice on a range of matters, including financial support.
- Do you have access to financial advice, perhaps through your organisations’ pension scheme? Could you provide some in house support on how to manage finances?
- Can you look at what benefits you offer, and perhaps select benefits that are more financially focussed?
- Look at the way in which your organisation communicates with its employees and adapt as necessary, ensuring regular open communication is at the heart of any communication strategy.
- Offer multiple, confidential reporting channels to your employees.
- Facilitate a trustworthy open-door approach.
- Give your employees access to anonymous reporting.
- Review your current offering in terms of sick pay and associated benefits, such as income protection schemes.
- Have a clear sickness absence policy to provide clarity to employees on how their health can be supported and managed when needing to take time off from work.
- Have clearly communicated policies on how you deal with informal and formal grievances.
- Consider team dynamics and where there are challenges, look at team building measures to improve and develop the team and alleviate any conflict.
We thought when entering 2021, it would be a different year to 2020, but unfortunately it wasn’t. We now enter 2022 still in the pandemic with new burdens on our people. 2022 should continue to be a year where we look after ourselves and each other.
As a responsible employer, having a focus on employee wellbeing will be key all year round, and not just on Blue Monday. Not only to ensure that their health and wellbeing is supported, but by supporting your employees it will help the organisation to minimise absenteeism, maintain employee engagement and help retain staff. So, if an employee is suffering from mental health issues:
- Introduce Mental Health First Aiders in your organisation if you don’t already have them. These roles can be key to supporting mental wellbeing at work.
- Use informal welfare meetings to explore in private, how they are feeling, what support measures may be needed at work, or even discuss whether they feel well enough to be at work.
- Remember though what the boundaries are; a line manager is not (usually!) a medical professional and is not an expert on their employee’s situation and so knowing your limits is important. Whilst you want to listen and be attentive to what they are telling you, recognise when you may need to direct them to a medical professional for further help.
- Where you can help, is in understanding what steps you can take in the workplace to offer support which could include temporarily adjusting working hours, approving last-minute annual leave, allowing time out of the workplace to attend counselling. In some cases, there may be a legal duty to provide reasonable adjustments such as these.
- If there is an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place, be sure to remind them of the service and how it is used.
- If an employee does need a period of sickness absence, then maintaining an agreed level or regular contact throughout is key for supporting their eventual return to work.
If your employees are dealing with any mental health issues we are here to help. We offer Level 2 Mental Health First Aid training which has been designed to help employers to provide a positive mental health culture within the workplace. The course also provides learners with comprehensive knowledge on a range of the most common mental health conditions and the skills to be able to act should a condition be suspected.
For more information on our Level 2 Mental Health course, visit our Training Courses page.
If you require any HR advice then please do get in touch and speak with one of our HR Consultants.